When you think of T.I. there are a number of things you might think of and none of them are super hero movies - at least until now, anyway.
The rapper-turning-actor is starring in the upcoming Marvel Studios film, Ant-Man, as Dave, a member of Scott Lang's criminal heist crew. After an advanced screening of the upcoming origin story, we had the chance to sit down with T.I. and hear all about his journey in Ant-Man, his thoughts on comic books, and more.
CB: So you're into super heroes, now, huh?
TI: Well, I guess I'm at least the buddy of one.
CB: This is something totally different from anything we've seen you do before. What made you want to get into it?
It is. I just thought it was an awesome opportunity. To be in the Marvel Universe is just awesome. It was a no-brainer for me. Initially, when you think about, a $250 million project that you're invited to join onto, you immediately assume that it's going to be very tense and rigid and there's not a lot of fun involved and the people would be difficult to deal with but it was nothing like that at all. You know, it really felt more boutique, independent, kind of. It was just a strong sense of comradery on set and I really appreciate that.
Q: What'd they tell you about you're character going in and what did you do to flesh him out even more?
Honestly, from the readings to even on set, they told me nothing. They told me these guys are friends. They told me you're gonna be the driver and the navigation, you know, they told me a lot of technical stuff but they didn't tell me personality-wise. I don't think they expected it to seem so comedy-driven. I think that was a lot of on-camera chemistry. We got to sit and we were working together, Michael Peña and I, and Paul and Dave... We just had a banter that produced the energy that you see on stage. Excuse me - on screen. I got my jobs mixed up! [Laughs]
CB: Have you seen Ant-Man yet?
CB: What did you think?
I thought it was good! I thought it was very different for Marvel. I don't think I remember seeing as much family value driven storylines before. It has more heart, more relatable issues that the common guy... Usually with these super heroes you just go in an submit yourself to whatever the fantasy story is. There aren't many really relatable factors about it that the audience can say, "Yeah, I went through that, too." It's usually something that nobody has ever gone through that you just have to kind of invest into this story, which is great, too, but this has a stronger pull on the human side of people. I think that gives a certain level of integrity.
CB: Do you think making a Marvel movie adds pressure to what you're doing as opposed to your cameo in Entourage?
You know, I don't ever feel pressure. I think I did, at one time, for American Gangster. I guess I was visibly, kind of like, "Yo, what do I do? What do I do?" And Denzel [Washington] said, "Hey, listen. They got you hear for a reason. They brought you in here for a reason. They're not just gonna stand you next to me for no reason, so whatever you did to get here just continue to do that!" I was like, "Man, that makes all the sense in the world!" Ever since then, I never really felt any pressure. I just tried to understand what's expected of me and over-deliver.
Q: Were comic books on your radar growing up?
I had a summer. I was maybe 10, 11-years-old. I collected about 31 X-Men, Wolverine comics. At that period in my life, I was very knowledgeable of the X-Men. That was my thing. I never really got too far outside of X-Men but the X-Men series, I was intrigued by it and Wolverine was my favorite by far. But by the end of the summer when I was going back to school, because I'd travel a lot between New York and Atlanta to visit my father, somewhere when I got back to Atlanta I lost the whole collection. I was like... I couldn't start over. I just couldn't bring myself to start it all over again. But that was my comic book stint.
CB: Are you familiar with the Civil War movie that's coming up?
CB: After Ant-Man, it's basically Iron Man vs. Captain America.
CB: Yeah, that's the next movie!
How? Where did time travel come into play?
CB: What do you mean?
You said the Civil War.
CB: Oh, no! It's like Marvel's Civil War.
Q: It's a Civil War between the super heroes.
Q: Because the government enacts some sort of---
S.H.I.E.L.D. is behind this aren't they?
Q: Well, I don't know how they do it in the movie, but the government wants all of the super heroes to register with the government. There's too many casualties from their actions so the government decides they want the super heroes registered through the Registration Act with their real identity.
See, Iron Man is not gonna do that!
CB: He's for it!
That's very interesting.
CB: So, who's side would you take, Iron Man or Captain America's?
I would not register. That's giving the government... The balance of power would, at that point, be shifting. I think when you give the conglomerate the ability to control the heroes you limit the heroes ability to do what heroes do. I mean, just like when they wanted the suit when Tony Stark went to Capitol Hill and they tried to get the suit from him. No! You can't have suit! Absolutely not! And his friend, what is Don Cheedle's name...
CB: Rhodey or War Machine.
Okay, well Rhodey convinced [Stark] to give him one which is cool because he trusts Rhodey, but I wouldn't let the government control Iron Man or the Hulk. How could the government control the Hulk? That just doesn't make sense!
Q: He's not in that one as far as we know.
Who's side does Ant-Man take? Does anyone know?
