More than 10 years since we last saw Calvin’s Barbershop, Barbershop: The Next Cut shows that Calvin (Ice Cube) and his longtime crew are still there, but the shop has undergone some major changes, most noticeably that it is now co-ed and with its own new flavor of drama and gossip. But despite the love and laughs they get from their clients, the surrounding community has taken such a turn for the worse than Calvin and his friends decide to come together to try to save the shop and their neighborhood, before it’s too late. The film also stars Cedric the Entertainer, Common, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson, Eve, JB Smoove and Nicki Minaj.
At the film’s press day, Academy Award-winner Common spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about joining the Barbershop franchise, what the vibe was like on set, how much fun he had improvising, showing off his break-dancing skills, and why they should form a music supergroup if they get to do another Barbershop movie. He also talked about what drew him to Suicide Squad and the experience of working with a very method Jared Leto as The Joker, playing a rival to Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter Two, and his dream of winning another Academy Award, but for acting.
Collider: Congratulations! The last time I spoke to you was for Selma, which you have since won an Academy Award for, but for music and not acting.
COMMON: I’m working on it! I’m working on it!
This film surprisingly stretches everyone as actors because it’s so emotional. What did you learn about performing and acting from what you got to do in this and who you got to work with?
COMMON: I really learned a lot about just staying in the moment and being creative in the process of being on set. A lot of experiences I’ve had with acting, I am open and I like improv. As an actor, you come in and know what the scene and lines are about, and you perform it and go in the direction that the director may give you, but I wasn’t creating so much, on the spot, as I got to experience on Barbershop: The Next Cut. With that being said, I learned a lot about that. I learned about how talented a lot of these individuals that I worked with are. They would do it every take, and come up with a new thought or a new line. It reminded me of a rap cipher where people freestyle, or a musician jam session where people just improv, but it was so fruitful and so invigorating that it was fun to be a part of.
You could have formed a pretty incredible music supergroup with much of your cast in this film.
COMMON: Yeah, you’re not kidding!
What was the vibe like on set?
COMMON: We really bonded well. It felt like the Barbershop and the Beauty Shop. We mixed men and women, and we were all hanging out. We talked about everything from the sports going on to Caitlyn Jenner, and all types of situations going on in the world. And then, we got into each other’s lives, as friends and as people. It just worked out that we bonded because it was just good people. Some of the actors would bring up music that we did, or I might bring up to Ice Cube, “Man, I love when you did this,” and we bonded over certain music, but we never got into a jam session right there. Nicki [Minaj] and I were talking about music, and I let her know that I really respect her as an MC. But, we should have gotten into a jam session. Maybe if we do another Barbershop we will.
Was it your idea to throw in the break-dancing and show off that skill, during the scene where everyone is dancing in the Barbershop?
COMMON: Yeah, ‘cause I figured there was no dancing that I would do that would be exciting, besides break-dancing. I don’t dance as fun as they dance. I was having fun. I did this one Chicago step with Margot [Bingham]. But then, I was like, “Let me whip out the break-dancing,” just to add my little spark to it.
The scene where you’re arguing with yourself in the car is very funny. Is it easier to do improv when you’re alone, or is it easier when you have someone to work off of?
COMMON: It definitely felt pretty fun and easy to do when I was doing it by myself. It sounds crazy, but it probably is a little easier when I’m doing it by myself. But this time, I had people who improv. If you’re with someone who’s in the high-level world of improv, it’s easy to improv with them, too. And I love improv because you get that moment. You’re not coming with lines. You just are that character and you’re saying what is happening, at that moment.
It seems like it would be a dream for any actor to be a part of the comic book world.
COMMON: Oh, yes!
What made you want to be a part of Suicide Squad, and what was it about that film and character that appealed to you personally?
