Annapolis: An Interview with Tyrese Gibson
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Annapolis: An Interview with Tyrese Gibson
By Wilson Morales
Given that he came out in the entertainment business as a singer at the age of 19, Tyrese Gibson certainly made the most of his talent by also acting at the same time. Being cast as the lead star in John Singleton's "Baby Boy" was no fluke, as Singleton was quick to make use of his muse in his next two films, "2 Fast 2 Furious" and most recently, "Four Brothers". With each role, Tyrese has been able to grow as an actor, and coming out on January 27th, Gibson will play the role of Naval officer Cole who squares with James Franco in "Annapolis". Set against the backdrop of boxing at the Naval Academy, "Annapolis" centers on a young man (Franco) from the wrong side of the tracks whose dream of attending Annapolis becomes a reality. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Tyrese talks about training for the role, going through boot camp, and possibly starring as "Luke Cage".
How much weight did you put on for this film?
Tyrese Gibson: You mean, how much weight did I lose? I had to lose it, man. You looked yoked up for this though -
Gibson: Yeah, I had to get it together for this. I had to jump up in the air and get it together.
How much training did you do for the film?
Gibson: Oh, man. We had boxing training early in the morning and then we had real training in the gym and then we had choreography. So there was a lot going on. And then outside of that we had to really learn how to have our demeanor together as far as the company commander and plebes and all of that. I'm very detailed and so I was on of those people that didn't necessarily want to get acquainted with the plebes because there's a certain level of intimidation and respect that all the plebes all have for company commanders. So if I went out of my way to become good friends with all of the plebes and when it came time to do a scene they might've felt like they didn't need to be as on point as they should be because now the person that's up there screaming and yelling, it's like, 'Oh, you the homie so it's no big deal.' You know what I'm saying? It was a lot of work. I knew nothing about boxing. I knew nothing about any of the stuff that I was doing. It was one of those situations.
What attracted you to the role and why did you want to take it?
Gibson: Well, my theatrical team actually told me about it and being that James Franco just came off of that 'Spider-Man' run and the film was one of those films that we felt like would be necessary for this package that we're trying to put together - unfortunately a lot of times when you have roles black actors can get stuck in a box. They're up against a lot of limitations for the kinds of films that we get approached about. So if I started out doing 'Baby Boy' which was my first film it's easy to get stuck in that box and be approached about nothing, but urban films. If you start out as a comedian it's easy for you to get stuck and get approached about nothing, but comedies and comedies with all black casts. So for me I can always go urban because I'm as black as it gets and I'm from the hood. So for me and my whole team it was all about getting out of that box and making sure that not only I will be seen besides a Paul Walker and a Dennis Quaid, but it's something that seems possible. You've seen films or you see nationalities on the cover of a film and it just don't look natural that they would actually be the best of friends. So it's all about an energy and a synergy and we've fortunately been able to get out of that box. I think that for me that the only thing left for me that I really want to do now is animation. I want to do some voice over work with those animated films and I also want to do a comic book film. I'm being approached right now about doing 'Luke Cage,' John Singleton is potentially going to direct it. I've had an incredible meeting with Avi Arad over there with Marvel. So we're trying to build a situation where there's no limit to the kinds of films that I can be offered and no limit to the kinds of films that I could go after, but unfortunately it takes you doing one film and show people that you can pull it off in the now and be serious. That way they can go, 'Why don't we go after such and such for that.' So that's all.
Has Avi given you a time table for starting point for starting 'Luke Cage,' or anything like that?
Gibson: No. We haven't even gotten that far. I'm someone who's really living in the moment and so it's really a matter of like, 'You mentioned it to me. We had a meeting that went well, but I'm sure there are people that you've met with about it too.' People's opinion of who to go with changes when the wind blows. So I'm hoping for the best. I've prayed on it. It would be a great opportunity and it would be really incredible for me to do another film with my favorite director John Singleton, but they might even switch it up and say that they don't want to roll with him which would cause me to not be as interested in the project myself even though it's Avi Arad. I know that me and John Singleton have an incredible chemistry and you can't really go wrong with a Tyrese and John Singleton film at this point. So I would prefer that it would be him.
Are they going to start in '06?
Gibson: I have no idea. Right now they're waiting on another draft which is going to kind of dictate when and how to go about dictating and executing this film and then we'll move forward from there.
Did you try and get James Franco to get you in 'Spider-Man III?'
Gibson: Oh, no. I'm not interested in that. No 'Spider-Man' for me.
What's the most outrageous thing that you had to do in order to this role?
Gibson: Well, just so you know they didn't want to go with a black actor on this film at all as a lead. So that was one of the things that I was the most proud about as far as my theatrical team and that execution because it became the thing of like, 'You've got five minutes.' Like Eminem says, 'You only get one shot.' You're either going to go in there and convince them to go with a black lead on this or they're going to follow their own instincts and their own opinions and go with a white lead. I don't know if it's one of the things where they just want to play it safe and make sure that this film appeals to a broader audience, or whatever the case might be, but they weren't interested in a black actor. So for me I went to the surplus store on Santa Monica and Vine and I went and got me a Navy outfit and I put the black tape under my eyes and I got me a whistle and I went in there with a hat looking like a full on drill sergeant, and I tore James Franco ass up in that audition and I got the part.
The confrontation between you and Franco reminds me of 'An Officer and a Gentleman.'
