Eric Benet Celebrates New Marriage, And Film

Eric Benet has had a few minor acting roles (“Glitter,” anyone?), but typically, they didn’t require too much heavy lifting on his part.

So when he was offered the lead as a single father of a young girl for the new GMC film “Trinity Goodheart,” Benet knew he had to get serious, even though the movie had parallels to his own life. (He raised his 19-year-old daughter as a single dad after her mother passed away.)

“This was the first time when I did more than just memorize my lines. This was the first time that I actually worked with an acting coach. Some of the scenes in ‘Trinity Goodheart’ called for emotional moments,” he said during a recent interview. “I really wanted those emotions to ring true.”

The movie is about a girl who tries to bring both sides of her family together after years of fighting. In real life, Benet, 40, is experiencing familial bliss: He recently married longtime girlfriend Manuela Testolini, and beams with pride over his daughter India, a budding singer who attends the University of Southern California. He says he’s also looking forward to becoming a new father.

In a recent interview, Benet – who wed on July 31 and postponed his honeymoon to promote the movie – talked about the film, which debuts Saturday, and his new marriage.

Photo: Jason Moore
Essence Music Festival, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La.

AP: This movie seems like it’s close to your life. Did that attract you to the role?

Benet: This was my first time doing a male lead in a movie. It would ease my burden of trying to carry a movie if I had a script that was so similar to my life and my life experiences. It was one of the aspects of the movie that really attracted me, and the other aspect was how it was so beautifully written. … It just all resonated really strongly for me.

AP: How do you think you’ve grown as an actor?

Benet: I don’t know what kind of grade to give myself, but I can grade how I feel about the job that I did when I see it. It feels like an honest portrayal and one of the things I feel like, to portray a convincing role in acting, is you have to build layers to a character. So some of the things I did with my acting coach was just that. We had to create a whole back story to this character that isn’t necessarily in the script. … There were some emotional places that I needed to get to, and this is all very new to me.

AP: What’s next for you in acting?

Benet: This was such an enjoyable experience, and it’s being received very well. (But) … I got my day gig. I’m going to keep making music. … I can just take my time and pick the things that really resonate strongly with me, that I would really like to sink my teeth into.

AP: This is your second marriage (he famously wed and divorced Halle Berry). What have you learned?

Benet: Marriage is one of those things, like having a baby. You may think you’re ready, but nobody is really completely ready for everything that it’s gonna bring to the table, and I just feel like I’m so much wiser and more attentive and more communicative about what’s going on with me emotionally than I was 10 years ago, and so far in my relationship with my wife, it’s been like night and day.

Photo: AP Photo
Eric Benet, left, and Manuela Testolini arrive at the BET Awards in Los Angeles.

AP: You both have famous exes (his wife was previously married to Prince). With your new marriage, do you try harder to keep it out of the public eye because of that?

Benet: I think primarily we just want to make it about she and I, and the exes never factor into the equation. It’s all about us and as little as we possibly can share, keep our private as private as we possibly can.