COMMON: Oh, man, I just knew that world was a gritty comic book world that I haven’t seen. I feel like, with so many comic book movies being made, I wanted to be a part of one of the ones that is special. Obviously, you want the box office and those things, but I want to be a part of the special movies. And if I’m going to be a part of a comic movie, I don’t want it to just be the same story, where you can just place the new name and it’s the same story that you see. I’ve gotta say, one of the major reasons I knew it would be something cool and could be special is (director) David Ayer. I love his work. I got to work with him on Street Kings, but then I watched End of Watch and the dude is good, man. I was excited about working with him, being a movie with Will Smith and Viola Davis and Jared Leto, and playing opposite The Joker. I was like, “God, this is going to be exciting!” And I had a couple days to leave Barbershop to go do that, and it was funny ‘cause when I came back, there were pictures from the internet of my character with all these tattoos on his head and I was looking like Dennis Rodman. But, it worked out and I’m grateful to be a part of it. I think Suicide Squad could be a story told in a new way.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the re-shoots on the film and why they’re being done. Are they really looking to add some humor into the film?
COMMON: I’m not a part of the re-shoots. I would go back because that’s one that I really love and am excited to be a part of. If they said, “Come back, we want you in more stuff,” I would be like, “I’m right there!”
Playing a character that’s in business with The Joker means that you got to spend some time working with Jared Leto. What was it like to watch him do his thing for that film and approach his character the way that he did?
COMMON: I believe in that. Whatever way is necessary for you to be that person, so that you can let go and see The Joker, I love that. From the time I stepped on the set, I was my character and he was his character. There was no in between. It wasn’t like, “Hey, man, how’s your family doing?”
So, you’re still waiting to meet Jared Leto?
COMMON: Basically, yeah. I saw him at the Oscars, and I saw Margot Robbie, too. It was almost the first time meeting each other. With Margot, it was a little different. But I was standing in my space, being the character, so I love that Jared Leto was doing that. The scene we have, we definitely were totally improving a lot of stuff, with some of it. Some of it, we got to improv on, but I don’t know what they’ll keep. When you’re in that space, where another actor is that person, you can just live and let it be. I was really grateful. The was one of my most fun and invigorating experiences, as an actor, with the scene I had with Jared Leto, or The Joker.
John Wick is a movie that really took people by surprise, and many people are very excited about the sequel. What can you say about how the sequel will compare?
COMMON: The sequel is taking the world of John Wick – and I love the world of John Wick – and elevating it and taking it higher, but you’ve got the essence of what John Wick is. It’s not the same story repeated. It’s heightened in the environment, the action and the struggle for John Wick. The action and the fighting is just growing and getting better. It’s next level.
What type of villain is your character?
COMMON: My character is less a villain than he is a rival to John Wick. They’re cut from the same cloth. They’re the same type of warriors. But it’s time for battle, at a certain point. It’s a lot of fun to get to be in this movie. We shot in some great places. I just love that world and I’m excited to see what comes from it.
If you’re going to rival anybody in an action movie, Keanu Reeves is the guy.
COMMON: He is the top of the line, when it comes to my experiences working with actors. He’s committed on a high level, especially on the action side. He has it from all of those dimensions. I told the director, Chad [Stahelski], “I want to be one of the best dudes you’ve seen that has done action, that is not a stunt guy.” And he was like, “Okay.” So, we did months of training. It was like learning a new language, learning some of the fighting techniques.
Having won an Academy Award for music, you’re at the top of your game there. Do you also feel like you’re really an actor now, and not just a music artist who can act?
COMMON: Yes. I’m a musician and an actor. I’m an actor, for sure. I’ve been studying acting for years, and I go to class and I audition, like an actor does. I go take on my role, as an actor, because I’m an actor. God willing, I want to do theater, and I want to do television and film. But, I never approach my acting career like I’m a rapper wanting to act. I just say, “Man, I’m a new actor.” Now, I’m not a new actor, I’m just an actor and I’m growing. I want to be one of the greats. I do want to be there when they say, “And the Oscar goes to . . .,” for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor. I would love to be there. That is something that I envision myself doing. I pursue acting, in that way. I’m not looking to be the rapper/actor. That’s not what I consider myself, at all.
Barbershop: The Next Cut opens in theaters on April 15th.