Interview: Ice Cube, Eve and Sean Patrick Thomas
When they first told me about the advanced press screening for BARBERSHOP I thought, “Oh, how cute. They’re moving COMING TO AMERICA from Queens, and FRIDAY from the South Central ghetto, to the blustery cold of Chicago’s South Side. The man they call Cube will fit right in.” Needless to say, I expected a slightly altered carbon copy of that classic college flick. What I got, however, was a damn good movie…with a superbly constructed ensemble cast. It’s no instant classic, but it sure as hell ain’t bad. I’ll let JoBlo give you his lowdown, but this cinema novice had a good time. And it was because of this that I was excited when I heard MGM was planning on holding a junket for the film. When the day came, I packed up my duffel, tic tacs, and Thomas Guide, and headed for the hills…Beverly Hills, that is….and the Four Seasons hotel there. After a fine meal with the flack and camera crew meatheads, I sat down and waited for my time with the cast and crew. Oh, and by the way, BARBERSHOP opens September 13, for those of you scoring at home….
SEAN PATRICK THOMAS
I first chatted with Sean Patrick Thomas. His claim to fame is his spin with Julia Stiles in SAVE THE LAST DANCE, but he also stars in the tv show THE DISTRICT. He plays Jimmy, the intelligent and sophisticated one of about six or seven barbers in Calvin Palmer’s cuttery. He came in to do the interview with Troy Garity, the only white barber in the film, and was finding it hard to get a word in edgewise(Garity is Jane Fonda and Sen. Tom Hayden’s son….no foolin’), but I was able to get a little from the actor.
Why was it important to get cutter training? Can’t you just act it?
Not really. You want to have a sense of technique. You have to figure out what would be your routine, as a barber. Do you start in the front or back? Top or bottom? Swivel the chair or walk around?
What was the most important thing you learned?
There’s no such thing as a perfect haircut. If you pursued the perfect haircut, you’d never stop because you’d always see something better. You need to be able to say “Ok, it looks good. Next guy in here.”
Were you familiar with the barbershop as a community hangout?
There’s a stereotype, and a lot of the time that stereotype is real. There’s a lot of things in the movie I’ve seen before. Definitely the biggest similarity is the generational gaps in there. You see the middle-aged men, young adults, teens in there. Boys. Generally that’s a common thread, many generations of men hanging out together…And anything is open for conversation. The characters in the movie are definitely archetypes, but still it’s still pretty close to the way they really are.
What did they mean to you growing up?
Not a whole lot, actually. My dad cut my hair growing up. I missed out on that whole thing. He didn’t cut it well, but it was a family thing.
Was it tough playing a character that people lose sympathy for over time?
No. I think that as an actor you have to be willing to be unlikable. That’s how you get to be a better actor, in the long run. I’m always playing the nice guy in most of the projects that I do. As an actor I needed to do something where I didn’t have pressure to be likeable. So it was great for me.
Because I a)still listen to too much classic rock and b)live in a cave dwelling, I had never heard of the rapper Eve until this movie. She plays Terri, the only female in the barbershop, and does her part very well. When I then heard that she’s a multi-million-dollar rapper, I came to the realization that I need to get out more. Anyhoo, BARBERSHOP was her second big film (she’s also in XXX), so she’s really still a rookie. But she didn’t show it. And when she sat down to chat with me, she held nothing back. I learned that she wore “boob boosters” during the shooting to, well, you know. She also said she used to be in retail sales, but hated it, then took a stab at stripping. Now, she’s a star in music and a star-in-the-making on the big screen. Here’s more from my new friend, who likes her apple juice (inside joke from the movie)….
What’s the key to having success in music and film?
I have no idea, but I’m so happy to be able to do both. I’m really blessed. There’s no secret that I know of.
Did you look to Ice Cube for inspiration?
Definitely. He is so professional and so on. He is so good at what he does and it was a pleasure for me to watch him work.
Did you always want to act?
I didn’t want to at first. I figured it wasn’t for me. But, as corny as it sounds, I was really inspired by SLING BLADE. I just was like, “I have to act. I have to do this.” So I got an acting coach and she helped me with the script beforehand. So I’m very serious about it.
Your character goes through a tough relationship. Why do women stay with cheaters sometimes?
I don’t know. I think we believe we can change people. That’s what it is. We really believe that we can save a person.
What are your thoughts on Samuel L. Jackson’s comments about too many rappers getting into films?
I totally respect his opinion. I understand it. A lot of actors have been trained since they were younger, that has been their passion. But at the same time, it’s a business. A movie business. And these studios see these mainstream artists and think they should put them in a movie to make money and fill up our seats. But, a lot of music talents are good actors, so why not give us a chance. I totally respect his opinion, though… But I also want to be respected. That’s why I got an acting coach and worked on it. I want to be respected as an actor and not have to think they gave me this part because I’m a popular singer.
