December 03, 2015 

By Kam Williams 


Nick Cannon is a multi-faceted entertainer who wears many hats: comedian, executive producer and host for television, film star, director, entrepreneur, philanthropist and author of children’s books. Cited by People magazine as one of the “Top 10 Most Successful Young People in Hollywood,” Cannon is proof positive that focus and hard work can pay off. Nick made his first appearance on the big screen alongside Will Smith in “Men in Black II,” and was later seen in “Drumline” and “Bobby.”


More recently, he wrote, directed and produced his first studio film, “School Dance,” and produced the sequel, “Drumline: A New Beat.” And he is currently in production on the reboot of the TV-series, “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.”


The San Diego native began performing at the age of 8 after his grandfather left him several instruments as a gift. Shortly thereafter, he took to the stage to perform his music along with stand-up comedy.


Here, Nick talks about playing the title character in Spike Lee’s new film, “Chi-Raq,” a modernized adaptation of Aristophanes’ classic Greek comedy, Lysistrata.


LA Watts Times: Hi Nick. I’m honored to have another opportunity to speak with you.


Nick Cannon: Oh, likewise, Kam. How’re you doing?


LAWT: Great, thanks. I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I'll be mixing their questions in with mine. Children’s book author Irene smalls asks: What interested you in “Chi-Raq”?


NC: Even before I read a script, Spike Lee came to me and said, “I want to save lives in Chicago, on the South Side.” And I was like, “I’m in! I don’t know what that is, but I’m in.” Then, when I saw how he made the brave artistic choice to take Aristophanes’ 2,500 year-old play, Lysistrata, and set it in modern times, I thought that was brilliant and I felt honored to be able to be a part of the project.


LAWT: Were you aware of Lysistrata before making this movie?


NC: Yeah, I was definitely familiar with Lysistrata and other works of Aristophanes, and had heard the play’s plot referenced in various ways over the years.


LAWT: What did you think about all the rhyme in the dialogue?


NC: I thought it was outstanding that this film was in verse. I love how Spike remained faithful to that original format while mixing in spoken word and hip-hop and conveying an emotional message.


LAWT: Irene also asks: To what extent do you think we blacks are responsible for the violence in our communities?


NC: I say we’re responsible for everything in our community. We have to take responsibility for us, and for our own. Right now, I feel like it’s about reconditioning the community. We let this generation down, so we have to step back in and do whatever we can be the real pillars and the real leaders. Ultimately, these young people are hurt. They’re in pain. And instead of pointing a finger at them, we need to get involved and do something about the situation.


LAWT: Editor/Lergist Patricia Turnier asks: How did you prepare to play “Chi-Raq”?


NC: I really got to be a part of the community through Spike and [longtime Chicago political activist] Father Michael Pfleger who introduced me to some young peacekeepers, some reformed gang members turned leaders in the South side of Chicago. I lived with them. They came to my hotel and said, “Yo, let’s go! Let’s rock! We going! We have to show you every aspect of who we are and what we do.” I was able to jump in in a big way, and that’s what it was all about.


LAWT: I assume that John Cusack’s character, Father Mike Corridan, was a thinly-veiled version of Father Pfleger. He really looked and sounded just like him.


NC: I haven’t yet seen the film, but I’m well aware of Father Pfleger, and I watched John study him. And when you have such a phenomenal artist like John, I’m confident he embodied him in every way possible.


LAWT: That’s quite a cast Spike assembled for “Chi-Raq.”


NC: Yeah, that just shows the power of Spike. People love him, and will come out for him to be a part of one of his projects. He always puts together a phenomenal cast, especially when the film is designed to deliver such an important, positive message. That made everybody jump in wholeheartedly.


LAWT: How would you describe that message?


NC: We want people to appreciate the value of life. A life is a life, and, like Spike says, “If we save one life with this film, then we’ve done our job.”


LAWT: Did you feel any heavy burden playing the title character in a Spike Lee film?


NC: I didn’t see it as a burden. I welcomed it as a challenge. I also saw it as an honor for Spike to choose me for the role and to afford me an opportunity not only to display my skills as an actor but to be a part of a movement which really cares about people.

Category: Arts & Culture