As much as Ice Cube has helped shape the fabric of hip-hop, the rapper, actor, and entrepreneur has also been a constant presence on the big screen since his feature film debut in John Singleton’s 1991 film, “Boyz n the Hood.” Starring in various film or television projects every year since then, Cube has formed a name for himself outside of gangsta rap, a position that few of his contemporaries have been able to obtain. With a new deal between Fox 21 TV Studios and his production company Cube Vision, Ice Cube has a ton on his plate. Recently, he took the time out to chat briefly with me and Shadow and Act about his upcoming film “Fist Fight,” working with top comedians and returning to the director’s chair in the future.
Aramide Tinubu: Hi, Cube How are you?
Ice Cube: I’m alright, how you doing?
AT: I’m great thanks! I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today about “Fist Fight.”
Cube: No problem.
AT: This is a very different type of high school comedy that focuses on teachers instead of students. What convinced you to sign on to “Fist Fight” after reading the script?
Cube: It was being able to work with Charlie Day, I just felt like these two characters would be perfect to play off one another. Him as Mr. Campbell and me as Mr. Strickland. I just kind of knew it would be a home run.
AT: Your character, Mr. Strickland is a pretty tough teacher and a Black male educator which unfortunately is still relatively rare in this country. Were you inspired by teachers that you had in high school when you were coming up with Strickland’s back-story and mannerisms?
Cube: Yeah, he’s an exaggerated version of a teacher I had named Mr. Toussaint. He was a woodshop teacher and man; he was pretty mean. (Laughing) He had this afro that he would comb to the front and he would just yolk people up, he was not playing.
AT: I know that shooting the actual fight portion of the film took eight days to film. Did you choreograph the fight scene in the film, or did you and Charlie Day improvise it?
Cube: Nah, we had to choreograph that. We had a great team who put it together. It took us like three days to even learn the fight and then another eight days to shoot it. But yeah, you have to choreograph that thing, or you end up hitting each other.
AT: Comedy is so difficult to pull off, what were the most challenging aspects for you while filming “Fist Fight?”
Cube: It was just making sure that Strickland was his own unique character and that he wasn’t like the other characters that I’ve played. I’ve played some mean guys, so you have to figure out how to give it a different flavor, a different spin. That was probably the hardest part.
AT: Since your film debut in 1991 with “Boyz n the Hood,” you’ve really gone between dramatic roles and comedy. You have your own comedic style, but you worked with everyone from Cedric the Entertainer to Chris Tucker and now Charlie Day and Tracy Morgan. How do you get into a rhythm with your co-stars who have very different comedic styles?
Cube: It’s about just being true to the character and also trying to set up the comedian that I’m working with because ultimately that comedian has to be funny. So, it’s just really making sure that you are a good partner and learning how to pull them alley hoops to the guy you’re working with so you can just dunk it home. It’s worked out for me pretty good.
AT: It certainly has. You made your directorial debut in 1998 with “The Players Club,” but you haven’t returned to the director’s chair since then, do you have plans to get behind the camera again?
Cube: Aw yeah, I want to do it again. What happens is, it ends up taking up so much time. It’s so time-consuming that I can’t do any other projects, so that’s what really stops me because I’m like, “Yo, I can’t just do one project for the whole year.” But you know, I’ll slow down sometime in the future and direct again.
AT: Well, I know that you aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Your company Cube Vision just signed an amazing deal with Fox 21 TV Studios. You also have “Ride Along 3,” an “Oliver Twist” remake and “A Christmas Carol” remake coming up. What is your vision for the programming that you want to put out in the next few years?
Cube: I just want to put out the stuff that people want to see. I want to put out more of our stories, things that people don’t know about us as a community. But, there is also more general stories too. I just want to have a seat at the table right now, just to be able to make sure that any great ideas that come to our company that they will have a home on one of the Fox networks or on one of their affiliates. So, it’s really a place to just position myself so that when I get good material, I’ll have a place for it to go.
AT: Thank you so much for speaking with me about “Fist Fight” and your other endeavors. I really appreciate the time.
Cube: No problem, take it easy.
“Fist Fight” hits theaters on Friday, February 17.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami