The rapper Juvenile over the years has built a name for himself for his significant contributions to the New Orleans bounce music scene, not to mention his national hip-hop success — as well as for his occasional scrapes with the law. But sometimes, it seems, backing that thang up isn’t quite enough.
So this week, he stretches his wings with a supporting role in the New Orleans-shot feature film “The Power of Few,” a crime drama in which he co-stars alongside Christopher Walken, Christian Slater and Anthony Anderson.
Directed by Leone Marucci, the film recounts the same bloody afternoon from the perspective of several different characters. Without giving anything away, Juvenile’s character — a thug who is out for a measure of revenge — plays a key role in the film’s third-act payoff, which not only culminates in an anti-violence message but that also suggests books shouldn’t necessarily be judged by their covers.
Working alongside such big names was a heady experience for the rapper, who admits that he’s not above being starstruck. But it’s also possibly the start of a sideline career for him, as he says acting is something he’d like to pursue.
This week, he sat down to chat about his “Power of Few” gig, his love of movies, the chance to shoot a film in his hometown — as well as his music. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: So how did you get involved in the project?
Juvenile: I got a call from my guy. He said, ‘I know you always wanted to get in a movie. Here’s an opportunity I got for you. You should come and audition.’ I was like, ‘What? Well, OK. Where’s the script at?’ I got the script, and I had it, what, maybe a weekend — I went over it, then I auditioned for the part and I pretty much got it. It rolled from there. It’s fun, you know — what makes it even more fun for me is the fact that we were doing it in New Orleans, and they had a couple of interesting names involved in it.
Q: Yeah, tell me about that — shooting it at home, shooting it here. Was that more attractive to you than it would have been had you shot it in L.A. or some far-flung place?
Juvenile: I think so. For a first-time experience, with guys like Anthony Anderson, guys like Christopher Walken and Christian Slater walking around, that’s a little intimidating, just knowing that these people that you’ve seen — I’m like, ‘Lord, “King of New York” is walking around here.’ It was an easy walk for me — it was an advantage I think for me, being home.
Q: Is that something you like to do? Take yourself out of your comfort zone? I mean, this isn’t really your thing.
Juvenile: This ain’t my thing.
Q: Is that hard for you, or do you like to get your heart beating a little bit?
Juvenile: It’s hard, but I think the excitement kind of carries you over, the fact that — you know, I’ve been watching movies, I love movies, I love watching movies. I could see myself in a couple of movies. There’s been a few times I’ve sat down and watched movies and thought, ‘Damn, I could have did that. I could have did that very well. I could fall very good,’ you know. And I think for me the transition, it isn’t easy, because I don’t want to step on the actors’ toes. A lot of these cats went to school for it, been studying for years, and it really is an art. I don’t want to be one of those people who step out and say, ‘OK, I’m a real actor.’ I’m not. I’ve got a long way to go.
Q: It sounds like, though, something you really want to pursue, something you want to do more of.
Q: Is it challenging to balance your music with the acting? Does one come first? Or do you have to even decide really?
Juvenile: I have to put the music first, because without the music there’s no acting. That’s really my balance point, and I really love music so much. Acting is like something I want to do. But music is something that’s in me.
Q: That’s something you have to do.
Juvenile: Yeah, right.
Q: Now tell me about your character. Shamu, is that his name?
Juvenile: Yeah. The name is funny, because it sounds like a big person.
Q: What kind of guy is he? Did you do any kind of thinking about who he is and where he comes from?
Juvenile: He’s a street person, but he’s a street person who has enough sense to sit down and think of the situation and see it for what it really is and think about the outcome and look at things, be open-minded about things. (He doesn’t) always say, ‘OK, this is the way we should go.’ I like my character in the movie.
Q: Are you anything like him? Is there any Juvenile in Shamu?
Juvenile: No (laughs). Not really. The street part, but no.
Q: You don’t sit down and think through a situation like he does?
Juvenile: Most of the time I pre-plan things. Like, I’m a great planner, you know. Some things, I like to go at it without a person over my head or somebody holding my hand. Some experiences are great to learn on your own. I’m one of those people that, yeah, I was kind of hard-headed, had to learn a lot of things the wrong way. But I’m here to say those experiences made me the person I am today. It’s a good thing.
Q: What was it about this particular movie that drew you in? Was it just that you were willing to take any acting gig, or did this one speak to you?
Juvenile: Both a little bit, and I’m going to be straight honest: I wanted to gig, I wanted to do a movie, and the names caught me. You know, to be honest, when they said Christian Slater and Christopher Walken and Anthony Anderson — right there that’s three people that I really like. I watch their movies. I watch ‘Mobsters,’ I watch ‘King of New York,’ I watch the movies that Anthony’s done with my fellow rapper DMX in the beginning. I’ve seen him do movies that I’ve loved a lot, like ‘Barbershop.’ And I think for me to be in the same room with these cats is a blessing.
Q: So it’s like, ‘If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me,’ is that what it is?
Juvenile: Hell, yeah.
Q: And one of the cool things about the movie is that it has a message. Did that figure into your decision to take this part?
Juvenile: I didn’t learn about the message until later, and I haven’t seen the movie as a whole yet. I have a copy, but I haven’t watched it. So I’m sitting here, going off what I learned about the part I shot and what I got out of it through shooting it, not off of what I learned from watching it.
Q: Do you have any prospects coming up of any other films?
Juvenile: Well, I got my SAG card now (laughs), so there’s no telling. I’m quite sure there’s going to be scripts coming in. No telling. If God — and I always say that — if God will let me, I will.
Q: So you’ve got feelers out there.
Juvenile: Yeah — I’m not going to just jump on anything though. I’m not one of those people, and I’m not desperate to shoot a movie. Now, I am kind of namestruck, so if a Denzel or something like that comes up, then hell yeah — I don’t care where I’m at.
Q: And what about your music? You working on anything in particular?
Juvenile: Well, now that I’ve got my foot in the door a little bit, I’m going to try to go after some of these movie soundtracks. There’s really my focus.
Q: That seems like a natural marriage.
Juvenile: Exactly. And I know a lot of the artists, new artists, and they’re willing to do something for me, so I would be real good at that.
Q: So what else? Is there something else you’re working on?
Juvenile: I got a website called JuvieTheGreat.com, and I have my mix tape, my son’s mix tape, Slab1 from Q-93, his mixtape, and I want everybody to go on there and download the mix tapes — it’s free — and just check out some of the stuff I have going on. Got concerts going on everywhere, I got a clothing line, I got a shade line. I got different things happening on there that I think a lot of my fans will be interested in.
Q: And if Denzel needs you, he just needs to call.
Juvenile: Just call. I’m right there, man. I’m in the book.