ATL’s Tip “T.I.� Harris

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2005 was filled with rappers hitting the silver screen and actors portraying rappers that received Oscar nominations and ultimately winning best song. 2006 will be no different as more musicians take on the film industry. As with actor Tip Harris a.k.a rapper T.I.; who is definitely making heads wave with his anticipated new album ‘King’. He will certainly cause an eruption in the ever growing debate of music artists taking potential actors roles; as he successfully carries the character ‘Rashad’ in ‘ATL’; a film about two boys learning and growing into manhood. Here T.I. chats with The Black Star News’s Tonisha Johnson.

BSN: T.I., this is your silver screen debut. Why were you attracted to this story?
T.I.: Well, for one, it was the most honest representation of my culture and my city ever to be put on screen. And the largest production to ever be filmed in Atlanta; so I felt somewhat obligated.

BSN: The most dramatic parts occur with you and co-star Michael T. Williams. How did you prepare yourself for that?
T.I. I just went in there and did it. I just read the story. I understood the circumstances and just put myself in that situation. It was a lot of adlibbing. Like everybody, myself, Chris Robinson; everybody dissected this story and pretty much challenged it.

BSN: Was this one of your goals; to become an actor?
T.I.: Yes. I’ve tried out for other movies before. I tried out for Drumline, Nick Cannon’ role. I tried out for the role in Barbershop; I think is name is Ricky. I always believed I could do it. It’s just the matter of someone giving me the opportunity to do it.

BSN: Did you take any acting classes?
T.I. Naw. I mean, I’ve never taken acting classes. But we had instructors to familiarize us with the film industry because there were a lot of first time actors. But I never really took an acting class or had an acting coach.

BSN: Where there any personal challenges that you faced with this role? Playing the lead in your first film is a lot to carry.
T.I.: Not so much. It’s the only thing I know. Anything else would be easy. I figure, you get out of it what you put into it. I put a whole lot into it. So, I’m planning to get a whole lot out of it.

BSN: Is there any part of the film where you feel you’re at your best?
T.I.: I mean, there’s a few of them. I like the scene with me and Michael T.  I like the scene with me and all the guys together. I like the scenes with me and Evan. And I like the scenes with me and Big Boi as well.

BSN: How was your experience in doing this film as oppose to filming a video or working on an album?
T.I.: Well, it’s hard to compare the two industries because they’re so different.

BSN: For you, what are the Pro’s and Con’s of the film industry?
T.I.: I mean, the demands and expectations are just totally different. The music industry; the Pros’ are to respond to what the people individually like at shows and just being in and out of cities; being in and out of hoods across the nation. I like hearing their opinions. In the film industry, the Pro’ are the exposure, the amount of money being invested in the project that you have to put out there. Of course the press is the most intense and widely publicized… You are around a bunch of entertainers so; you’re going to be entertained. At least on this set that’s how it was.

BSN: Can you talk about your new album ‘King’ and the fact that you’re releasing in the same day as the film?
T.I.: I think it’s my best album to date. I had a lot more time to dedicate to it, for it to be the best album I’ve ever done. On my other album I was hustling around getting things done. I was recording during the movie. I knew that the album I named King had to be the album of my career. To substantiate it’s title.

BSN: Lots of critics are stating there are too many rappers flooding the industry. How would you respond to that?
T.I.: People want to see us. They respond to us. Some of them relate to us. Some of them are fascinated by us. For whatever reason, people want to see us. There is supply and demand in whatever business your in. I don’t care if you sell shoes. People have a demand to see this person; I need to be able to supply this person to the demanding audience. That means there’ going to be money in my pocket and butts in them seats. And if an actor can do that…great; if a rapper can do that…great. If a juggling monkey can do that…great. Don’t get mad at us. Get mad at the studios. They are the ones who cut the checks to get us on them movies. That ain’t out fault. If somebody gave you a check to rap, you’d be out here kickin’ it too.

BSN: How did you get your start at rapping?
T.I.: Man, I used to run around rapping like LL Cool J when I was like 6 years old. I just started writing my own when I was like about 9. I just kept up with it and got better. And evolved.

BSN: How did you enjoy working with the cast?
T.I.: I enjoyed it a whole lot. The guys and the girls used to go at it. We’d have a nice, long dozens session.

BSN: Is there a conflict between Tip the actor and T.I. the rapper?
T.I.: I mean there is a conflict, but at the same time, you have to recognize that there is a conflict. You have to separate and say well, this is what’s needed for this. And then you have to connect the right specifics to the cause. And that’s how you do it. Its like, when you go to church, you need a suit. When you play basketball, you need shorts. You know what you need, then you take it and if it ain’t necessary then you leave it behind.

BSN: What would you say about representing Atlanta to the world?
T.I. It’s an absolute pleasure to be involved. Like I said before, it’s the most honest representation of my culture. I’m pleased and proud of the project.

BSN: Can you talk about this theme that really challenged you and made you stretch as an actor?
T.I.: Everything. I put the same amount of energy…I apply the same necessary talents to everything. Like I didn’t just say this is easy, so I’m just gonna fall back. Everything, from skating, to dramatic scenes to comedy scenes; to the kissing scene.

BSN: Yeah, Chris said you got a few bumps and bruises.
T.I. Yeah. I went hard. I went real hard. He said if you don’t die keep skating’. I refuse to lose. It’s like a mandatory success attitude. I display that to everyone around me. Like in music, I have people have been around me for years. We know each other in and out so, its nothing to carry something through with these people but the cast in the movie, we were just put together for little bit of time and we have to connect and bond the way we do in the music industry if I’m involved with it. That’s the same attitude I apply to everything.

BSN: Can you talk about the song ‘Why you want to do that’ with the Crystal Waters sample?
T.I. I will not tell a lie. I cannot take any credit for that sample. I heard the track it was hot. I didn’t know what the sample was from. I appreciate the response to it. I’m real proud of it. It’s a definite bond with the ladies.

BSN: How was the kissing scene with Lauren London?
T.I.: Rigorous. I went hard. I put 100%. I had to make it real. I had to. That was my duty. I was told to do a job and that’s what I had to do.

BSN: You seem like a laid back person. Where did you have to go to within yourself to take on the character?
T.I.: Where did I have to go within myself to appear so laid back is the question? I think I possess qualities that allow me to go from one extreme to the next.

Copyright © Tonisha Johnson

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