Common has a well-deserved reputation as a rap lyricist. These days he’s also building a reputation as a go-to actor. From his lead role in “Just Wright” with Queen Latifah to appearances in films with Jeremy Piven, Christian Bale, and Denzel Washington, Common is finding Hollywood to be a hospitable place. In “Luv” he plays Vince, a Baltimore enforcer who take his young nephew along on what turns out to be pivotal day in both of their lives. Watch the trailer for “Luv” on page two. We caught up with the Chicago-born artist to get his take on relationships, working with the greats and his new music project.
BlackAmericaWeb (BAW): How did you come across the script for “Luv” and what made you want to do it?
Common: My agent came and told me about the script and told me that it was an independent movie and that it would be a good lead role for me, something that I could really do something with as an actor. I felt the same way and I felt blessed to do a character that has some depth and a few different layers. You get to go through that process and what they’re going through in that day. I met with the director, Sheldon Candis, and that’s when I decided I wanted to do it.
BAW: You grew up in Chicago, which has some of the same issues that Baltimore does. Did you draw on your upbringing in your portrayal of that character?
Common: I definitely drew on things that I’ve grown up around and things that I’ve seen and been told. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and I’ve been around enough to know about the things that some people go through. Though the inner cities do have a lot of the same things going on, I wanted to be as true to Baltimore as I could be.
BAW: You’ve been very fortunate in your career to always be around great talent, from Kanye West in your music career to Danny Glover and Dennis Haysbert who are in this movie. What was it like working with these high caliber actors?
Common: Danny Glover is a legend and it’s a blessing to be in his presence and have him want to come and work on our movie. For me it was about lessons learned and paying homage and making sure that I brought my all. I saw Danny Glover giving his all and Dennis Haysbert giving his all and Charles “Roc” Dutton giving his all. They knew that from the core I was giving my all. I was learning, listening and having fun with those guys and it was a great experience for me.
BAW: You’ve got a heist film coming out this year, too, with magicians or something?
Common: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s called “Now You See Me” with Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caiine. I play the head of the FBI. That movie is a lot of fun. I think it’s going to be special and I’m enthused about that, too.
BAW: Once again, surrounded by the best. Do you choose projects based on the people involved?
Common: I just go to what I’m attracted to. I want to be surrounded by high-level people, which in turn will make me better. I want to grow. On the path to greatness you want to be challenged. You want people who will elevate you. You want people who are smarter and more talented and more experienced so you can see what it takes to get better. I have been blessed to work with everyone from Lauryn Hill to Angelina Jolie to Denzel Washington to Kanye so it’s a blessing.
BAW: Coming from the South Side of Chicago, did you ever have a dream for your life that was this big? Did you imagine all these things happening in your life?
Common: I knew I wanted to be something that meant something in this world. I knew I wanted to do something to impact people’s lives but I didn’t know in what medium it would be. I never knew that it would grow into this. I remember the first time I saw myself on a movie screen I couldn’t believe it. It was an incredible feeling. Some days I’m like this is amazing. But you always want to grow. You’re never content.
BAW: You’re a guy who not only does good work, you’re respected by everybody. Since I read your memoir, “Some Day It Will All Make Sense” I know why. Your mother was a big part of it.
Common: God was the foundation and my mother the rock. She gave me some things to live with and things to think about and ways to behave. From there I had to make choices to do it and live with them and develop my own responsibility and way of thinking. But I was definitely provided with love and a solid foundation from my mother.
BAW: When are we going to get another album? We love you in films but we miss your music.
Common: I have a mix tape that will be out in the spring and an album out in September. It’s going to be on G.O.O.D. Music and I’ll be working with Kanye and No I.D. this kid named Travis Scott who’s on the label, The Intern from Chicago who’s doing a lot of work and Doc, who produces with Kid Cudi. I’m coming with some fresh stuff. It will be very new for people who have heard Common throughout the years and people who are just becoming acquainted with Common.
BAW: You surround yourself with great people and that includes in your romantic life, which has included Erykah Badu, Serena Williams and Taraji P. Henson. So I’ve got to ask for your female fans, are you still single?
Common: Yes, I’m a single man.
BAW: Are you taking applications?
Common: Not so much applications, but conversations, I’m taking. (Laughs) I like a woman that has a spiritual foundation that loves herself and is strong but at the same token, caring. I like a woman that’s not just saying “Yes” to everything but will stand up for who she is. I like a woman that likes to have fun and is very supportive and honest.
BAW: Interested conversationalists can find you through Twitter.
Common: Yup. Send them there. (Laughs).