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August 2008
DEATH RACE | An Interview with Tyrese Gibson

An Interview with Tyrese Gibson
By Wilson Morales

August 18, 2008

Looking 40 pounds lighter and working out with Will Smith has given Tyrese Gibson a new perspective on his life and film career. He's wants to do more on and off the screen. With a slew of films being tossed at him from a reunion with John Singleton in 'The A-Team' to another stint with Michael Bay on 'Transformers 2', those films alone are plenty for his plate. Coming up next for him is a role that puts him in a race car again and opposite Jason Statham in 'Death Race'.

Jason Statham leads the cast of an action-thriller set in the post-industrial wasteland of tomorrow, with the world's most brutal sporting event as its backdrop. A penitentiary full of felons has inspired the jailers to create a grisly pastime ripe for lucrative kickbacks. Now, adrenalized inmates, a global audience hungry for televised violence and a spectacular arena come together to form the 'Death Race.'Gibson plays his nemesis Machine Gun Joe.

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Tyrese talked about his role in the film, Will Smith's influence on him, and his 'recent' marriage.

How did “Death Race” come about for you?

Tyrese Gibson: The director Paul W. S. Anderson slipped up and gave me the movie. My people told me Paul wanted to meet with me to determine if he was going to choose me for the film. So we went out to eat I thought he said that I’d get a call in a couple of days after the dinner. But he slipped up and pulled his laptop out at the table and said this is where we are going to be filming and this is the car that you will be driving in the film. So I was like oh, I got the movie. And I don’t think he was aware that he was giving up the movie. So I knew then that I had the part.

You also starred in “2 Fast, 2 Furious.” You love these fast car movies don’t you?

Tyrese Gibson: Listen when I was a kid I always wanted something fast to drive. I never thought that I could ever afford anything fast to drive. So if they were going to give me these cars and tell me I can go and beat them up and have some fun in them then I was like bring it on.

What kind of car do you drive now?

Tyrese Gibson: I drive a Bentley. The GT coupe. It’s ridiculous fast. It has more than 400 horsepower. It’s white with cream interior. It’s the only car that I’d seen on the Internet and printed it out and hung the pictures up in my gym.

Some of the other inmates make the joke that your character Machine Gun Joe is the only one that has guys driving around with him in his car. So are you the gay driver?

Tyrese Gibson: No, no definitely not. (Lots of laughter). The thing is the female drivers weren’t willing to get into the car anymore because I ran through so many navigators. The guys came in because they had a little more courage to deal with me and my crazy ways.

These are desperate guys because they are in prison for life and the only way out is this horrible race. How did you prepare for this character?

Tyrese Gibson: I’m not a method actor but I think I touched on a piece of method because this character is so deep and so dark. I had to stay in that space. I didn’t want anyone on the set or the cast to look at me like I’m the nice guy that I really am. So Jason Statham will tell you we weren’t on the set cracking jokes and having all this good energy. I was dark and heavy the whole time. Towards the last two and half weeks of filming was when I finally got back in the Tyrese mode of having fun on the set.

What’s your favorite moment or scene in “Death Race?”

Tyrese Gibson: I like that my character Machine Gun Joe is crazy, wild and unpredictable. There’s a lot of self-sabotage going on with that guy. Every time he kills somebody he slices his face. He’s not really anticipating getting out of prison because that’s like a big fun world for him. I’m just really glad that Paul (Anderson) allowed me to go dark and have some fun with this character.

Did you see the original movie “Death Race 2000?”

Tyrese Gibson: No.

You’re like a few other rap artists and singers who have successfully made the leap from music to movies. Have movies now become your main priority?

Tyrese Gibson: Yeah, I’m no longer doing music. I’m going to get back to music eventually, but I’ve done fourteen years of music, and made five albums. I really feel at this point that every blessing taken for granted becomes a curse. Everywhere I went, I got feedback from the performances I’d done in these films--whether big or small budget. I’ve always been accepting the love but not wholeheartedly accepting it. I’ll be on the film looking forward to doing another show and it was just too much going on spiritually to be in such extreme creative spaces. So I’ve never taken the movie thing as serious like I have music until now. And I want to send all the love possible to my man Will Smith who played a huge role in me making some big, big changes in my life. Will took me under his wing and told me that ’you’re that guy; you have what it takes to be the next guy. We’ve become friends and I’ve even been training with Will and his trainer and lost 46 pounds working out with them.

