BSN Interview: Queen Latifah

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Most of the time, when you see Queen Latifah on the silver screen, it’s hardly a passive role she plays. But in “Last Holiday,� the Queen takes on a meek character by the name of Ms. Georgia May Byrd who is in a desperate need for a make over both mentally and physically. As the story progresses, the audience will find that Georgia has a love for food and wishful thinking. The combination of Latifah and LL Cool J as love interests—
It really sets the film apart from the usual “same�-themed films as both these 2 established actors set a quiet fire to the big screen with a gradual love that everyone can identify with.

BSN: You have such a rich life as it is. How would you handle only three weeks to live?
QL: I would spend a little more time with my family and my friends. And make sure all the business was in order. I’d probably go to one more place. I’d just rent a plane and do a little, quick world tour for about a week. See some of the places on earth that I’ve always wanted to see. Different parts of Africa, Egypt, and China and probably just end up in Jamaica, you know; some Rum Punch.

BSN: In the film, you had lots of conversations with God. Everyday ordinary people can relate to that. Is that real for you in your life?
QL: Definitely. That’s definitely real for me. I mean, I’m a Christian, but I truly believe it’s about a personal relationship with God. And the only way to have it is to have that kind of conversation and be near each other. I can’t just treat God like this big, omnivorous being; so big that I can’t even have a conversation with him or her. I can’t. I can do that; I can talk to God and I know Angels are around me and I know Jesus is there. And it’s like if you’re all around and everywhere, you don’t have to look up at the sky necessarily. You can just talk. He can hear.

BSN: This film shows a lot of change from the personalities you usually project in your movies; being meek, quiet, and soft-spoken. What were some of the challenges like in those performances?
QL: Indeed, I learned a lot from my character which was to live everyday like your last and live life to the fullest. Honestly, hanging over a dam, 1000 feet up…are we as safe as we can be? No…you never know. And so, I’m sitting here like, whatever personal problems I’m having in my life are out of my mind because I’m like God I’m risking my life right now. What do I care about the little argument we had this morning? You’re sitting on a five story ledge, it’s the same thing. In 10 degree weather, you’re up on the Alps and its cold and you’re trying to stay focused.

BSN: So, you’ve never gone snowboarding in real life?
QL: I’ve never umm, snowboarded until they trained me for this film.

BSN: It’s rumored that you had a crush on LL Cool J when you were younger and he didn’t know. Did you guys discuss this later?
QL: NO! Lol. He’s a sexy guy. He’s an attractive man. He was young when he started and he was young enough for me to have a crush on. And there’s a lot to like about him. But I also know his wife and she’s cool. So it’s not like I’m sitting there and trying to get with him. But I’m a woman. But he is very nice.

BSN: What was it like working with him?
QL: It was great. I’ve known him for a long time. I know his bodyguards so it was kind of like a family over there.

BSN: What about the kiss?
QL: I mean, the kiss was nice. But, like I said, I was on a ledge it was like 10 degrees outside. I was looking forward to the kiss because it would be warm. The kiss, this was a different kind of kiss. It wasn’t like the kiss I did in Beauty Shop. That was a kiss. This was a sweet kiss from two people who really loved each other. So it was like differences.

BSN: Did you face in difficulties portraying a person, who like so many that may be drawn to this film, have a Last Holiday?
QL: Well, it’s always difficult to look back at your life and say, ‘have I done what I’ve wanted to do’?  Have I done enough and is this worth it? You always have to kind of weigh things out, see where you are and check in with yourself. And see if you’re supposed to be living the life that you really want to live. I found that I learned so much in the time that we filmed this movie. I mean, we shot this film in New Orleans; met so many cool people, in one of my favorite towns in the United States and the world for that matter. I and my driver would drive everyday and we would talk about the floods. Most of out crew was from Louisiana and went over to Europe a lot to finish out with us. And then, you know, when something like that happens, you really kind of realize, life, it’s about the simplest things. All the materialism doesn’t mean anything. The house that you buy doesn’t mean anything. The car that you drive, all these things can be taken away. But as long as you have your life you can live to make more money and buy another car, another house. But your life, you only get one of those. So, well, at least to my knowledge so far. So, it’s like, how are you living your life? Are you sweatin’ too much of the small stuff? And when I make a film like this, the challenge is to make sure whatever lessons I’m to learn from it, I’m learning. I realized there were some things that I needed to change about my personal life to really help myself to move forward. And I think I’ve been alright with that; the personal things obviously, but, also Georgia refreshed me. She let me know how much I love Gospel music. How much I love music in general. Enough that we went on tour when we came back. I wanted to go on tour.

