‘I Like To Do Incredible Work’ Black Thought on Acting, Bloopers and ‘I’m Just A Slave’
Black Thought has been everyone's "Most Underrated" emcee for more than two decades now; and The Roots frontman has proven himself to be quite the versatile entertainer. In addition to serving as bandleader/rapper/singer for his legendary crew, Thought (born Tariq Trotter) has also stretched out as an actor over the years. We chatted with him about his forays into television and movies.
You're obviously on television with The Roots every night, but as an actor, do you prefer television to film?
I doesn’t matter. I like to do incredible work in both respects. I think it’s important to understand the flow of dialogue and how to carry a scene on a series – the way you go from scene to scene is different. You have to move differently and speak differently and act differently – subtle differences – but different then you would act in a feature film. I feel like to be proficient in both respects makes for a more well rounded actor. You’re gonna do better work.
You've worked steadily in film and television—what's been your favorite on-set moment thus far?
There was one project I worked on called Get On Up. It was the James Brown biography starring Chadwick Boseman. My character, PeeWee Ellis, would roll around with a fake James Brown wig in his saxophone case that’s put on sometimes to joke with the band. There was a scene where I was doing that … and at the time, it was 31 or 32 degrees in Mississippi where we were filming. So I’m dancing, doing this James Brown impression with the wig on – and my character already had an afro wig and the wig I was making fun of James Brown with—so I had two wigs on at the time. I did like a was doing a spin move and the wig flew off my head and into the pool. It was one of those moments – and I think they left it in the film – that you couldn’t write and you couldn’t recreate, but the camera captured it. It was a blooper, but it wound up making the scene a little better.
You participated in the black-ish season premiere and it was very well-received. Did The Roots create the song "I'm Just A Slave" specifically for the show?
It was a totally separate idea but it was done for some of the same reasons. The creator of black-ish and the people there are just incredible as artists and they keep the bar set high. It’s very much in the way that Spike Lee would tell [a story] at the time. I feel like it was super brave, and I felt like it made for unprecedented TV. We wanted to be a part of that. It’s funny and real and has shock value, and just for the statement we were able to make, I couldn’t not do it.
That whole episode, I’m like, "What are they gonna do with the rest of the season?"
Watch The Roots Perform "I'm Just A Slave" on black-ish: