He told us one day it would all make sense, and in the case of Common’s ever-evolving career, it definitely does. The 40-year-old rapper/actor has welcomed change throughout the years, from his sound to his fashion sense, and has not slowed down since the release of his debut album Can I Borrow a Dollar? in 1992. Since then, Common has carved his name on the cover of eight albums, a memoir, and a number of films and television shows, including AMC’s Hell on Wheels. Next up for versatile artist is the much buzzed about film LUV, which premieres in select theaters on Janurary 18th.
In the film, Common plays an ex-con who must make some jeopardizing decisions during a tumultuous day in Baltimore, all while his nephew (Michael Rainey Jr.) is by his side. Directed by Sheldon Candis and co-produced by Common, the film also stars Danny Glover, Meagan Good, Dennis Haybert, and Charles S. Dutton. Common chatted with EBONY about his latest role, Chicago, and what his perfect day with a lady friend would look like.
EBONY: Tell us a little about your character in the film LUV.
COMMON: My character's name is Vincent. In the story, you find out that he’s just been released from prison. He has a nephew and really wants to go on the right path and do business the legal way, after coming from the life of the streets. He also wants to father his nephew and be a good example for him. He takes his nephew out one day because his nephew hasn’t had a father figure around. He shows him what business is like to be an example for him. The day doesn’t go as planned; things don’t go as well as thought he would. When things go downhill, his nephew is involved in many of the situations. For my character, it’s definitely really about the choices he’s making involving a young person and subjecting him to all these negative and violent things. By the same token, the story overall is a coming of age story for a young man.
EBONY: Are there any parts of yourself that you see in Vincent?
COMMON: Just the desire to reach a higher level of my dreams and to really set an example for young people and people that I care about. I see that same determination in Vincent.
EBONY: Speaking of setting an example, part of your role in the film is to be a positive role model to your nephew and leave your troubled past behind. As a native of Chicago, how do you feel about the gang violence occurring there? What message would you like to send to the people living through this?
COMMON: First of all, I feel hurt by it. I feel saddened by what’s going on, very concerned, and like I have to have a responsibility in it. What I would say to young people is that you have a whole world out there to do something great in, no matter what circumstance you were born in or around. You can accomplish anything you dream of, and, the things you want for your life; happiness, success, love — all those things to grow as a human being. To make choices that involve yourself in any type of violence and doing something negative towards another human being is going in the opposite direction of what your goals and what your vision is for yourself. I would encourage people and say “man, we gotta recognize that that human being you damaging is a part of you and is a reflection of God, and it’s also a factor in your future because when you do something to damage someone else, it’s going to affect the rest of your life." Nobody wants to live in a sad state in their lives and you can create your own dreams and your own happiness if you just work towards it and believe in it and make those choices that lead towards that.
EBONY: How do you feel that you’ve grown as an actor over the years?
COMMON: With experience has come more confidence. I feel like it’s becoming more a part of me. I’m learning to be able to perform as an actor in different situations, whether it be an independent film or a television show like Hell On Wheels, or on a major feature film. There are different environments that you have to function in and I feel like I’ve grown to be able to work under those circumstances and make adjustments, as well as just try different things. The same way in music I learned to become freer as an artist, I really feel like I’m picking that up now as an actor.
EBONY: You have one free day to do whatever you like. No meetings. No interviews. No call time. How would you spend that day?
COMMON: I would go to the ocean and chill out and take a little time there. I probably would work out because I love to do that. Then I would go eat at a restaurant that I love. Then I would probably want to hook up with a good lady friend who I love to spend time with and go do something, whether that be a movie, going to a park, or a museum. If I’m in New York, I’m going to a play. I love going to see plays, going to listen to music, and going to dinner. And like, I said, it would always be better to have a lady friend. I would also take a little time to read something, to feel like I fed myself some spiritual food.
EBONY: Speaking of music, what albums are you feeling right now?
COMMON: I think Frank Ocean's album is a really good album. I obviously love Cruel Summer. I consistently enjoy Radiohead. Sometimes I listen to Minnie Ripperton. Her sweet, angelic, bird-like voice is just beautiful.
EBONY: What upcoming projects are you working on?
COMMON: I’m working on Hell on Wheels now, which is airing now on AMC, and also looking to do an independent film before the year is done. I’m also working on a new album and on being a good person.