Although he made his name as a rapper, Common has increasingly branched out into other genres of media: He’s starred in a number of films (most recently as the villain of John Wick 2) and now he’s even making the leap to the printed page.
Next year, LINE Webtoon will launch a new digital comic book series, Caster, about a rare antiques dealer whose love of luxury and risk causes him to get mixed up in the world of international espionage. The title character is not only based on Common, the hip-hop artist/activist will also be creating an exclusive score and soundtrack for the ongoing series as it moves from issue to issue, and producing the project through his company Freedom Road Productions.
The story for the series is being developed by the Noble Transmission team of Austin Harrison, Zach Howard, and Mike Raicht, with scripts by Raicht and art by Jason Masters. Caster is due to launch in 2018.
EW spoke with Common about his plans for Caster, how it differs from his acting career, and the joys of blending different genres of art.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved with Caster?
COMMON: My manager had met with the creators and producer of Caster and he said, “I have a cool graphic novel and they’re thinking about you being the lead character.” It’s a different world, man! It’s dealing with antiques, and through the world of antiques, you find out all this stuff about espionage and the Illuminati. I was like, “This sounds crazy but also fun and exciting.” We discussed bringing the music component in it. I always love being able to integrate art and bring worlds together. To have a really great piece of art, like Caster, and then say we’ll put music to it. And do it in a cool way where it’s like a soundtrack, where there’s a new song every issue… Eventually, we can put together a soundtrack and do pop-ups at different places. It just opens up a world to do really cool things. Anytime you think of yourself as a graphic novel character, you feel good. Even if you’re the villain, it’s like, “I’m being drawn up in a comic book.” It’s incredible! But it was the story and the world that got me going for Caster.
How is starring in a comic book like this similar or different to your acting roles?
It’s different because I don’t have to go out and act in front of the camera, but I do have to give my perspective on who this person is, how he develops as a person, and how he thinks. I’m not the writer on this, I just have input. It’s more like watching the story be drawn and told, and saying either “I like that direction” or “I don’t like this direction.” More than anything, that’s where we are with it. As an actor, I get to collaborate with the director and come up with what I believe the character to be. Then we go from the director’s vision and get to the point where we’re sharpening each other and building on that. But it is similar that I do have back and forth with the creators, saying this or that would be a cool way to go. Overall the creation is in the hands of the writers and creators of Caster.
What is it you like about the character Caster?
I like the world that he’s dealing in, the antique world. The dude is fashion-forward and cool, but he’s in a world of antiques. I don’t necessarily think of that as a world you’d see this slick black dude in. Then the depth of him is, his father was a hustler/gambler. He has that same knack, but he’s really about art and humanity. That’s something I gravitate to, those are the things I care about. It allows for depth for our character, because if you do care about humanity and art, but you got all these fighting skills, you gotta go out and fight the bad guys, and sometimes you’re doing wrong. I like that. He wants to love, but can’t love. There are real elements to this guy.
What can you tease about the music? What are you aiming for?
What we’re aiming for is to do something that just feels unique and crosses different genres. What we’re doing is creating music to speak to every issue. So the form of that issue will lead me, so it’ll be like I want to work with Pharrell for this issue, or Robert Glasper for the next one, or SZA. What’s unique about it and where I’m going with it. As with a film, we’ll allow the story to lead the way for the music, and then not necessarily take it into the genre you might think. We want to build a soundtrack that’s like when you listen to the Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield, and it just fits the themes of the story so well. That’s what I want to do with Caster. Like I said, we want to do cool things with it, like pop-ups and performing in different places like Comic Con, bringing the music element to something of that nature.
There’s a cool multi-media aspect here. Once you start blending music and comics, there are so many other places you can take it, too.
That’s what I love, bringing different aspects of what I do as an artist and integrate those worlds. I’ve been more and more into the multi-media aspects of it. Who knows, there might be a Caster play at some point, or we might do it with a symphony one day. Because it’s a graphic novel, and I believe as an artist the sky is the limit, we look to take Caster to many places.