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Cedric Still An Entertainer in "Street Kings"
He’s one of those neighborhood dudes. He got his hustle on, he tells the LA Sentinel. “I really didn’t do the role to be funny, but you pull up in an orange Cadillac you know this guy is a quirky personality and at least over the top.”
Whether on the big screen, small screen, or on the street, the moment Cedric the Entertainer steps onto the scene you expect laughter to follow. And the veteran comedian and actor knows it; for nearly a decade he has reigned proudly as a King of Comedy on stage and screen. But in his newest film role, Cedric temporarily exchanges his comedy crown for a serious, dramatic role in a tense cop flick set in the heart of Los Angeles titled Street Kings.
Starring an interesting cast of actors and rappers, including Hollywood favorite, Keanu Reeves, Academy Award-winning Forest Whitaker, Rappers - The Game and Grammy-winning Common, Street Kings is a story of police corruption and betrayal within the ranks of the L.A.P.D.
Reeves portrays Detective Tom Ludlow, a special task force member, who is under investigation by Internal Affairs. His boss is Jack Wander, a very hands-on captain with ambitions to be mayor. When Ludlow is framed for the murder of his partner, he scours the streets of LA to find the real culprits. But in discovering the truth, he comes face to face with a twisted web of lies hiding behind police shields.
In the film, Cedric portrays Scribble, a common street hustler and reluctant police informant, who hears no evil, sees no evil, and speaks no evil, but for a price, can help you make the right iniquitous connections on the streets.
“He knew how to connect the dots and get people to the right places. For the most part Scribble is one of those neighborhood dudes. He’s got his hustle on. He don’t really want to work or have a job. I really wouldn’t say he’s a bad guy. He’s one of those kind of criminals that you like,” says Cedric.
“I started developing the character as somebody that probably tried to sell some drugs, but that didn’t work out because he was scared to be in jail. So he would do the bootleg tapes, and the throwback jerseys, the Gucci purses. Whatever’s popping off he’s going to be selling it.”
But this is not the first time, Cedric the Entertainer has played a somewhat criminal character. In 2005’s Be Cool he played gun wielding music producer, Sin LaSalle, along with John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and The Rock.
“Sin was a bad guy. He’d beat you down and then be in front of his kids like he was the finest person in the world. He had a couple of multiple personalities,” says Cedric.
Yet Scribble is nothing like Sin LaSalle. In Street Kings, Scribble doesn’t even own a gun. But originally he did because his character was written as a real bad guy. That changed in later scripts, drafts, so the gun was omitted. So what approach did the film’s director, David Ayle, take that helped Cedric mold this particular character into someone believable?
“I said, ‘You’re playing a guy who’s really smart who has his life. You go to a certain restaurant everyday. You know these people in your world. You’re life’s under control; You’re in this game and you’re still alive. All you want to do is get through this and get on with your life.’”
Ayle adds, “We didn’t play it comedic. There’s a natural sympathy for Cedric so that when we follow Scribbles journey in the movie I think it has an even bigger impact than if he were more flippant and comedic. It feels like a real person that this is happening to.”
And for Cedric, Scribble was indeed based on real people, his cousins in fact. He states they are just “trying to make a dollar; trying to look good, trying to feel good about themselves. They’re not the kind of criminal you’d be intimidated by but again these guys are going to do what they have to do to make a living.”
On stage and screen Cedric has made a living making audiences laugh for more than a decade. So how different could working with a group of serious actors be compared to comedians and friends like in his last film, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins? Very different, according to the former host of BET Comic View.
“They definitely have a different work process,” says Cedric. “This movie definitely everybody’s going to their corners to find their space…so you have to let people do their thing. It is kind of being like a freshman at a school where everybody else is seniors and they’re kind of used to it and you want to talk. And they’re like be cool right now, dog, this is not the time.”
But soon it will be Cedric’s time as he earns more credits in more dramatic roles. Fortunately for us, he’s not taking the crash course approach because he knows his audience is not quite ready yet for “Cedric the Thespian” instead of “Cedric the Entertainer.” Yes, he’s made us laugh until we cry, but what would our response be if he made us cry instead of laugh?
“I think I kind of have to educate my audience step by step-start to do these types of roles where you go, “that was a little different than what you did the last time,” and eventually you’ll find something that has all the dramatic nuances that really allow me to stretch to a different place and so I look forward to that.”
And with Street Kings, our education has officially begun.
The movie is playing in theatres now.