Is there extra pressure on you?
Of course. Yes. These people have been doing movies and on camera. I was scared but everybody was very supportive…Rapper is just a negative word, so I had to be professional, be on time, do my thing and hold my own for them to be able to respect me.
Completely unrelated…Who are the hottest guys in film today?
Brad Pitt. That’s easy for me. He is like, “Lord!” Denzel is sweet too.
Who would you like to work with now?
Halle Berry. Drew Barrymore. I just think she’s so cute. Brad Pitt. I’d love to do something with him. But those are just dreams, you know.
Why do so many music artists choose to have a single name?
Well, my mother named me Eve. That’s my birthname. I didn’t want to be a character. I wanted to be who I am.
After Eve came Ice Cube, who plays barbershop owner Calvin Palmer in the film. I see now why they call him Ice Cube. He’s no taller than a frozen block of water. But he definitely carries with him that edgy personality and bluntness that was with him in N.W.A., and that sly joking manner that made FRIDAY such a hit. He always looks you straight in the eye when he speaks with you, and despite the clout he’s gaining throughout Hollywood, he seems to have it all in perspective. He is not an A-List actor, as he quickly admitted, but what he quickly a “B+ List Actor.” He also admitted that he’s never taken an acting class, which was a huge surprise to me, considering that of all the rappers-turned-actors out there (whose abilities one Samuel L. Jackson recently called into question) Cube is by far the one with the most cinematic talent. What’s more, here’s one other tidbit….he’s been married since 1992 (so much for the ho-pimpin’ days, yo). More from Cube….
What’s the secret to succeeding in both music and film?
Knowing your audience. When you first want to get into films, it helps to do something that’s a little more believable compared to what you’re doing in music. To me that’s key to help with the transition. It helped for me. For me to go from the hard core music we did with N.W.A., to then go do BOYZ IN THE HOOD, it just seemed right.
You have political messages in your music. Do you try to do the same in choosing a film?
Yeah. That’s the beauty about film. You can get your message across in a visual way, not just an audio way. You get to create on the 3-D level. I have fun doing music, but movies are a much bigger challenge for me.
Does this film hit home for you more than most, being kind of a family-type theme?
I’ve always been a family man, as far as taking care of my kids. I’ve been doing this for a while now, so I’m kind of a pro at it. I got 4 kids, all different ages.
As an actor, what direction do you want to go now?
I just want to do a lot of good projects. When you see Ice Cube’s name, I want it to be worth your time to check it out. I want to be a part of that. In some of my roles I’ve been able to show a little range, but of course I want to show more. If a good script comes along and it’s a tough guy type of thing, then I’m going to jump on it too. It’s all about being involved with good projects, and projects you’re going to be proud of. These movies are going to be here long after I’m gone, so I’ve got to be proud of every single one. You can’t erase them, so I take it very seriously.
What was the appeal of this script?
The same thing that BOYZ IN THE HOOD did for me. It was like the perfect slice of life for this world. With BOYZ it was like a slice of life in South Central. They presented a picture to the world of a place nobody would have ever seen without that movie. And I think BARBERSHOP is the same way. A lot of people underestimate what a barbershop means to the community, but it’s definitely like a tee pee. It’s where the elders and the youngsters can talk and be brutally honest about every subject under the sun. I just thought it was a hell of a movie to make.
Because all barbershops are pretty much the same. So I didn’t want to be on either coast. I wanted to be right in the middle and have the whole country feel what we were trying to do, and not try to make it an LA thing or a New York thing. It’s just all about the barbershop, South Side of Chicago. I love Chicago anyway. It’s too damn cold, but everything else about it was cool.
You guys had cutter training beforehand. Why was that important?
It wasn’t important for me. I didn’t go. Everybody else did, though. I just watched my barber and repeated his mannerisms.
You had this experience growing up, hanging at the barbershop?
Yeah, I did used to. What was cool was that when I go into a barbershop now, it’s not the same experience. It’s like “Cube is here!” So it was good to even see that and see how one is supposed to run without the celebrity hoopla.
What can you tell us about FRIDAY AFTER NEXT…the next installment?
It’s funny as hell. I shouldn’t say this, but I think it’s funnier than the first one if you ask me. I think everybody came with their A game. Friday lands on Christmas Eve in the movie, so it’s a FRIDAY wrapped in a Christmas present. It comes out November 22nd, and man, it’s a hell of a ride.
Overall, again it was a hoot.