*Legendary filmmaker, Spike Lee, enters uncharted territory in, “Chi-Raq,” a satirical film reflecting black-on-black crime in America.
Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, and John Cusack talk about their polarizing characters and working with a prolific writer and director.
EUR: What steps did you take to make sure viewers saw Chi-Raq and not Nick Cannon?
Nick Cannon: It was really about connecting with the people in the community and really focusing on the authenticity of the black male’s passion and all of his pain. Even if there was something in the exterior, it was more about the energy I could bring from inside. I think I embodied somebody else. I’m definitely not Chi-Raq, but hopefully the guy on camera gave what he was supposed to give.
EUR: What challenges did you experience playing these roles?
Teyonah Parris: When you’re working with Spike Lee – and this is my first time working with him. I learned he’s a visionary and doesn’t always articulate to you what the vision is. He just tells you and you do it…but in my mind, I’m saying, “well, what’s the end? I need to understand where were going.” I had to learn to trust what he said and just go with it. We all had to use every bit of the artist we are to get this movie to fulfill what Spike’s vision was. Becauce there is singing, dancing, we all speak in verse… and it’s a satire! So it’s heightening reality. Everything is not steeped in the complete truth. It is stretched, so we can illuminate a larger problem.
EUR: What was it like playing these characters and working with Spike Lee?
Teyonah Parris: When I got the script and saw we were retelling the story of “Lysistrata,” I was so excited! I did the play in college and I remember how fun it was! I wasn’t Lysistrata, so I was even more excited that I would get to play Lysistrata now…A woman who is strong, smart, and uses what she knows to affect change in her neighborhood and it ends up going global.
Nick Cannon: The idea of taking a play that was created by Aristophanes over 2,000 years ago and put it into modern day times, in the South side of Chicago, with Spike Lee!…I was in it! I was like, “yo, I’ll be an extra in the movie.” For Spike Lee to say, “I’m going to entrust in you that you are going to be able to be Chi-Raq…” I was like, “ayy man, I’m gonna give you my all!” Hopefully, I did it justice.
John Cusack: My character is based on a real man named Father Michael Pfleger, who has been in Chicago at that same church for 30 to 40 years and comes from a great prophetic tradition of people, who speak truth to power. I’m playing Father Michael Corridan, who is a pastor at St. Sabina. St. Sabina is a great model for hope.
Wesley Snipes: I wanted to do something that was true to the guys in the street…a lot of those guys are kind of funny, even when they’re not trying to be. And do something that will show the ability of the heart that rocks, able to transform and redeem themselves and that it’s cool to care. I had a good time playing this role. It was fun. I liked the gear. It’s very different from Mr. Johnson!
“Chi-Raq” is now in limited release, with the film premiering on Amazon Instant Video shortly after.
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