Since 1992 Common has brought his brand of socially conscious music to the masses. Since then Chicago native has branched out from music into acting. With his latest film, “LUV”, the rapper/activist comments on the cycle of broken men trying to raise a new generation of young men.
In Common’s new drama, he stars as Vincent, an ex-con trying to live a life where he owns a legit business. However, things get complicated when he decides to take his young nephew along with him for the day. “LUV,” which hits theaters January 18th, captures that day in the life of two men; one broken down by his past wrong decisions and the other by the harsh realities he’s faced with.
The Urban Daily spoke with Common about the new project where he shared his excitement about working with legendary actors like Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert, and Charles S. Dutton. We also spoke the outstanding acting performance by ten year-old Michael Rainey Jr., who plays the second lead role of Woody and what the true definition of love is.
TUD: I just wanted to talk about the title “LUV.” What does it really mean to you and in context of the film?
Common: Well, originally Sheldon Candis, the director, titled the film “LUV” because it stood for Learning Uncle Vincent. That was the acronym for it. But love itself, for me, it’s the most important aspect of life. It’s like the greatest gift we have. I think love is the closest thing we can do to get to God. Seeing God and feeling God is love. Loving God, loving ourselves, loving others, loving your lady or your man, your family members is the closest thing we can do to be close to God. Love is important.
The way I see it in this film is like something you see an individual who wants to give his nephew love, but some of it is just misguided love. You believe you’re teaching him to be a man because you do care about him and love him, so he’s like, “I’m gonna teach you how to be a man and these are some of the things you need to know.” But some of those things aren’t healthy for a young man to get in order for him to become a good person in society.
It seemed like a part of the film was about your character, Vincent, trying to show love to his nephew without actually having received the proper type of love himself and then just perpetuating that cycle.
Yeah! That’s definitely it! That is the core of what Vincent is doing because he didn’t receive that proper love and you can see that through his relationship with Dennis Haysbert’s character, Fish. Looking at the way him and Fish interact that it’s like that wasn’t the proper love. So he is definitely trying to give love to Woody and he wants to, but teaching Woody how to shoot a gun isn’t teaching him about reading this book or helping him with this or that. Even in certain instances, you see Vincent say, “Yo, you finish your homework?” or you see Vincent tell Woody about Frederick Douglass. So he does want to teach Woody some things, but the other things he is teaching him isn’t the type of stuff kids need.
Would you say that Woody has found his own sense of what love is because he’s gone down the road with his uncle and been confused as to how to handle himself in the situations he faces throughout the film? It feels like when he’s driving out of the driveway, at the end, that he feels like he knows a little bit more than he knew before about loving himself.
He definitely has learned more about what love is because even though he loves his uncle, there are certain things his uncle did wrong. Woody just made a choice like, “Nah, I’m not trying to do those things or trying to live that way.” You do see that Woody loves his uncle. He just had to learn to love in a different way. When you love, you ain’t supposed to be hurting yourself.
What was it like getting to work with Dennis Haysbert, Charles S. Dutton, and Danny Glover in one movie? On top of that, you have this newcomer Michael Rainey Jr. come in and steal the show…
Man, it was incredible! First of all, to be up there with Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, and Dennis Haysbert was crazy. All I kept thinking was, “Dang, these dudes are legends.” They have impacted film and television. They’ve done some pretty impactful things in the acting world. I was just honored and happy to be around that.
Then, to have such a talented kid in the project just sparked the whole film. We needed that. We knew this kid was going to make or break this movie, to be honest. And Michael Rainey Jr. made this film! He took it to the next level with his quality and his talent. His ability is phenomenal.
How was it producing and starring in the film? You’re using both sides of the brain. You’re using the numbers-crunching side and the creative side. What is that like?
Well, I gotta say in all honesty, my production company, Freedom Road Films, came on and really brought the cast together. When we signed on for the film, the budget and things were already in place. With that being said, once we had the cast in place, I just had to do me and focus on becoming Vincent. I was working in Vincent’s world and wasn’t trying to think about the money or any of the production aspects. I let my production team and the rest of the producers do their job.
What was it like delving into Vincent’s world and dealing with his internal struggle, but then leaving all of that behind when the director said you guys were done shooting for the day? What was the transition like?
It’s different. Vincent definitely had more of a raw and street edge than I do. I come from the south side of Chicago so I got some street things to me, but this man has been in prison and has been through a lot. So he’s a very different person than I am. And working to shake that off isn’t always easy because you’re living that. Basically, I would come home and watch ESPN and get my mind on something else. There were heavy days. You know, there would be days when I would get home and still feel the heaviness.
Even finishing the movie, I went directly to that poetry reading for the White House and I had to get out of the mold and energy of the character because you carry energy too. I had to get out of that “Vincent” mode and get back to enunciating the way I would and different things, but it is a difficult thing to shake something if you’ve worked on something and you’ve gotten so deep into it.
What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
For me, I would like to see viewers to start a dialogue. I would like for this film to start a conversation about why this cycle is going on. Well, not even why the cycle continues because the movie shows you why. You see negativity being passed onto kids who don’t have parents when they look for a father in somebody else or the neighborhood. I would like for people to say, “That cycle is going on and we have to stop it.” People should start thinking about ways we can break that cycle of little Woody who had the potential to become something great, but wound up going to prison because they went looking for love in the wrong places.
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