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Queen Latifah

"Just Wright," staring Common and Queen Latifah opens in theaters everywhere Friday. Photo from Creative Commons

Rap artist Common has been tiptoeing his way into the film industry for a few years now, but upon landing the lead role opposite Queen Latifah in the new film “Just Wright,” opening in theaters today, it looks like he’ll be setting up camp on Hollywood Blvd.

In an interview last Monday, Common sat down to talk about his new film and how it’s helped him grow as a man and as an actor.

Common said he was looking for roles that would allow him to demonstrate his versatility as an actor, to break away from the “Smokin’ Aces” and “American Gangster” genre in which he was previously cast.

“I don’t want to get pigeon-holed and boxed into, like, ‘well, he’s only the tough guy,’” Common said.  Common said “Just Wright” was not only the perfect opportunity to soften his image, but also the perfect opportunity to send a valuable message to viewers.

“It’s like a feel-good movie, but I can actually see people walking away feeling better about themselves, feeling like, man, I can find love or I am beautiful.”  Common said he has struggled with self-esteem himself and that it was important for him to convey a hopeful and inspiring message to others about loving oneself.  As Common  said he enjoyed guiding his character Scott McKnight through a discovery.

“This is one of the first roles where my character had an arc, you know.  He went from being, like ‘alright, I’m into these type of girls’ to ‘you know what, love is a different thing than that,’” Common explained.

Common enjoyed communicating the importance of self esteem and working with Latifah, but he also loved playing a basketball player.

“I love basketball.  My dream was to be in the NBA,” Common said, laughing.  Common said he and his father, a former American Basketball Association player, would shoot around whenever Common came to visit.  This love of basketball continued into high school where an injury dampened his NBA dreams.  But what happened next was a fair alternative.

“Me getting injured in high school basketball is what drove me to making demo tapes in rap,” he said.  Eight albums and two Grammy nominations later, the injury looks like it might have been a blessing in disguise.

“It’s kind of full circle how basketball took me to rap and rap took me to acting and acting took me back to basketball,” Common said.

Common trained with the assistant coach from the New Jersey Nets and NBA stars like Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard.  Common said he had a lot of fun learning, playing, and acting with such talented athletes.  He jokingly said that, by the end of the movie, he had started to feel like he could play in the NBA.  He was getting a little competitive.

“There was a shot I was supposed to score on Dwight Howard and, you know, I kept driving and I was doing it and at one point he just decided to throw my shot into the stands,” he said.

Apart from reinvigorating his love of basketball, the actor said the film furthered his passion for acting.  Though he will continue rapping, Common wants to keep working his way into the film industry.

“My journey throughout the music industry actually I think prepared me for what I’m doing as an actor,” he said, “It actually prepared me to do things in life as a man.”

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