Ice Cube, in case you were wondering, still ain’t the one. The rapper-turned-actor-turned-producer of family-friendly films warns fans (or anyone else for that matter) not to get it twisted: just because he’s been taking on these cop roles, he’s pretty much still on his N.W.A, believe it or not.
EBONY.com chats with the former O’Shea Jackson, who plays hardcore straight man to Kevin Hart’s silly man in Ride Along, opening this Friday.
EBONY: What made you want to do a comedy with Kevin Hart?
Ice Cube: I think it’s in my wheelhouse. It’s the kind of movies I do best, and Kevin is a funny, funny comedian. I’m a fan of his, and I’ve been watching him for a few years and seeing him grow. I know that it’s time for him to really do movies and show his talent on the big screen. I have a good track record with comedians, so I just felt like, with the right script, this will work.
EBONY: You do have a phenomenal track record with comedians: Mike Epps and Chris Tucker. Why do you think it works so well?
IC: I’m committed to being the straight man in most of the situations, and I let them do what they do best. I don’t put any restraints or shackles on them.
EBONY: You work behind the scenes as a producer. What’s your barometer for knowing what connects with an audience?
IC: It starts with the script. I really take the basic approach of, “would I go see it?” ’Cause the money can get tempting, and it can have you doing all types of movies. You’ll be paid, but nobody will see them. I don’t wanna be like that. I believe how you measure a good movie is how many times you can see it. With comedies, I like to be a producer, because comedies can get corny and go off track real fast. I’m always the “less is more” guy when it comes to a scene. So I’ma be the one who will keep it grounded. Even if I let it go off and go crazy, I’m still the voice of keeping things grounded in reality.
EBONY: You’re a cop in Ride Along, you’re a cop in 22 Jump Street and you’ve played many cops over the years. Yet we first found out about you from a little group called N.W.A, which didn’t exactly care for cops. What gives?
IC: It’s apples and oranges to me. People think it’s very ironic, and I understand why, a guy that sings “Fu*k tha Police,” what are you doing playing a cop? It would be ironic if I became a real cop. That would be craziness. This right here is acting, this is Hollywood, it’s make-believe. When I was little, I played cops and robbers, and sometimes I was the cop. You know what I mean? Go figure. It’s a cool footnote.
EBONY: So are you portraying the kind of cops you wish you’d seen when you were growing up and wrote “Fu*k tha Police”?
IC: Not necessarily. “Fu*k tha Police” is a real song coming from a real place. These movies are total make-believe out of somebody’s imagination. What I do is try to be true to it. And if I’m playing an undercover cop who is trying to take down one of the biggest dope dealers in Atlanta… The difference between an undercover cop and a cop in a uniform and a crook is really just a badge. Because they gotta think the same and they can move the same. So I just played him hard; I was focused. Kevin Hart is the mosquito that’s buzzing around.
EBONY: Was it a challenge to stay on task? I was on set when you were filming, and there was a lot of off-color fun.
IC: Not at all. We’re whistling while we work. That’s all it is. Will Packer was the lead producer on this, and he kept the ship moving straight. Kevin—although he’s a funny dude, bouncing all over the walls—when it’s time to get to work, I haven’t worked with anybody as professional, on-point, prepared. And gives you more than you asked every take. I respect his work ethic and the fact that he can keep the crew loose but also be ready for when the camera turn on.
EBONY: You are at the point in your career where you are creating opportunities for people in Hollywood. You gave Tim Story his first directing job with Barbershop.
IC: It’s where we expect to be. And we ain’t doing nothing that Robert Townsend didn’t do or Richard Pryor when he was on, did. Russell Simmons put a lot of these guys in front of my face with Def Comedy Jam too. He has to take credit. It’s just what we should do when we get in the position, especially when you see people who are very talented being underused.
[I want to] to go in there and give ’em a platform to show the world their talent. That’s what you want to do. It comes from respecting people’s art and talent. Somebody put me on. Dr. Dre saw me and thought it was cool enough to let me take the ride with him. John Singleton did this for me in movies; he launched me. He saw my talent and said, “the world should see this.” I’m just paying it forward in a way.
EBONY: What’s up with the N.W.A biopic?
IC: We’re very close. We’re starting to cast, we got our director, we just doing some rewrites to make sure it’s what it need to be, and that’s cool. As long as the process is moving forward, I’m happy.
EBONY: And how about the Friday sequel? Is it happening?
IC: I don’t know. We’re in a holding pattern with New Line and Time Warner. They don’t know if they want to give us enough money to do the movie. They don’t know if they want us to get more money from somewhere else to do the movie, and they don’t know if they want to even do the movie. I’m fighting the good fight to make it happen.
EBONY: Because you understand how badly fans want this to happen, with the entire original cast…
IC: Trust me, I know. It’s like, to me, they’re leaving a $100 million movie on the table.
EBONY: You recently announced on Twitter that you’re dropping a new studio album, this year. Where are you getting inspiration? Still gangsta?
IC: Just living, you know? I’m a B-boy at heart. I still like rhyming. It’s just the radio game is like Chinese arithmetic. It’s hard to know what nuts to crack. But I still love music, been dropping music. Never stopped really.
EBONY: Does being the good guy in Hollywood compromise who you are on wax?
IC: Nah, because I was never a gimmick. So I’ma always be myself. I’m not worried about that because coming from South Central Los Angeles, you realize that imagery is cool, but it ain’t nothing to really brag about. It’s really all about giving people a slice of the truth, a slice of a world they might be privy to. But I grew up there, I lived it. So to me, it’s cool that people see me as a person that’s a moneymaker, and not just a thug ready to tear up something. I’m cool with all that.