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September 2005
Roll Bounce: An Interview with Bow Wow

Roll Bounce: An Interview with Bow Wow

By Wilson Morales

After appearing in last year's family film, Johnson Family Vacation, it was time for a change for Bow Wow. If he ever planned to make a move in this business and be looked upon seriously, he needed to make a film that would not only still bring in his audience, but capture a new one, and with latest film, Roll Bounce, Bow Wow may have found that film. Set in 1970s, Bow Wow plays X, a roller skating teenager whose not only has to deal with some family issues but find a way to keep skating his favorite skating rink is shut down in this coming-of-age film. Bow Wow recently spoke to blackfilm.com about playing this role and growing as an actor.


So how much work did you need to do to get yourself up to speed on skates?

Bow Wow: Oh man, the skate part was easy. It was like the easiest part for me, the hard part was just the intense scenes because I didn't really experience anything like that yet as far as my acting career and but the skating was easy. I'm from the Midwest and we used to skate like every Saturday and Sunday so when I told Malcolm (Lee) I knew how to skate he was like, "I know this is going to save us a lot of money", but you know it's cool because I would spend most of my time on the set more than the other guys would; the guys did more like the skating, more than I did, when they were at rehearsals I never really rehearsed much so I had to make sure I used all my time wisely when I did get my skating time because I spend the majority of my time on set because I had a lot of scenes. I was in about every scene so the skating part came easy.


Did you fall at all?

BW: No, I didn't fall; not one time.


Not once?

BW: Not once. You can ask Malcolm because I didn't fall not one time.


For most of the young people of today skating and roller skating is seen as something that's out of style. Young folks are into video games and music. Do you think so?

BW: Yeah.


How do you feel young people today are going to relate to it?

BW: They are going to relate to it. I'm sure there's still a lot of cats that that do go skating. I think skating is the type of thing that won't die. I mean, even when I got back on the skates it felt weird because my man, I mean when I used to do this all of the time and when me and my boys used to go to the skating ring like every Saturday and every Sunday we would go up there and I live in Atlanta and even in Atlanta they still go out and skate every Wednesday so I double you for life for the ones that stopped I think when they see the film it's going to draw them back to the skating ring but then again I think that for more the older generation when they see it it's going to draw them back; it's going to really make them reminisce like man I remember when we used to go do that and so it has its own place; it just touches all angles and it touches everybody and I think that's what's all.


So do you think you are going to continue skating?

BW: If I had the time; I mean I'm so busy, that's the only thing that really got me out of the skating ring and it was my schedule and I started working. I really started making everything happen for myself but if I had the time definitely. I still got my skates. I own a pair of skates. I actually bought my skates, my personal skates when I was in the movie, yeah, yeah, yeah, so it influenced me that much to get back out there. If it brought me back to the skating area I know it would definitely bring some of the people who left it back to skating.


Did you skate with some old skates to be authentic?

BW: No, the real deal, not the X-games roller skates but the real deal eight wheels.


Why that, which ones?

BW: I got speed skates, they are like low tops, I don't like high top skates so I got low tops.


Why do you think people stop skating?

BW: I don't know. I guess you know it is a fad. You do so many things and you know, course is just changing itself from not only skating but just people growing up and not even just skating but clothes and what type of gear you want to wear from sneakers and what's hot, what's not, everybody wanting to be on top and so you kind of fade off of it a little bit but I think skating is like video games; you know what I'm saying because it's something that never goes away; it's always going to be here. I mean you got old heads and still got to skates, you got young cats skating, and you got babies that skate. I think it's just one of those things that is still going to be here. I mean, Bill Butler who was our skating director, and I don't want to say Bill's age but he's up there. He's still moving like he's been skating for over 60 years and he's the one who really started and invented the jam skating and that style of skating and so like I said with the video games, I know a lot of adults that are still hitting the video games and I'm looking at the aspect. I feel like it's one of those things that some people can grow out of it but then again it's one of them things that a lot of people won't grow out of.


What about the music now? You had an opportunity to listen to a lot of great classic funk and disco. Was that inspirational to you that you are going to use now?

BW: No, not at all.


You don't like to hear the old funk. Did you like disco at all before this film?