BSN: Has your rap career helped in the transition to acting?
QL: I think rapping is definitely helpful to anyone. Especially for us; I think it’s different for an athlete or an attorney. I don’t know. The thing is, we have to perform for a camera. We have to be comfortable for a camera. We have to know where our marks are. We have to get used to looking at ourselves on film. Those things alone give us a little bit of an edge against someone else who doesn’t have to do this kind of thing. Because you’d be surprised on how some of that stuff makes you feel insecure. I think just playing these different personalities; and you have three four minutes tops to get your point across, to get your emotions across…to get your story told about a song, you know, I think that kind of led to becoming an actor.

BSN: How do you go from ‘UNITY’ to an Oscar nominated actress?
QL: I never looked at myself as the best rapper around. If I couldn’t say I was the best rapper, and then there was no way I was going to put all my eggs into one basket. I always left myself open to whatever opportunities might come my way. And I tried to work as hard as I could to make sure I was prepared and I think some of the things that my parents instilled in me and exposed me to, made me feel more comfortable being around any kind of person and not feeling uncomfortable. So, I wouldn’t be shy to speak to someone who was a millionaire or a billionaire, the president of a studio or this director or that director.  Prince, yeah. I mean, he’s Prince. You’d better not be shy talking to Prince. But umm, anybody else; their just people to me, just another person. They got blood like me, tissue, you know? It’s all the same thing. I think having that attitude made me feel ok when going in to meeting with people and just being myself and letting my personality shine.

BSN: Are you into cooking and what was it like working with Food Network?
QL: I love eating. And I love to cook actually. Cooking is one of the things that relax me. When I’m dicing up peppers, onions, and mushrooms and adding…I just don’t have a lot of time to do it but I enjoy it. It’s funny how we kind have just lost this balance of just eating and eating well. And making it that family time. In my house dinner time was like family time. It was a time to catch up. You couldn’t watch TV while you ate dinner. You had to sit at the table and catch up with each others day. I think it brought us closer as a family.

BSN: Did you get to sample some of the food that was actually there?
QL: Oh yeah. Not everything obviously because I don’t even eat everything but…the Food Network people really prepared a lot of the food. And I’m not really used to checked food so it was nice when they came there and they imported some things from France. And sometimes we just had a descent meal. And not that they don’t have descent meals, but for me some baked chicken, mashed potatoes and some greens, very simple, kind of typical American food was what I needed at the time and it was delicious.

BSN: Any chance for a possibilities book by Queen Latifah?
QL: I have to get that from Paramount and see if they got a book division.  Yeah, I think that’s a great idea.

BSN: Why did you choose to portray this type of character?
QL: For several reasons. One, working with Paramount Studios. We’ve been looking for something to do together for quite awhile. My agent Randy had convinced them finally to—was this role for me? Or what do you think about Queen Latifah for that…or instead of, you know, whatever you’re thinking? And they were open to it. These are also people who have been looking for some vehicle for us to work together. With all the work I had done with these movies, a lot of people had been noticing and waiting for the right project; from Set It Off, to Living Out Loud, and everything in between…was making me more aware among Hollywood producers and studios. So sometimes it’s just a matter of time before we finally get together on something. And this was one of the things. But the thing that interested me about the role and about doing this film altogether was working with experienced producers and learning from the aspect. And working with an experienced director and just being able to be an actor. Which a couple of films before that, I’ve been a producer. Just heavily involved in casting, the choice of director. Sort of micro managing certain situations. And so, I knew I’d just get to act. And just hang out and be an actor. And that was cool. I really liked the idea of playing a role of a girl that was real shy and meek. Afraid of a lot of things. A big heart. Bending over backwards for people but never really doing all the things that she wanted to do. And bringing it down. A lot of my characters are very out spoken, outgoing. Ballsy. And to me, I liked the idea, the challenge of putting it all on the inside and becoming more introverted. And that for me is a challenge because I’m not quite as introverted as Georgia Byrd. I had to work towards nailing that place that she’s in and making it authentic for you guys. And it’s a wonderful transformation that she gets to have. And just letting her out and being the person that she always had inside. It was as inspirational to me as it is in this film.

