Nov 99 Interview: LL Cool J

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Interview with LL Cool J (LLCJ) conducted by Rachel (R)
R
There are a lot of musicians who are trying to cross over careers and enter into acting and the roles they've been able to acquire have been similar to the roles like God in In Too Deep. In terms of the portrayal and the stereotype of rappers or hip-hop artists and the negativity associated with the drug culture. Do you have any suggestions or advice on how to branch out on those roles as far as more variety?
LLCJ
That's an interesting point. The common thread is the fact that it is inner-city urban culture period. And these characters happen to be an urban figures. And the rap artists being a urban figure, understanding that culture, walks like him, dresses like him, talks like him is the perfect guy to play that role. But you gotta get trained, you gotta get a teacher and be able to different things. Like I was able to do Deep Blue Sea and In Too Deep, I was able to do my TV show and In Too Deep. I was able to play a security guard and In Too Deep. You gotta be able to walk differently, talk differently, speak differently. When I was fourteen years old my parents taught me how to "talk like this you know". You gotta be able to do different things so that you can do different things. I think the main thing in that is learn. I may have gotten the opportunity cause of my music to do different things but I've been doing films since 1985. I can name twenty films for you. I think the thing that is going to stand up in the end of the day is skill. I think who ever is really talented will win. Who ever who has ability will win. It will go beyond music. Your gonna not have an album be in a role be good at it and deliver.
R
Why did you do In Too Deep?
LLCJ
I thought it was good opportunity to stretch, good opportunity to show people that I'm capable of doing different roles and doing different things because, you know for the most part most of the roles that I have taken have been kind of one way. Kind of the good guy, nice guy whether he's spiritual, innocent, whatever- it's always been kind of the good guy in the film. I don't want to get pigeon hold or categorized in one particular area. I want to be able to play a plumber, a district attorney, milk man, fed-ex guy, you know an online journalist what ever. I want to be able to play whatever the character is I want to be able to do it. The film still had some redeeming values even though I'm the negative in the equation so to speak, it still had, mathematically it's still correct. You walk away feeling something, whether it's numb but knowing about life whatever it is you can have a dialogue, it's an opportunity to create dialogue between people and I think people feel something in this film. In this movie I'm not a villain like Scareface is a villain but at the same time he is a terrible villain. You don't root for this guy, you look at it like, God my man what - how bad can you be? In a way that's good because with a character named God you wanna show people how bad he is so people understand that all these false Gods that come into our community and try to like destroy people, their not real. Beware of the man with the Bulls mouth and snakes heart. As the Chinese say.
R
How is your character different from the typical drug dealer character?
LLCJ
What is the typical movie drug dealer? Is it Robert DeNiro in Good Fella's is it Wesly Snipes in New Jack City? What is it?
R
It seems like you think he is a good guy?
LLCJ
As a character I made him human. I approached it without prejudice or without judgement. I approached as, this is a businessman and this is what he does. When he is not murdering somebody or doing deals he's not angry, he's not upset, he's regular. I allowed him to live. I allowed him to just be a normal person who happens to believe that what he's doing is right. That's what he believes. I personally don't agree with it but he believes what he was doing was right and I let him believe in it.
R
What type of things did you draw on from your personal experiences to help replicate that type of presence in your character?
LLCJ
It really wasn't really personal like that. I mean, I think we all have some sort of darkness inside of us that we can tap into something inside if us swirling around and given the right opportunity will come out. We all have that secrete or thing that is nasty or something crazy. But I looked at Morgan Freeman in Street Smarts, I looked at how charming Robert DeNiro was in Untouchables, how he was sitting there "I'm a business man." He was being who he was. I just found the truth in it, I looked at the script, created the character, emotionally got connected in and brought it to life. You know what I'm saying? Where it comes from I don't know. I don't know where the songs come from. I don't know that part of it. All I know is that I plugged in and found him and what I found was really spooky cause the character is spooky. It's like God is one word but it almost like an oxymoron. It's almost like God Devil in a word or Devil God, what he is, so it's kind of like. You know something and connected and wanted to bring him to life in a real way.
R
How did you feel about portraying a character named God?
LLCJ
For me I think it's the perfect name. Because he's not the God that we know and love. He's not the God I pray to on my knees each night. He's one of those Gods that exist in our communities. One of those Gods that the kids pray to and look up to that they shouldn't. If you understand what I mean. He's a God not worthy of worship and yet these people worship him. So what's the best way to say that than to name him God, put it out there, show that devilish behavior and let people make that judgement call.
R
You made some other comments about the director allowing the actors to Ad lib?
LLCJ
That was great for us cause when you read the script you may see something like "Yo Blood! What's happening Baby? Ya Brothers is jivin man, wit that man " So it was good to be able to speak and take the idea off the page and put it through a new millieum filter. Convert the ounces and the pounds so to speaks and do it like that. It was a lot of fun. The director being from Australia, he trusted us. He couldn't do nothing but trust us. And it worked out good for us because we got to make it real.
R
What's your next project in film?
LLCJ
We're just looking at a lot of projects right now and haven't decided anything as of yet. I have Any Given Sunday coming out around Christmas.

 

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