Filed under: BV Buzz, Entertainment
By Jawn Murray, BlackVoices.com
Anthony Mackie has been one of
Hollywood’s “on the verge” actors since hitting the scene as Papa Doc in the Eminem biopic ’8 Mile.’
The 29-year-old actor has had a string of impressive turns in films like ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ ‘She Hate Me,’ ‘Brother To Brother,’ ‘Freedomland’ and ‘We Are Marshall,’ among others.
A native of
New Orleans, Mackie began his career in 2001 playing the late rapper Tupac Shakur in the off-Broadway production, ‘
Life has now come full circle and the actor plays Shakur again in the new movie, ‘Notorious,’ which is the life story of the slain rapper Notorious B.I.G.
I caught up with the Julliard graduate at the W Hotel in
New York City where we talked his role in the film, his thoughts on “method actors,” and the other iconic music star he’d love to bring to the big screen.
What’s it like to see your career come full circle and getting to play Tupac again?
It’s great. I was very surprised that they were doing a Biggie movie before they were doing a Tupac movie. I feel like Biggie was the King of
New York and Tupac was the King of the world. I feel that Biggie became famous because of Tupac. I feel like Biggie is the second most remarkable lyricists ever in hip-hop; second only to Tupac and you can have that conversation over and over again. It was very cool to see that they were doing the movie and to see that I was given the opportunity to reprise that role.
Antonique Smith, who plays Faith Evans, alongside Jamal Woolard, who’s Biggie Smalls. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Notorious signs were layed throughout the Roseland area along with posters of the Notorious B.I.G.
Anthony Mackie, who recently was seen in ‘Eagle Eye’, play Tupac Shukur and Antonique Smith, who plays Faith Evans in the film. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs met his mother Janice Combs at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Record producer Kedar Massenburg came to the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Don’t they look alike? Faith Evans and Antonique Smith. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Andre Royo,who was memorable for his role in HBO’s The Wire, and friend had a blast at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Angela Bassett had a wonderful time playing Violetta Wallace, Christopher’s mother. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Marc John Jefferies enjoyed playing and hanging out with
Lil Cease at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Angela Bassett who plays Violetta Wallace and Naturi Naughton, who plays Lil’ Kim. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
How easy was it for you to land this role having already played Tupac before?
Nothing is automatic. I had a meeting with George because I was a huge fan of his and I always wanted to get into directing. I went to him and said, ‘Wow, you’re doing this movie called ‘Notorious’ and I would really like to be your assistant. I don’t have a problem getting coffee.’ He was like, ‘No, I want you to be in the movie.’ We had a very long conversation about the story he was trying to tell and the kind of movie that he was trying to make. He heard of the play, but it was off-Broadway so few people saw it and a lot of people tried. I don’t have a videotape of it or anything.
What do you think about Tupac’s death? Everyone seems to have a theory or an opinion.
I’ve been to Vegas on fight night and it took me an hour to get to the little train. I find it very interesting that he was in Vegas on fight night on the strip and got shot by somebody in a big Cadillac while he was in a convoy and nobody saw anything. I ain’t no conspiracy theorist, but there are some conspiracies in that situation. All of a sudden everything stopped. They got police on bikes. If you can’t catch a car on a 10 speed in traffic, you got issues. The thing about ‘Pac and about Big is that they were worth more dead than alive and we know that because we’re talking about them 10 years later.’
If Tupac were alive, do you think you all would be friends?
No question. The thing about it is that if Pac would have made 30, just like Biggie, he would have been a different cat. He would have changed the world. That’s the age where you really start to witness your talent. Before 30, if you cough you take some Robitussin and you’re cool. When you hit 30, you’re like, ‘I need to go to the doctor.’ You don’t get over drinking like you used to. You start to witness your talent. I think if Pac would have realized that and gotten to the point where he knew that there was someone who loved him and he was put in a position to transcend the ignorance of the streets, he would have the coolest guy in the world.
Tupac and Biggie have scored the soundtracks to many people’s lives. What music would be on the soundtrack of your life?
Old blues music. When I was a kid living in
New Orleans, I used to sit under the tree in the backyard with my neighbors and my dad and all the old heads. They would put on all of their old music and listen to it. Fats Domino, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Bobby Womack and all those old cats who really told stories about love and love loss and really had things to fight for and against. Listening to those songs and thinking about those songs, they really defined where I’m from. It’s a good life. I grew up in a house with my mom and dad. We ate good. My dad raised all of his sons to be men and all of his daughters to be women. He did it with one word or a belt, but it was always from a position of love and I was always very blessed to have that in my life.
Samuel L. Jackson has spoken highly of your potential to become one of the greatest actors of your generation; and Sheryl Lee Ralph told me that her dream role would include a project with you, Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. How does it feel to receive those type of accolades?
