Rapper-turned-actor Common has had his share of blockbuster roles lately. From parts in "Just Wright" (opposite Queen Latifah) to "Terminator Salvation" (with Christian Bale) to "Date Night" (with Steve Carrell), Common has proven he can act with the big boys (and girls).
With his new film, the homespun drama "LUV," the Chi-town native charts new territory. There are no multi-million-dollar set pieces (though there is hand-to-hand fighting and requisite gun-slinging) and there are no half-naked sci-fi starlets. There is a lot of heart, though.
Common plays Uncle Vincent, a just-out-of-jail "businessman" set on getting rich … the honest way, which turns out to be a lot harder than he anticipates. With his nephew Woody by his side for the day, Vincent does his best to set a good example, which is easier said than done. We talked with Common about "LUV," basketball and rats (natch).
How'd you get involved in "LUV"?
My agent told me he had a script and thought the lead character would be a great role for me. And then I read it and I thought, "I could really do something with this character." The way it was written, you could really go through a man's journey. It takes place in one day, but it's still his journey. I was really inspired to do it and so I met up with [director/co-writer] Sheldon [Candis] and the rest was history.
Your character does a lot of bad things and could have been so unlikable. Was that something you were concerned about when considering this part? Did anyone, like your agent, tell you to not do it?
Yeah, I mean, I didn't want to make a movie where everyone was going to hate my character! I thought it was important that we fleshed Vincent out and made him a real human being. Just because someone does street business doesn't necessarily make him a bad person. I mean, we all make bad choices, right? [Laughs.] But that doesn't mean we're bad people.
My thing was to show that this human being was there and was a real person who had a dream of doing something with his life. He wants to father and mentor his nephew. He wants to take care of his family. You see that drive and that desire in him — we all know that desire. But then he's making bad choices and resorting back to old habits.
Old habits are hard to break.
They sure are. [Laughs.]
Were you nervous about having to work with a child actor?
Obviously you're like, "Man, is this kid going to be able to do this?" We knew we had to find the right kid, a kid who could embody all of the emotions and make the change that the script demanded. When it's a dramatic time, he needed to deliver.
As an actor, those dramatic times should come naturally, and this kid, Michael [Rainey Jr.], he was special. I knew we had it when we found him. He was like a blessing from the sky. He was able to make it happen. He could act. He had it.
Was there one movie that you saw that made you want to act?
"Pulp Fiction" made me want to act.
You're a big Tarantino fan?
Man, I would love to be in a Quentin Tarantino movie. I'm putting it out there right now, as we speak.
What has been the single greatest moment in your career?
I think going to the White House and reading poetry. It was actually a song of mine, but I read it as a poem. I mean, being there with the President and the First Lady — and he happened to be the first black President. That was pretty amazing.
What movie makes you cry?
"Love and Basketball" makes me cry sometimes. I curl up on the couch with Kleenex.
What freaks you out?
Rats. Rats freak me out.
How often do you look at your IMDB profile?
Never. I do look at other people. I like to check IMDB to see what's going on with, you know, movie stuff. But I don't look at my page. I mean, I released a book and I was talking to someone about it and I mentioned that I hadn't read it and they were like, "Man, you didn't read your own book?" and I was like, "No! I'm not reading my book!" It's like, looking at yourself too much.
What's the best advice you've ever gotten?
Some of the best advice I've ever gotten was really just to stay true to your heart. You've got to stay true to who you are. My mother told me that, of course. I've had friends tell me that before. So, yeah, like, everyone tells me that.
But also, another good piece of advice is that when you're in a relationship, you need to listen to a woman, too. A girl I was dating told me that. That was good advice, really good advice.
Speaking of dating, what's your porn star name?
[Laughs.] King Bennett. My first dog's name was King and Bennett was the street I grew up on.
New York or L.A.?
Pacino or De Niro?
Oh, man ... uh, De Niro.
Vampires, Zombies or Werewolves?
Beer or wine?
What kind is your favorite?
I was really into Pinot Noir for a while, but now I'm into buttery chardonnay. I also like sangria.
And finally, and most importantly, what would you do in a zombie apocalypse?
I would go find some girl that I really love and be with her.
You're so romantic.
I think I am a romantic at heart. I'm a Pisces.
Are you big into astrology?
Not that closely, but you know, I'm aware of it. I mean, what can I say? I guess I'm kinda romantic. [Laughs.]