The transition from music to movies was relatively easy for multi-platinum selling hip-hop star Ludacris. He made his theatrical debut in the John Singleton-directed box office hit sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious as street-savvy tech-whiz Tej Parker, a character almost tailor made for the Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam recording artist. “That was a good start for me as an actor,” says Ludacris. “It wasn’t too far of a stretch from my normal personality.”
In Academy Award-winning Best Picture Crash, the Atlanta native, born Christopher Bridges, stretched into a darker role as the racially frustrated Anthony. Portraying this character added an Oscar and a Screen Actors Guild Award to his resume.
Alongside co-stars stars Paul Walker, Tyrese, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Vin Diesel, Ludacris assumes the role of Tej for the third time in Fast Six, the next installment of the globally popular The Fast & The Furious film series.
Ludacris talks to SoulTrain.com about his film career, his muscular co-stars, and earing respect as an actor.
SoulTrain.com: You co-starred in Crash, which won Best Picture at The 78th Academy Awards. What has given you the biggest boost in mainstream visibility – being on a Grammy-winning album or appearing in an Oscar-winning film?
Ludacris: I would have to say being in an Oscar-winning movie. The best way I can explain it is like this: Being on a Grammy-winning album I may have gotten more fans than I’d already had as far as music. However, there is no comparison to being in an Oscar-winning movie. I went from people who usually wouldn’t know who Ludacris and Chris Bridges are, to being known by a whole new audience of people.
SoulTrain.com: Did you notice an immediate change in respect toward you as an actor once Crash won Best Picture?
Ludacris: I saw a lot of people who were just really, really blown away. A lot of people in Hollywood accepted me, and a lot of them told me that in person. They told me, “It’s a lot of musicians and entertainers out here trying to do this, but we feel like you have a talent and you really need to keep doing it.” I got that from a lot of different people.
SoulTrain.com: I understand how people could see “Luda” while watching you play Tej. So how did Justin Long direct your portrayal of this character differently?
Ludacris: He did a great job of checking out 2 Fast 2 Furious and basically just looked at the character from a more grown-up perspective.
SoulTrain.com: Where does Tej Parker rank among all the classic characters John Singleton has directed?
Ludacris: The way I look at it is when you’re doing something completely different than who you know they are. So I rank it pretty low.
SoulTrain.com: What about Tej in 2 Fast is still prevalent in the character today?
Ludacris: His personality has matured, he’s wiser, all these different things. He’s still got that hustler mentality, but Justin directed him in the sense of this is the man we saw during 2 Fast 2 Furious but we can tell he’s grown.
SoulTrain.com: Tej brought a certain amount of glue to the character chemistry in 2 Fast. These sequels have even more stars and key characters involved. Does he do the same things now?
Ludacris: Definitely! He’s the glue of the whole crew!
SoulTrain.com: Speaking of the whole crew, there was an intense fight between The Rock’s and Vin Diesel’s characters in Fast Five. Do you think you’re physically capable of breaking up a real fight between your two massive co-stars?
Ludacris: Hell no! I won’t even lie. Let me get in the gym consistently for a good year or two, then ask me that question again. That’s like King Kong versus Godzilla! I’m strong-willed, I’m strong-minded, but I’m not unrealistic.
SoulTrain.com: If Vin and The Rock came after you – for real – could you defend yourself?
Ludacris: Breaking up a fight between them is one thing, but would I defend myself?! I fight dirty, forget all the muscles! I’ll find whatever is around me and put a stop to whatever is going on!
For more on Ludacris visit islanddefjam.com and dtprecords.com, and follow him on Twitter @Ludacris.
—Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, is an acclaimed entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Former Editor In Chief of both XPOZ Magazine and The Underwire Interactive Magazine, his work has graced the pages and covers of Hear/Say Now Magazine, Notion Magazine, Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, MLive.com, and AllHipHop.com. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker. Also visit TheGrooveSpt.com and ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.