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January 2006
Last Holiday: An Interview with LL Cool J

Last Holiday: An Interview with LL Cool J

By Wilson Morales

In the twenty years that LL Cool J has been in the entertainment business as both a rapper and an actor, he certainly has grown with time. When it comes the film world, the roles that he's getting these days have doesn't require a lot of physical work and has him doing more acting. Now only is he producing films, but he's also about to launch a clothing line. Coming up for him is "Last Holiday" in which LL Cool J plays Sean Matthews, who travels around the world to be with the woman of his dreams, played by Queen Latifah. In speaking with blackfilm.com, LL speaks about shooting in Prague, his production company and working with Queen Latifah.


What was it about this role that you liked?

LL Cool J: I just thought it was a great role. I thought that it was something different for me. The benefits of it were given people opportunities to see me do something that they probably would assume or at least in films they would assume I may not be capable of or wouldn't immediately perceive me to be the guy that would do this type of role because of the nature of the character who is much more of an everyday guy and a plain guy and a regular guy and all of that.


According to the production notes, it mentions that Queen Latifah had a picture of you on her wall when she was younger. Did you know that?

LL: I didn't know that she said that.


You didn't know she had a crush on you?

LL: No, I didn't. It worked out for me. (Laughs)


After seeing the film, I overheard a number of women talking about the scene with the tongue. Was that part of the script or did you come up with that?

LL: That was in the script. She had a fantasy and Wayne took it there.


What do you hope people walk away from after watching this film?

LL: Well, if they are going they are going to walk away with a message, well I guess the message should be that you were born to enjoy life and to live life and have life. There are priorities in life, and relationships are important. What dinner invitations would you except if you knew that you were going to die tomorrow? What decisions would you make? How would you live your life if you knew you didn't have much time left? I think what we found out was that she grew as a human being. She was willing to take risks. It seemed like that the dreams that seemed so dangerous are no longer dangerous once you know that death is around the corner. So, go after your dream and live your life. Be kind, be caring, but go after your dream. Don't just sit back and wait for it to happen.


Can you talk about working in New Orleans and your feelings about Katrina?

LL: It was great working in New Orleans. It was wonderful. There were beautiful tours. They treated us great. I had a great time. It was great food. It was great music. Only God has those answers and certain questions I'm not going to be able to answer.


What was shooting in Prague like?

LL: Prague was lonely and it was cold, but at the same time it was incredible. The museums were nice. The museums and architecture were incredible. The food was great. Karlovi Vari, which was the ski resort, I was there alone. I was bouncing off the walls. I was going crazy. It was beautiful, but I was going nuts. In my own mind, it was really tough for me, but that's part of the journey.


This movie is about living past your fears. Can you relate to it in any way?

LL: Oh yeah because a lot of times, even in my own life would the success someone would think I have, there had been times in my life where I sabotaged my own success out of fear of not wanting to rise too high; and I think that we all that sometimes. A lot of times fear of success is bigger than fear of failure. Every time you are about to succeed, every time you are about to do something, every time you are about to take it to the next level, you do something silly or make a move just to ensure that you don't achieve that success because your comfort is here in the middle somewhere. Moving past your fears is a very important part, a very important thing, especially for those who really want to succeed.


Do you think it's because people around you are uncomfortable with your success?

LL: We all have different reasons why we do it. For some people, it's about Grandma and them, or my friend, or who I think I'll become. There are many different reasons. That's a personal individual thing. Ultimately, I think it's important for us to stop doing that and allow yourself to succeed and get out of your own way. Don't be afraid of the success. Don't be afraid of the victory. Let the victory come to you.


What do you credit your success as both a film actor and a rap artist while maintaining creditability in both?

LL: God has in hand in them. When I do my music, I don't have a character that I jump into, so in film, I can jump into any character and feel comfortable because I don't have a character that I have to stay true to.


What kind of food would you want to get if you can sit down in any restaurant in the world? This movie is about a lot of food, but would you want to eat? What's your favorite food?

LL: You gotta be kidding! (Laughs) Well, I guess if you handed me anything right now, I would add my grandmother to the mix and get some fried chicken, some macaroni and cheese, some yams and some greens, cornbread and just be done with it. That would be good for me.


In the original film, it featured a man who was going to die. If that were going to happen to you, what would you do in your last few days of living? What would you like to do before you "checked out"?

LL: I guess if that was going to happen, probably the only thing that I might do is give a little more money away.


You've mentioned God a few times so far in this interview. Can you talk about maintaining a spiritual foundation in the entertaining business and why timing is so important to you?