It’s humbling because I look at myself at the very, very beginning stage of my career. I have a lot to prove. For Sheryl Lee Ralph to say that is huge because she is a monumental figure, not only in Black TV, but cinema. There are so many people that I admire and respect in the business and people that I try to emulate and imitate. Don Cheadle has been a huge influence on me and Samuel Jackson has been more to me than anybody else in any other arena in my life. Just knowing that he’s there and I can reach out to him means more than anything. Out of everybody else in the business, Sam Jackson was the one dude to be like, ‘I got you. If you have questions or if anything’s going on with you, you let me know.’ That’s huge and a lot of cats don’t do that. A lot of cats don’t believe that they’re in a position of mentoring. It’s a huge, huge humbling statement for her to say that. I appreciate that and I’m just at the beginning.
Are there enough good roles out there for Black actors to work consistently?
50% of the roles that I play were written for White actors. This is the first role that I’ve played in a while that has been written for a Black actor. It’s 50% about your representation and 50% is about your background. It says something that you’ve been given a position to write for AOL. That means you write well enough to where people regard you in a certain state. I try to look at myself in that regard. There are certain roles that I am not interested in doing. Don’t come to me with ‘Soul Plane.’ I don’t want it and I don’t know what to do with it because that’s not my reality. Those aren’t the people that I know. I’ve been offered some pretty amazing roles in my career, but as far as the starting out Black actor, we don’t have that same camaraderie that we had in the 90′s. We don’t have those ‘Soul Food’ or ‘Love Jones’ type of films. When was the last time you saw a Black love story?
Is there a dream role you’d like to bring to the big screen?
My dream role is Sam Cooke. I feel like it’s the best story that’s never been told. Before we had all these pseudo moguls and these record labels, Sam Cooke started that. He was the first dude to have his own record label hands down. He got the rights, the royalties, everything from his music. At that time, it was unheard of for a Black man to do. Then he died this very mysterious death. If you can make ‘Walk the Line’ you can definitely make a Sam Cooke movie.
When did your family recognize that acting wasn’t just some hobby or yours, but a profession you could make a living off of?
My dad went to go see ’8 Mile’ with a bunch of his friends. When I was a kid, me and my dad used to sit on the couch and watch Clint Eastwood movies every weekend before the football game on Sunday. I did ‘Million Dollar Baby’ and my dad went to the movie theatre. He said, ‘boy, you did a movie with Clint Eastwood. You done made it. You must be alright.’ I worked with Spike Lee and some others, but he didn’t relate to anybody but Clint Eastwood.
New Orleans . What are your thoughts about the current state of the city and life after Hurricane Katrina?
The sad thing about the world is the five minutes of fame. Every time you turn on the news, it’s just in and outs. Human life isn’t even regarded the way it was before let alone natural disasters. The sad thing about
New Orleans is that it was the great American city. It was as close as you could get to Europe without going to Europe . It’s the only place that nobody puts limitations or judgment on you being an adult. If you want to walk down the street with a drink, you walk down the street with a drink. We’re at a point now where everyone is gonna have their own natural disaster be it the bailout, loss of jobs, fires or floods; everybody is gonna have their natural disaster. New Orleans is not alone.
What does it take for you to embody a character? Are you one of those method actors that become your character while working on a project?
This is a job and I went to school for nine years to hone in on my craft. You don’t go to the hospital hoping that a doctor can figure out what he’s doing. You go to the hospital knowing that he knows what he’s doing. This is my job. I wake up and put my pants on one leg before the other like everybody else. I put myself in a position where nobody can limit me to what I can do be it theatre, an action movie, a period piece or whatever. I want to be able to do it all. I don’t believe in the idea of method acting. I don’t believe in having to inhabit the role and not talk to anybody because I’m in character. Those people need help. I don’t believe in that.
What do you hope people take away from seeing ‘Notorious?’
For me it would be a certain understanding of humanity. I feel like a lot of times we look at rappers and athletes with their tattoos and conflicts and them shooting themselves, but we don’t look at them as humans. We’re all flawed and make dumb choice and we just happen to overcome our dumb choices and get opportunities and help to get past those shortcomings. When people go see this movie, I really want them to understand the level of humanity and pride that went into creating what we all are as a generation today. When Tupac came along with ‘Juice’ he completely revolutionized the world and we see it everywhere. We see it all over. All of a sudden people are wearing Yankee caps. They’re not wearing it because they love the Yankees; they’re wearing it because Jay-Z popped a Yankee cap. The Yankees were around before Jay-Z but nobody was wearing it then like they are now. Hip-hop is the biggest art form in the planet and I want people coming away thinking, ‘that’s the creative instinct that goes into it.’
‘Notorious‘ also stars Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, Naturi Naughton and Antonique Smith. The film opens nationwide on Jan. 16, 2009.
NEXT: 5 Questions With Jamal Woolard
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