Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Usher wouldn't sing for the ''Light It Up'' soundtrack

He doesn’t want his R&B hits to detract from his film and TV roles

Posted on

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

After bit parts in two suburban teen flicks, Usher Raymond is playing the lead in an inner-city high school drama, ”Light It Up” (now in theaters). The 21-year-old singer, whose 1997 album ”My Way” has sold more than 5 million copies, canceled an overseas tour with Janet Jackson to take the role of Lester Dewitt, a troubled teen who takes a school security guard hostage. ”I wanted to take a break from acting,” says Usher, ”but when my agent brought me the script, I thought, ‘This is a role that can open doors for me.”’

Unlike fellow singer-thespians Will Smith and Whitney Houston, who tie in music deals with their movie roles, Usher refused to contribute to the ”Light It Up” soundtrack. ”There was pressure to do a song, but I wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, and I didn’t want to get distracted,” he says. Acting — Method acting in particular — became a 24-hour job. ”I couldn’t pull from my experiences, since fortunately I went to a great school. So I learned to create a world for Lester. From the moment I left my hotel room, to the moment I walked back in, I was that character.”

Despite Usher’s new focus on acting (you’ll see him soon in the TV-movie ”Geppetto” and the neo-Western ”Texas Rangers”), he has no plans to abandon his career as an R&B star. He finds satisfaction in performing music that he can’t get on a movie set: ”When you do a concert, it’s like a soul ceremony. You can see what your audience wants, and give it to them.”