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November 2005
Derailed: An Interview with The Rza

Derailed: An Interview with The Rza

By Wilson Morales

This has been a year in which many rappers are making a big difference in the film industry. In the beginning it was fun to see them play themselves on the big screen, but now they are taking a different approach. There are no longer just appearing on the soundtrack; they are acting as well. One such rapper is Robert "The Rza" Diggs. As a member of the illustrious Wu Tang Clan, the group had hits on the charts and when the members went on separate tours, The Rza emerged as one of the best producers and composers in the game. In the film industry, The Rza has scored the music to Ghost Dog, and Kill Bill Volume 1, and collaborated on the score to Soul Plane, Kill Bill Volume 2, Blade: Trinity, and most recently Unleashed. In addition, he has appeared as himself in Ghost Dog, Scary Movie 3, and Coffee & Cigarettes. In his first "acting" role, The Rza is featured with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in the psychological thriller, "Derailed", where he plays a mailroom clerk named Winston Boyko who works with Owen's character. The movie revolves around a character named Charles Schine (Owen) and another, Lucinda Harris (Aniston) who fatefully meet and begin falling for each other despite their marriages. The two begin spending more and more time together until a tryst at a local motel turns into a nightmare. In speaking with blackfilm.com, The Rza talks about landing this golden opportunity as an actor.

In most of the films that you have been in, you have played yourself, but with this film, you are actually playing a character, how did it come about?

The Rza: In the other films I've been in, I appeared as the Rza, and this is the film time I took on a real role and had to act other than playing myself and that was a challenge. It was different to play a role that I'm not and try to bring him to life.

Was this easier than the others?

The Rza: It's easier when someone tells you that you are doing "Scary Movie 3", and they need you to come in and make $20,000 a day for being yourself. That's easy. But when they tell that you that your name is Winston and I need to be Winston for the next month, I can't be tough. I'm supposed to be nerdy.

How did you get the role? Did you audition for it or did they come to you?

The Rza: No, I actually had to try out for it. Other people were trying out for it. Someone from Miramax felt that I should do it and a friend of mine who knows Clive Owen felt that I should have a read for the part. I've hung out with Clive before but I'm sure he thought I'm a cool dude but am I an actor? So I took a read and read off-camera and at the time, Miramax saw it, Harvey (Weinstein) saw it and felt I wasn't that bad. The director wanted me to do it in person. They flew me to London to meet the director, and I sat down there for two hours and I went through the part with him and he was like, "Ok, go back home". So I went back home and heard I got the part. Clive gave me a compliment to my face and that's a big compliment from him and for our scenes together, we had a chance to do some male bonding. After we would shoot, we would go out for a few days and then we would start shooting for a few days later and we'd have a friendship already, so it was cool.

Although you don't have any scenes with Xzibit, how interesting was it that they had cast another rapper to act in this film?

The Rza: It was funny because neither of us knew that we got the part in this film. I've known Xzibit almost 10 years now, but we didn't that both of us were in the same film and we crossed paths briefly throughout the set because his scenes were without me. One day he would shoot and I wouldn't and vice-versa. He didn't get a chance to see my work and I didn't see his work until the end and we both enjoyed each other's work. At the end of the movie, I told him that we both had rocked.

Will the both of you work on a project together?

The Rza: We got to.

This has been a great year for rappers. Besides this film, you have 50 Cent coming out at the same time with his film.

The Rza: His film is supposed to be the biggest film of the year. I haven't seen it but I read the script. One thing I like about "Derailed" that is different from "Get Rich or Die Tryin" is that that movie is what it is. It's set in New York and you know what it is. But "Derailed" is something different for me and Xzibit because it's something that's unexpected. One thing my agent told me and he's a white guy, an Italian; he mentioned that he took his girl out to see "Hitch" and said, "Will Smith is not a black actor. He's an actor that happens to be black" and then he said to me, "Rza, if you are going to act, that's the kind of person you have to be. Don't just be the black actor; be an actor that happens to be black." I thought that was some good advice and I keep that advice in the back of my head when I read for roles and I got some things coming up in the future and I don't want it to be like, "Oh, he's the black guy."

How's the music to this film?

The Rza: It's funny that you ask that. I had nothing to do with the music but the soundtrack is on my label, Razor Sharp Records (a division of Sony Music).

How so?

The Rza: Well, Harvey Weinstein has a lot of respect for me as a businessman from New York. He respects me as an artist but he also respects me as a businessman and he gave me the opportunity to put the soundtrack on my own label.

With this year being the 20th Anniversary of when "Krush Groove" came out, what do you think about rappers and acting today?

The Rza: I think that people are always going to think of hip hop artists as hip hop artists, but if you drop the word "hip hop", then all you have are artists. Whether we are dancing, singing, rapping, or acting, an artist is an artist. We have proven so many times that we are more than just being a hip hop artist.

The film is also coming out on the heels of the 3rd Anniversary of Jam Master Jay's death. What do you make of these allegations that he was a drug dealer?

The Rza: I loved Jam Master Jay. He was a great brother. I met him many times. I hung out with him many times. He always had nothing but respect and I want to condemn the media for ever saying that he was dealing drugs. He didn't need any drug money. He was paid and he was getting other brothers paid. Whatever happened to him, we don't know but he was no criminal whatsoever. He was a real man. He was a real family man. Every time I saw him, he was always positive. He was always inspirational. Jam Master Jay was a true living hip hop icon and we lost a great one.

What's happening with the Wu?

The Rza: The Wu is doing what we do. Some of us are doing films and Ghostface has a new album coming out and Method Man is in the studio; we are all continuing to build our legacy and make sure that we don't die out and make sure that we can feed our families. ODB may not be here, but when you watch "State Property 2", you see ODB in that movie. If you watch "How High", Method Man's in that movie and it grossed $50 million dollars.

Can you come back as a group?

The Rza: Anytime we want, the Wu can make another rap album. I think that we have shared our rap experience and that we have shared our world experience. If you look at someone like Raekwon, he just finished a movie called "Coalition". We do what we do.

Do you have anything else coming up?

The Rza: Watch out for "The Man With the Iron Fist".


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