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December 2008
CADILLAC RECORDS | An Interview with Cedric the Entertainer

An Interview with Cedric the Entertainer
by Wilson Morales

December 1, 2008

Most known for his comedic skills, Cedric has reinvented himself as a dramatic actor this year with his role in the ‘Street Kings’ as well as his Broadway debut in David Mamet’s dramatic play American Buffalo. If that’s enough, his next role as him playing famed musician Willie Dixon in ‘Cadillac Records’.

In this tale of sex, violence, race and rock and roll in 1950's Chicago, "Cadillac Records" follows the the rise and fall of Chess Records and the exciting but turbulent lives of some of America's musical legends, including Muddy Waters, Leonard Chess, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf and Elvis Presley. Chess, who co-founded the label with his brother Phil, was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Besides Cedric, the film has Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Emmanuelle Chriqui as Revetta Chess, Mos Def as Chuck Berry, Beyonce Knowles as Etta James, Gabrielle Union as Geneva Wade, Columbus Short as Little Walter, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon, Eamonn Walker as Howlin' Wolf, Eric Bogosian as Alan Freed, and Marc Bonan as Keith Richards.

In speaking with Cedric, he talks about the role, the time period, and his upcoming projects.

What role do you play in the film?

Cedric: I play Willie Dixon, who wrote most of the songs for Muddy Waters, Etta James, Little Walter and others. It’s my character who narrates the film.

What was it like to do this film?

Cedric: That’s a movie that’s significant, especially when I read the script. It really kinda showed the evolution of music. I’ve tried to listen to a lot of blues and I’m from St. Louis—and that’s a very blues town, but to see in this music blues led to rock ‘n’ roll, rock ‘n’ roll lead to R&B, R&B led to hip-hop; all these things, and the genesis came from these guys that was kinda playing this bluesy folk music.

How much did you about time period and the character you are playing?

Cedric: I knew a little about Muddy Waters and some of the blues guys, but I didn’t know anything about Willie Dixon. I just got on the internet, searched him up a little bit, heard a few of his songs, they got a couple of little videos of him. I thought it was fun. I thought I was great. It was an honor to play him. I loved the period. The clothes, the style, and these guys were really free in a lot of ways. They did what they wanted to do; especially at a time, when you think about America in that period, there was a lot of segregation and racism on the black man. These guys didn’t see themselves as that. They operated outside of the blocks and they were free to be who wanted to be. They rolled around big. They drank beer, and they partied big, and to them it was fun.

Did you play any instruments in the film?

Cedric: Yeah. I don’t play for real, but I had to learn the upright bass to at least be able to finger it to look like I knew what I was doing in the scene. They hooked me up with this cool bassist who taught me how to hold it. I could hit 2 or 3 chords and that was it.

As you watched most the actors and singers perform as the characters they are playing, were you able to buy it? Was Mos Def good in his performance as Chuck Berry?

Cedric: He killed it. He nailed it. It was great casting all around. He did well as Chuck Berry.

What do you have coming next?

Cedric: I did a small role in this romantic comedy with Christina Ricci and Ann-Margaret called ‘All's Faire in Love’. It’s about a college professor who goes to 1800 Renaissance Faire and falls in love with somewhere there and I play Professor Shockworthy, the professor who has to lead this old big popular athlete into knowing there more to life. It was good and fun to do.



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