Since when is a rapper just a rapper? In the hallowed hip-hop tradition of artists like Ice Cube, Mos Def, and Snoop, Chris ”Ludacris” Bridges has made the leap from moving multiplatinum units to filling multiplexes. But unlike so many rappers-turned-actors, he’s garnered not just box office glory but also serious critical praise in the process. The 28-year-old Georgia native sat down with EW to talk about Oprah, Emmys, and how to stradle the Hollywood/music-biz line.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Mr. Movie Star, how does it feel to have made only three films, and two of them — Crash and Hustle & Flow — have won Oscars?
LUDACRIS You know, just to be able to have crossed over to the Hollywood side and to actually be able to get scripts and know that people want me [is amazing]. The best thing is to be able to kill that whole stereotype of rappers not being able to act. To be one of those people who take their art seriously. It’s all in what you choose, also, so I try to be real strategic and careful in what I do.
How did something like Crash come about, for an relatively unproven actor?
I have a strong team around me. My agent, Dana Sims, was reading it and she loved it, and I loved it too. I tried out in front of [writer/director] Paul Haggis and also Don Cheadle, who I’ve been wanting to work with for years. And once I did, it worked.
You also had a role on TV earlier this year — tell me about your experience on Law & Order: SVU…
I’m trying to get an Emmy nomination for that! [Laughs] Any show that’s been around that long, with, like, three other spin-off shows, I knew it would be great to be a part of that and build my acting résumé. I was very privileged to have a part written in for me. The [network] said they got more calls on that [episode] about a sequel than any other show, so I feel good about that. I played Ice-T’s nephew, that was real fun… and it was my first time doing television. It seems to move a lot faster than movies.
You’re narrating the documentary The Heart of the Game (out June 9), right?
Yeah — it’s about a girls high school basketball team out of Seattle. It was centered around the coach at first, but there was a young lady who came into it, Darnellia Russell. [It’s about] her struggles in being a single teen mother… I guarantee once people see it they’re going to walk away with something.
What spoke to you about the movie?
One of my main reasons in doing it is because of how powerful I think it is for ladies to watch it. We have a lot of problems and troubles with the youth, period, but it’s the young women who need to be especially strong at this point. There are so many decisions they can make that can curve their life in the right direction or curve it in the wrong direction, and this movie will definitely make them go in the right direction. I want to empower the young ladies out there. It’s about women’s battles on and off the court.
You already had a well-publicized battle with Bill O’Reilly a while back, and it definitely made the news recently when you appeared on Oprah with the Crash cast, and she made it clear she didn’t approve of your music. Where do you guys stand now?
We haven’t talked, but I got an invite to her Legends Ball screening. I had a screening of Heart of the Game, so I wasn’t able to make it, but hopefully we’ll be able to talk one-on-one soon. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I felt like I got treated wrong, and I just want her to know about it.
Well, obviously you’re a pretty busy guy; your sixth album’s out in August. Do you think about quitting that, and focusing on acting full time?
I’m just gonna try to keep the balance with it. Being able to do the two of them is great. I still got a lot of music to get out of my system, you know?