LL: It's kind of like when Jesus had dinner with the tax collector. He was maintaining his spiritual foundation with the tax collector because of his relationship with the father. It's that simple.


On another note, you probably have the most talked about lips in Hollywood. Do you think it's appealing to both male and female about that part of your anatomy?

LL: You mean the consistent truth that comes out!


Martin Luther King's birthday is coming up on the 16th. What can you point to in today's world that demonstrates his dream?

LL: This movie. This is a good example right here. This is black romance in a mainstream movie. This film isn't coming out in 800 screens.


How are you following the message of the movie personally?

LL: I'm trying to enjoy my life and trying to do the right thing and trying to go after what I love like I was doing in the movie. I'm to see all I can see and be all I can be. I'm doing those things. I'm really am.


What's next for you? What do you want to conquer next?

LL: Well, after this film, I have a record coming out next in March.


What's the name of it?

LL: Todd Smith. There will be something else. I'll add to it but I don't know what it is going to be.


What's going on with your production company?

LL: I have a film production company with Lions Gate Films and I have a 9 film producing deal. I have the ability to produce movies. It's not an acting deal but producing. So we're going to see what happens. My first script is almost finished right now. A guy named Charlie Bohl, wrote "Swimfan" is in the process of writing it and that's almost done. I'm doing that. I'm working. Just to get back on the record cause I heard someone say what's going on with that. I have a lot of different artists on the record. I have 112 on the record. I have J-Lo, Mary J. Blige and Ginuwine, and Mary Mary, Tiara Marie and Pharrell Williams and Jermaime Dupri, and Freeway and Lyfe Jennings. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do a more collaborative record with the writing, with the music, and with everything.


Will it be same music?

LL: No, this is something new. I've changed A & Rs. It's a whole different style. Some of it is more traditional and some of it is a little more adventurous.


Was that a lot of work to get so much talent on your album?

LL: It wasn't easy. When I look at Quincy Jones and when I look at Dr. Dre and when I look at different people putting records together; sometimes it's fun to work with a lot of different people and do something that's a little bit more unique and make it less about me and more about a project.


Can you talk about your clothing line and when it's coming up?

LL: We're on a schedule to come out in Fall '06.


What's it called?

LL: Todd Smith. The one thing I didn't do was take my name and just slap it on t-shirts; although there will be t-shirts there. I brought in some designers from Dolce and Gabbana, and some from Marnis.


What's the price point?

LL: There'll be two different price points. The Todd Smith is more high fashion and that's on the higher end, and that's more on a Bergdorf-Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Fred Segal price point. Then I have the other tier, which is the TS, more of Macy's price point. Thing we all can afford.


With the hustle and bustle of your music and film career, how do you maintain your family life?

LL: Just loving and making time for them. That's about priorities. If I have to go to the studio and my daughter is singing in X school, the studio gets pushed back.


What's the biggest misconception you think people may have about you?

LL: I don't know if there is any. The only thing I think of is that probably that whatever rap music represents to the world, that's what I am, and that's it.


Director Wayne Wang had mentioned that you are very professional and very prepared and a few years when promoting "Deliver Us from Eva", you said you had to work on keeping a schedule, and getting to work on time, and putting the work in.

LL: Timing is everything.


What did you do to make yourself better in that area?

LL: I had to learn quite frankly to respect other people's time.


You have a couple of films hopefully coming out. Who do you play in both "Edison" and in "Slow Burn"?

LL: In ĆEdison", a real dark character, depressed, dreary, mean and friendly. In "Slow Burn", my character is a wise guy, smart aleck, kind of sneaky.


When are both films coming out?

LL: I really don't know if there are ever going to come out. That's the tough part about doing independent films as opposed to studio movies. When you do independent movies, they may not come out. That's the risk you take to do that work.


Do you think you can release them through your production company?

LL: We have a distribution deal already through Lions Gate. With an independent movie, somebody has x amount of dollars, let's make a movie and then find distribution. You don't know how long it's going to take to close that gap and that deal; whereas with the production deal, we have distribution.


Would you entertain doing any collaborative work with Queen Latifah on the music front?

LL: Yeah I would.


What was it like being fed by a 5-star cooking chef? Do you have any cooking tips?

LL: I didn't pick up any cooking tips. I'm not going to even sit here and lie. I stay as far away from the kitchen as possible. Somebody just make it happen. I cook a little. Nothing to write home to mother about, but it was cool. I couldn't even eat the way I wanted to anyway because I was too busy trying to keep the extra 3 pounds off and all that. That's another reason why I was so lonely up there.


 

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