BW: Yeah, definitely. Sometimes I do rap 24/7 so when I get in the car we do switch it over to the older stations. I like to listen to George Clinton. I play a little bit just to relax and free my mind away from what I do or what I've been known for just about all my life so I do listen to it, and in a way it makes it crosses over into rap. There are a lot of hot producers that actually use old samples; Kanye West, I know he does it very good and also Jermaine Dupri. My second single was - I know it's not 70s but it's still an old school record. A new edition sample so, I mean it definitely crosses over into hip hop now and I think something that won't die is the fact that we'll still be able to go back into time and still dig up records in crates and still use them to make them hot and that's just a part of hip hop.


You have the acting and music career thriving right now and I was wondering if you could think back and discuss like the biggest risk you felt that you took and how it worked out for you either positive or negatively?

BW: The biggest risk - I don't know. I probably have to say doing my third album without Jermaine (Dupri). I felt like that was a risk in my career because Jermaine was always around me all the time; he produced my first two records, so for me to go solo without him was kind of weird and for me to still do well with my numbers I feel like that was great. It really just showed me, as a human being, as an artist that I can still do it without anybody, I really don't need that much, I don't really need him, and that alone is saying that I can still do the same numbers but then again I do need him, so it kind of favors both ways and I do feel like it helped me mature a lot because, during that time period when Jermaine went to another record label and I was still stuck at Columbia we weren't able to work with each other so that kind of hurt me and I really got the full understanding of who my friends are in the business, and how shady the business can be and now I'm back with Jermaine and it's like okay now. We do miss each other because I got two records and the two top five records in the country. It's even in the USA today and even the top four records in the country are produced by Jermaine. He's the first producer to ever do that so I mean it's crazy but that helped me a lot; that helped me mature and I think that's why I'm so mature now; not really running around as much. I'm real laid back, real cool, and talking about business.


Can you talk about working with the actors in the movie and how much you've learned as an actor?

BW: Yeah, working with the - my cast makes it, so I like to call them, I had a lot of fun, and especially with Khleo Thomas, who plays Mix Mike. I actually took him on tour with me, and we just got off my tour, the Scream Four Tour which I was headlining and I took him on tour and he's actually my height and I'm even thinking about doing some work with Khleo on the side because he wants to be a rapper. He's really good so I took him on tour with me and it just really gave me an opportunity to really bond with everybody, not only Khleo but Rick Gonzalez as well who plays Naps in the movie. I had a lot of fun working with him, and those were the two guys that I really bonded with. I knew Mike (Epps) before the movie. I actually worked with Mike in "All About the Benjamins" and then Charlie (Murphy), the first time I worked with Charlie I had a blast. Chi McBride, I gave all my credit to because he really helped me and getting to the second part of your question he really helped me get to that point I think I wouldn't have been able to really pull off this character if it wasn't for Chi. He really brought another side of me out that I thought that I couldn't bring out and I give him all the credit for that. Even to this day I told Chi even the next movie that I do, any other movies that I do if I need help or anything I'm going to make sure I call you up and fly you out so you can help out because I mean, he really believed in me and I thought that I couldn't pull this role off - I couldn't pull a lot of those intense scenes off because it's something I haven't done, I didn't practice them and he just always told me man, once, once you get behind the camera and once you feel it you will be ready to go and that's how I felt.


A lot of rappers and singers who have entered this business have had some success. Who are some of the actors that you respect the most and look up to and do you have any mentors at all?

BW: No, not really mentors but I do respect Ice Cube a lot. I feel that Ice Cube is actually doing his thing; I mean he's been doing it for a long time, also LL (Cool J). I really respect them two a lot. Even Ludacris. I give Ludacris a lot of credit even with some of the movies that he's done like Crash, you know, I definitely enjoyed that and I definitely respect him a lot.


Some have made transitions to the big screen but in the eyes of a lot of actors, career actors do they make you feel as though MCs aren't really real actors?

BW: No, not really. I look at it like if you are going in to do a movie then you - how I really approach a situation is I put everything to the side. When I go and I do a film I don't want to focus on nothing really but this movie and I feel if you do it with a passion; something that you really do then that's what it is. I think people, you have to respect it, but then again you have to respect the game and that's basically how I look at the whole situation.


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