Just over 10 years ago, Terrence ‘J’ Jenkins was a budding television host with dreams of becoming a household name. Now, the host-turned-actor and executive producer has quickly become one of the most respected, sought after media personalities in Hollywood.
Jenkins’ formula of hard work and dedication, along with his charismatic persona and debonair swag, has helped him leverage his talents into a multi-faceted empire.
Recently, the former E! News co-anchor was tapped by Emmy winning producer Mark Burnett to host Fox’s new dating show, Coupled. The series, taped in Anguilla, follows twelve women looking to find the love of their lives. While it sounds like just another dating show, Terrence J says please don’t get Coupled confused with The Bachelor.
“It’s a fun show to watch and a lot of twists and turns that happen throughout the episode,” Jenkins tells EBONY.com. “It’s not the standard format show and that’s pretty cool because it’s a lot different than what people are anticipating. I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of dating shows, but this one is very interesting. And I’m not just saying that because I’m hosting.”
On Coupled, a group of professional, eligible bachelors are helicoptered in to see if they fit the women’s interests. If the women feel an instant connection with a potential mate, they have the option to continue to get to know him, or leaving him behind. As the season progresses, new couples are formed and tested to see if their compatibility with last.
In most cases, when people embark on finding love on reality television, it rarely works out because it’s either forced or they’ve had minimal time to really get to know each other. Jenkins believes that there is not a specific art to sustaining a relationship; it all depends on the union.
“Some couples work better with keeping their relationship private and others have their relationship in the public eye and that might work for them,” he says. “It’s really up to the couple to decide what’s the best way.”
“I give the women advice and thoughts from a regular guy’s perspective. I’m not a psychiatrist or trying to be a therapist or a love counselor. When the ladies come back from dates, they have questions and I give it to them straightforward. I don’t sugarcoat anything,” Jenkins adds.
This is not the first time the New York born, North Carolina raised actor is playing a matchmaker on screen. In May, Jenkins produced, co-wrote and starred in the romantic comedy, The Perfect Match, which depicted three couples battling the everyday pressures of facing betrayal while falling in love. The film, which also starred Cassie, Donald Faison, Robert Christopher Riley, Lauren London and Paula Patton, was close to Jenkins’ heart.
“That was a personal story of mine that I was trying to tell for a while. Trying to get a movie greenlit in Hollywood is not easy. It takes years and years for something of this magnitude to be produced, so the simple fact that it was released in theaters was a big deal to me. It’s by the far the biggest accomplishment in my career. I’m grateful and super proud of that,” he says.
Even though The Perfect Match was a hit at the box office and earned rave reviews from critics, Jenkins believes there is much more left he has to accomplish in the realm of film.
“I want to do a movie that crosses the 100 million mark as a producer,” he asserts. “Think Like a Man has crossed it and I definitely want to broaden my array of audiences and create films that reach a lot of people. That’s cool and all but I feel like success is waking up every day and enjoying what is that you do. I want to create other opportunities for young people and want to continue to doing tons of philanthropy work.”
Jenkins is a busy man. In addition to Coupled, he just finished hosting a four-part, weekly basketball competition on TNT alongside NBA vet Kenny Smith. The Dunk King featured amateur ballers from around the globe who competed for a $100,000 prize by showcasing their most artistic dunks. The judges included TNT analysts Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Brent Barry, whom Jenkins considers friends.
“I respect and look up to guys and I’m happy now to call them my friends,” he says. “That was the most fun show I’ve worked on. It captured the true essence of undiscovered basketball talent and gave them a chance to shine.”
Although Stephan Curry seems to be everyone’s favorite player at the moment, Jenkins is sticking with his North Carolina roots.
“I’m a huge Chris Paul fan,” he admits. “He’s definitely my favorite player of all time. Melo [Carmelo Anthony] and D-Wade [Dwyane Wade] are up there too. Curry is doing his thing too; I haven’t seen anybody tearing down the court like since Jordan.”
While Jenkins can talk basketball for days, giving back has his heart. Jenkins is no stranger to using his celebrity to bring awareness to numerous charitable organizations. He is a spokesperson for Ronald McDonald’s Achievers Scholarship Campaign, a mentor for Steve Harvey's Disney Dreamers Academy, and he also works closely with the Obama Administration in aligning youth towards their career paths.
Jenkins recalls speaking to a group of aspiring young journalists at The White House just last week.
“First off, to know President Obama on a personal level and for him to even know my name,” the host says in awe. “I remember growing up and thinking the thought of having a Black President was a facade, and then to be invited to talk to these young journalists from all over the country was an awesome feeling. I talked with them about the important of working hard and never giving up on their dreams. I was them 10 years ago and they will be where I’m at a few years from now. The best part of my job is having reach to give back so whenever he calls, I’m there.”
Coupled airs Tuesdays on Fox at 9 PM