Terrence Jenkins is thinking like a mogul.
A former host of BET’s 106 & Park, Jenkins – we know him best as simply Terrence J – will take over Ryan Seacrest’s former hosting duties as co-host of E! News.
But that doesn’t mean that he’s giving up on any of his Hollywood ambitions. The 30-year-old North Carolina A&T State University grad found success earlier this year as part of the ensemble cast of Think Like a Man. Next year he’ll shoot the sequel, and there are a few more films coming down his pipeline.
J’s ultimate goal? To become a cross between Will Smith and Ryan Seacrest.
EBONY talks with Jenkins about on-air diversity, Hollywood and his new gig, which launches November 12 on E!
EBONY: After the success of Think Like a Man, you didn’t go full throttle with the acting career. You’re now hosting for E! News.
Terrence J: I think that Hollywood is this sort of hybrid now. You have incredible broadcasters like Oprah Winfrey who are now doing movies like The Butler. You have people that are building careers that don’t just have to fit in one lane. I want to be a trendsetter in that space. I look at a mentor of mine like Ryan Seacrest and the incredible amount of equity he’s been able to bring to the broadcasting arena, and the branding and the world that he’s been able to build around himself. I look at another mentor of mine, Will Smith – I call him the greatest actor alive right now – and I’m trying to merge the two. I have a long way to go, obviously. Those are some very big ambitions. But I’m shooting Think Like a Man 2 next year and I have two more film projects that’ll be coming out relatively soon. And I’ll be every day on E! News. Hopefully people just won’t get sick of me!
EBONY: You’ll be in a very unique position, where you’ll be covering Hollywood but also being a part of Hollywood. At what point do you separate the two lives?
TJ: If anything, it’ll give me some credibility. When I talk to artists and actors and entertainers, I can understand it from both sides. Hopefully it’ll lead to some better interviews, because I can understand both perspectives. I plan on having the credibility and integrity of being a part of an entertainment news program like E!, in addition to being on the actor side as well.
EBONY: Why was E! News a great next move for you?
TJ: They’re at the pulse of pop culture, and that’s where I’m at. I think that they’re excellent at what they do. They have a very great staff and amazing people that I get to work with. I think Giuliana Rancic is amazing, and they just get it. They’re a show on the rise and I’m happy to be a part of the program.
EBONY: The week that your new gig was announced was a big week for other Black men in the entertainment talk show industry. Steve Harvey’s show started, then Michael Strahan got the gig on Live with Kelly. Do you think we’re a bit more comfortable with seeing more diversity on-air?
TJ: I would hope so. And I just hope it leads to more. I called Michael and congratulated him, and obviously I’m very close with Steve. I hope it leads to more and more opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds – not just African-Americans, but Latinos and Asians. I hope that these new hires open up more and more opportunities so that TV looks more like America.
EBONY: How did being a part of Think Like a Man change you?
TJ: It let me know that we’re headed in the right direction. You get a lot of people that tell you you can’t do something. We can make an impact, we can make a difference, we can get numbers. I’m just really humbled to be around all of the things that are happening and to be a part of it.
EBONY: What keeps you hungry? A lot of people would think hosting 106 & Park is the ultimate.
TJ: My mother. She and my stepfather moved from New York at a young age to build a more safe life for me in North Carolina. And I just watched them grow and work – they had five jobs – and just their drive and their hustle is what fuels me to this day. I come from humble starts. I went to an historically Black college where we’re always told that there’s limitation. And so I’m happy to represent for Black colleges. I’m happy to represent for my fraternity. We work hard, man. And we don’t stop, man, we don’t let up. As soon as I get in one door, I’m simultaneously working to be the best person in that door, open up doors for other people to walk in and opening up the next door for myself to walk through.
EBONY: When you start hosting on E! in November, will you be bringing any changes to the show?
TJ: One day I’m going to sneak in a pair of Jordans! I’m going to wait until I’m there a while, but I’m going to be the first guy to wear a pair of MJs on the show! No, I look forward to being myself and having a lot of fun. I’m just really happy to be here. My entire story has been public. The first time I was on television nationally, it was broadcast so people got to see me from day one to where I’m now in this new position. So I just appreciate everybody that’s been there along for the ride. I’m just a puny kid from North Carolina.