CB: We don't know yet. Can you call Paul Rudd and ask him right now?
I'll do no such of the thing!
Q: You know the Marvel way! Gotta keep your mouth shut.
Hey, snitches catch stitches. I think that's the Marvel motto.
Q: You had the cameo in Entourage, you were in Get Hard, with the music business being so uncertain the way it is, is acting a direction you see yourself going?
I mean, to be honest with you, I always saw the natural progression for me to be doing more acting. It was just I never could find the time because of how much business and opportunity was there in music. It was almost like a gift and a curse because when the music thing slowed up - don't get me wrong, you can still make a fantastic living doing music - it's just the places you have to go and the things that are still paying that kind of money are a lot less flattering.
It's just not what I, at this point in my life, could see myself on a full time basis doing. It's not the recording. It's not the performing. It's just, all of the places that you go now. It's almost like you have two things: you're either in a dark club with little to no security and a lot of liability or you're in [the Staples Center]. You know what I'm saying? It's only so many times a year that you can be in [the Staples Center]. You have to fill the calendar with something. I just know the dark places and the things that come with certain elements. My experience kind of says, "You know, we know what this is, we know how we have to operate in these areas, so let's just find something that's a little less risky. Something that maxes the benefits and minimizes the risk." So, I think that acting is the natural progression.
CB: Was there ever a chance at making a little bit of soundtrack for Ant-Man?
Man, we loosely discussed a song opportunity but we never really figured out what kind of song we wanted it to be. Is it rock and roll? Is it pop? Is it hip hop? We never really figured that out and we spent so much time discussing it and tossing it back and forth. We kind of missed the window. Maybe for the sequel? Maybe for the Antourage movie?
CB: Do you think that movies play a big role in the music industry now? Like with Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" taking off after Furious 7?
I think they're hand in hand. I think one directly influences the other and vice versa. I truly do believe that musicians feed of movies and actors feed off of music. It's a balance. I think that there was so much music inspired by Scarface and Boys in the Hood and New Jack City and Godfather. So much music... It's all story telling. When you add rhythm to a lot of the circumstances that the best movies place our characters into... When you add rhythm to that, it evokes a different emotion. It gives a different response. When you take the things from music, the same situations, the same characters, and you put them in film, it also evokes a different emotion. It garners a different response. I think that they're hand in hand.
Q: The one thing we haven't seen yet is a movie with a full-on leading black male. We're going to get that in a few years from Marvel with Black Panther. We've seen Don Cheedle's character and The Falcon, but it hasn't been a lead yet--
CB: Black Panther with Chadwick Boseman.
Who is Black Panther?
Q: He's the leader of his own fictional nation called Wakanda. He becomes part of the Avengers and he's one of the biggest characters in the Marvel comics universe.
Q: Do you like the idea that this is going to become more diverse?
Sure. I think that as long as it maintains the integrity of the series. The true importance here is satisfying the people who invested in these characters first which in this case are the comic book readers. If you expand upon these roles and people and you make them into feature films, if you make a billion dollars in the box office but you didn't satisfy the first fan, then you didn't succeed. I think you can go to Guardians of the Galaxy, you can shrink the size of an ant, you can fly a city over another city, you can do all of these things - as long as you satisfy the first fans. So, I mean, the sky is the limit. Or, actually as the Guardians of the Galaxy taught us, the sky is not the limit! You can do whatever your imagination leads you to do as long as you satisfy the first investors which in this case are the fans.
Q: What's next for you? A couple more Paperwork albums?
Well, Paperwork it was a trilogy. The thing is, they aren't directly associated. The next one is... How can I explain this? Okay, so Paperwork was all types of music. The one that just dropped, it was cinematic in a sense that it felt like it pulled from classic R&B, soul, funk, and the music that we did kind of stayed within that. Originally, it was supposed to be six songs, six songs, and six songs to make a 18 track album which is obsolete in this day and time. So everyone was like, "Why don't you take these six songs and make a different album, take these six songs and make a different album, and then take these six songs and make a different album."
So, all three of them are done. I'm just releasing them separately which is my 10th album and it is subsequently called The Dime Trap. It is a lot more urban, a lot more edgy, a lot more unapologetically ghetto than Paperwork. Paperwork was more like an art gallery piece. The final installment will be somewhat of a love story. It's like 808s and heartbreaks. A guy in the ghetto's version of what loves means. The ups and downs and plights. The good, the bad. That's the third one. The Dime Trap, I am currently tweaking and mixing. The songs are there but we're just getting all the rest of that completely. I'm going to present it October 10. For films, I'm currently in the midst of shooting a film with Jamie Foxx and Gabrielle Union in Atlanta.
CB: Nice! Right in the backyard.
Yeah! Right in the backyard.
Ant-Man hits theaters July 17.