BSN: Between the films, Cover Girl, and Pizza Hut; why did you actually decide to do all of these things?
QL: I can’t even tell you why I do what I do. This didn’t happen overnight. I’m really thankful for the way my careers been unfolding. When I started rapping, every rapper thinks their going to go platinum out the box, but I didn’t. But I did go almost gold. And there was enough attention brought to me that allowed—warranted another album and a lot of performances. I got to go places that I’ve never been in my life. And it opened up my world. And so, everything has been a progression since then. I did my first movie in like 1990-91…Jungle Fever. And here we are. Oscar nomination didn’t come till 2003. That was a long ways away. It’s not like it happened overnight but it’s always been going uphill. Going up, up, up. And I just wanted to keep doing that.

BSN: When you just think about yourself and LL Cool J and where you come from; and now your both headlining movies; what does that feel like?
QL: It’s wonderful. It’s definitely wonderful. And I think we are part of an exclusive fraternity/sorority. There are only a few of us that are doing it and doing it at this level, consistently, for these many years. I feel honored to be doing what I do. But I also know that we all rappers underneath this shit. You know what I mean? Excuse my language, but, we’re rappers. And just because of that ability to hear music and feel it so deeply so quickly. That our thing will never go away. Now, does that mean I want to be a rapper at 55? No. Not necessarily. Unless there’s a few others out there then I’m wit it. If the music grows up with me then its cool. But we have been fortunate to have this ability to act. And to move into these other worlds to keep expanding our careers. But you still see, we can’t seem to let go of the music. Whether it’s me, whether it’s Ice Cube, whether it’s Will, whether it’s L; people ask, aww you make millions of dollars Will Smith. Why do you want to rap? Cause that’s just who—it’s in your heart. It’s part of who you are really.

BSN: At what point in your life were you actually Georgia?
QL: Which Georgia? Pre or Post. Lol. I’m more duality. Half of me is shy and humble. And insecure sometimes. But the other half is all those other things you tend to see. The more I go through life, the less of me is Georgia Byrd.

BSN: What words of inspiration would you say to a room filled with woman of all different ages?
QL; For me, you have to love yourself for who you are. Accept your body for what it is. It’s the one you got. You can always improve it. But it’s yours and that’s the only one you’re going to get. Don’t tear yourself down. We have to choose love over hate. And the other thing would be that, whatever you can dream is possible. You just have to do the research and get ready for the hard work that goes into making it happen. But anything that you want to accomplish and anything that you want to do you can do it. You just have to put your mind to it and be ready to work for it. And sometimes you may have to stand alone and leave people behind that aren’t trying to move in the same direction that you are. Stay around positive people. If people want to hang out, get high, do nothing, that’s cool—but let them keep hanging out and you hang with people who are interested in life and want to move forward, who wants to be physical. You know, not in a sexual way, but in an active way. Which we all need to be more of. All that stuff. I think it’s all possible. I really believe it. I had to be pumped up by my mom when I was little. And if somebody is not getting it then just always share that with them if you’re that type of person that is doing something positive.

BSN: And go out and get you a possibilities book?
QL: Go get you a possibilities book.

BSN: Any charitable things this season?
QL: We always have the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation. It was founded in my brothers name and we give away scholarships; partial scholarships to college. We’ve been doing that for over 10 years now.

Copyright 2005-2006 Tonisha Johnson

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