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Hip-hop artist Common has acted in his fair share of films, but he's never taken one of them to the Sundance Film Festival. That is until now. The artist, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., is in Park City this week in support of his lead turn in the gritty crime drama "LUV," directed by newcomer Sheldon Candis.
Common plays Vincent, a man recently released from prison in Baltimore, who takes his 11-year-old nephew Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) under his wing one day to give him a taste of the grown-up world. Unfortunately for Woody, Vincent's world is one riddled with violence, drugs, and some really shady characters.
We caught up with Common to find out how he's enjoying his time at Sundance.
How's your whole experience at Sundance been so far? Any time to see movies?
No, I would like to! I've been waiting to "Middle of Nowhere," and "Red Hook Summer," Spike Lee's movie. But my experience has been wonderful. I didn't know it was this much fun. I actually came and performed, but left before. I didn't get to experience it like this before.
Ice-T is here at Sundance with "Something from Nothing: The Art of Wrap," a documentary he directed himself. Is directing something you’d ever like to explore?
I would prefer to write and star in a movie. Directors have a lot responsibility [laughs]. I have more of a passion for acting, I have more of a passion for writing.
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You've been in the acting game for a while now, but you don't have the same experience as say Danny Glover, one of your many co-stars in "LUV." What was it like acting opposite one of your idols in this film?
For me it was a joy. It's like a thing where you want to bring your best, and at the same time you're so humbled yourself that you can learn, so you just take things in. I think the most important thing I can do is do the best job I can do in the scenes with him. So basically, I'm definitely honored and humble enough to be able to learn and know from him.
I mean, man Danny Glover. This man is so intelligent. I just learned.
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You share most of your scenes with the 11-year-old newcomer Michael Rainey Jr. You don't play the best uncle to this kid – you really put him through some horrific situations. How did you approach your work with him?
He's so wise in his own ways and evolved as a spirit that I forgot at time that he's just a kid. I was so into what we were doing that I didn't recognize how affected he was during some of the tougher scenes. Later, I sat and talked with him and let him know that I'd always love him, but that during the scenes there would be some mad energy coming at him. I tried to let him know that it was art and that it was acting, but it was tough. I think he was thinking, "Man, Common was just nice to me. Why's he now into this mode?"
What does acting give you that rapping doesn't?
Acting, spiritually it gives me another level of artistic expression. I tap into things within myself, and I relate to human beings in ways that I don't in my regular life. I love doing the research and digging into human beings' lives.
When I'm working on a character, I deal with what this person's life may be like. And that allows me to relate to people more. I love that acting allows me to open up in ways that I hadn't even opened up in my music. I express myself in my art, but acting made me look at myself and not just express, but look inside myself. Acting offers more than anything, a great learning experience.
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