So Will said you should concentrate on making movies?

Tyrese Gibson: Well, he didn’t say that. It was a decision that I made. Because at the end of the day you have to pay attention to the people that come into your life in a positive way. If I had Jay-Z taking me under his wing and saying I’m going to rap on all your singles and take you on tour with me and do what I have to do to put the stamp on your career on the music side, then I would stay in it. So I have the biggest actor in the world training with me. And whenever I pass out while I’m training, Will is the one reaching his hand out to put me back on my feet. It’s really special. I really can’t explain how or why it’s happened but it has happened. And I really feel like it’s God sent and I’m definitely going to take advantage of it.

Have you become a Scientologist?

Tyrese Gibson: No way. Will is not a Scientologist from what I know. He’s never talked to me about it or exposed me to it.

Is part of the reason you’re leaving music behind for now also based on the music industry going through a myriad of changes?

Tyrese Gibson: Yeah, that definitely played a role in it. Being that my first love is music you do what you have to do to stay in it. I respect all the musicians that are saying hey even though the state of music right now is messed up we’re going to still ride this thing out. But when you have another option to another career than why not?

What’s life like being 46 pounds lighter?

Tyrese Gibson: The thing is--and I don’t want to get all emotional on you--but basically I lost focus. And these film opportunities starting coming so fast, you start taking things for granted.

Were you overeating?

Tyrese Gibson: I was enjoying life. (Lots of laughter). When things start happening fast like the phone calls for movies you take them for granted and you don’t want to work as hard. Once I got up with Will and his team it was just crazy. Because I come from music there was no one in my life that saw some movie star stuff nor had the mindset of what it takes to be a movie star. So to be around that entourage that only knows how to build and sharpen up someone to take them to that movie star level is just a different conversation that I didn’t know about. They are telling you what is around the corner before you get there. And it’s crazy because I’m seeing the results. Instead of you begging and asking someone to give you more shine in the movie, if you show up ready on you’re A game it just happens.

Are you married now?

Tyrese Gibson: Absolutely. I’m absolutely married.

Since when and to whom?

Tyrese Gibson: I don’t want to say. I live a private lifestyle. I don’t want no paparazzi following me around. I don’t get off on that.

There’s no CGI in “Death Race” like there was in “Transformers.” So was this the toughest movie you ever made and do you think there will be a sequel?

Tyrese Gibson: Not too tough. But I told Paul that this film should not be released in September because I felt that it was a summer smash and it had all the components of something that the kids want to go out to see. And soon as they moved it up to August 22 I was the first one to get a call. I can almost guarantee that there will be a sequel. I’m just thankful that I didn’t die in this one.

How’s the “Transformers” sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” coming?

Tyrese Gibson: It’s lovely. The director Michael Bay is in rare form right now?

Screaming at you?

Tyrese Gibson: Some of that’s going on, a little bit. (Lots of laughter). But it’s going to be good. They have some cars that I can’t speak on in this “Transformers” that you won’t see until 2011.

Will we get to see more of your Sergeant Epps character this time around?

Tyrese Gibson: Absolutely. Because I’ve lost the weight and I’ve come with a whole new level of focus, Michael Bay has been throwing that camera on me something lovely. (Lots of laughter). And I’m taking pure advantage of it, trust me.

Does that mean more shirtless scenes too?

Tyrese Gibson: We might get to that because the abs are kicking. (Lots of laughter).

What other movie roles would you like to do?

Tyrese Gibson: Well, right now I’m on stand-by to play B.A. Baracus in the upcoming “A-Team” movie. “It’s looking likely that that is going to happen. That’s just one of the franchise situations I look forward to.

What’s going on with John Singleton’s “Luke Cage” movie?

Tyrese Gibson: “That’s coming along slowly. This is a major African-American comic book superhero and so there is a lot of pressure to get it right. Youcan’t just throw that one out there. But I’m excited about that too.

Any other movie franchise or role you’d like to be part of?

Tyrese Gibson: I want to get a piece of “Thundercats” movie. I don’t even care who I play. I would love that.

Death Race' opens nationwide Aug. 22


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