Gibson: I've never seen that film, but I've heard a lot about it. For me, going into this project the only four compliments that I was looking forward to, if I even get them at all and the most important would be company commanders who play what I play in real life, for them to say that I represented them well and that this is exactly how we reinforce the seriousness of the Naval Academy and of Annapolis in particular and so on. So that's what I looking forward to, and I was also looking forward to Denzel Washington, Sydney Poitier and Lou Gossett Jr. who've created a standard and created a tradition and a legacy of strong black actors being able to get into this military type position and play their roles the right way. So for me I wanted to contribute to a legacy that they've already kind of laid out. It's one of those things that's already been done and it's already been done the right way and so if you're not going to contribute to the legacy than leave the shit alone. Just so you know that this camera guy here - I'm doing a reality show called 'The Making of A Ceo.' I just opened up a company called Headquarter Entertainment.' It's a multi-media company and we do everything from films, we're doing a fragrance, clothing, we have a record label. I have ten producers, music producers in house called The Frontline Boys and basically in '06 I've dedicated to owning as much of me as possible because I've made a lot of people a whole lot of money and so everything that I'm looking to do at this point is to just own as much of me as I can and be the CEO. I've met so many powerful people and now I'm doing a 'Matrix' thing where Ted Fields is my mentor, but now I'm Ted Fields without the billions. Now I'm Clive Davis. Now I'm Puffy and Jay Z and all of these guys that have said, 'I'm going to use music as a catalyst to get into all of the other shit that I really want to do.' Just so you know that.
How did you get out of the hood and get to where you are and what advice would you give to a young brother who's struggling to get out himself?
Gibson: I really don't consider myself out of the hood just for the record. I mean, I think that being out of the hood could be looked at differently, as if you're physically not there anymore or it can be a thing where you're mentally not there. That's why there are a lot of people in general, not just black or just white, but a lot of people who come from the gutter and that mentality is still the gutter. That's why they get out in Beverly Hills and do some stupid shit and they make all this money and don't know what to do with it because poor to me is a state of mind. It's not an actual economic situation. If you have a poor mentality than you have poor habits. You have execution problems. You don't really know how to follow through and communicate. You don't know how to get things done the right way. What I'm bringing to everyone in my company in particular - I mentioned The Frontline Boys. For me the mission is take these ten producers who don't have publishing deals and who aren't signed to anyone as producers, they're all signed to me - you go and get this huge publishing deal from one of these publishing companies like BMI or Warner Chapel and you make sure that once there's money coming in which is going to happen that we hire a business manager that's going to get them all incorporated, get the right tax breaks and just make sure that we put a certain amount of money to the side to make sure that the taxes are covered outside of this big net. We've got to make sure that everything is handled the right way because we all come from the hood, we're talented, but yet we don't know the right way to do it. We don't know how to make sure to cover our ass. All I know is that I've got the most money that I've ever had in my life and I feel like at twenty three or twenty four I have a lot of catching up to do. So what do you do, you run through all of your money and you say, 'Boy, I wish that I had, I should've, I would've and I could've.' So through all of my trials and tribulations I'm bringing all of my lessons to these guys. I went through five business managers and accountants to find the right one, the one who can not just sign me up for a corporation, but sign me up for the right corporation. Everyone wants to be incorporated, but there is the S Corp and there's a few different kinds of corporations that most people don't know about.
How did you choose those ten producers?
Gibson: Strictly based on their energy for one and their music. I have ten producers on my floor every single night working in five different rooms and the energy and the chemistry is very important. For me, producers can be the most egotistical people in the music business because they feel like they make a singer, they make rappers. Without their hot beats there wouldn't be no club. There wouldn't be no Jay Z to rap on top of something. What are you going to do? Rap acapella? So producers are very cocky and arrogant and so I've created a comfort zone where everyone is able to be on floor and the synergy and the chemistry between everyone is incredible, and so not only are we having fun, but we're going to laugh and have a good time all the way to the proper corporation and all the way to the bank.
How did you relate to your character?
Gibson: I related to his leadership and execution. I related to sometimes having to be in the midst of all these people and appear to be unaffected that might be going on in your personal life. People and personalities are very unpredictable. Like, I don't know if one of you got a call about being at your all time low financially or I don't know if you got an email from your boss saying that you're not going to be able to go to press junkets anymore, 'I'm firing you. I'm moving on to someone else.' So people and what they go through is kind of unpredictable and so you try your best to be considerate of others, and Cole's whole approach to this whole thing is that he's a brick wall and whatever he's going through it's beneath him to expose himself to his plebes because he's trying to inspire them and trying to get them to reach for something that they'll probably not thinking about reaching for. People get into the military for a lot of different reasons. When you're just in Corpus Christi, Tx. Playing Xbox everyday and you see a commercial come on that says, 'Travel the world and come and get your college degree.' You're like, 'Man. Fuck it. I'm just sitting here doing nothing. I might as well make something of myself and travel the world. Thirteen to fifteen thousand in salary that I could earn every year.' So you get into it for the wrong reasons. That's a part of the package of the navy and the marines, but if you say or do the wrong thing not only can you kill yourself, but you can kill everyone around you. So for me I didn't want to focus on or inspire them as far as the perks of the naval academy and Annapolis. I wanted to get them to pay attention and be considerate of others and take this very seriously.
Did you have a back story of what was going on with him personally?
Gibson: Oh yeah, he went through a lot. He has a lot of baggage. He was a rebel. He wanted to go against the grain every chance that he got, but he went from rebellious to becoming a rebellious leader. He sees the rebel in James Franco, but he wants to turn it from being rebellious and trying to go against the system to now causing people to want to be a part of the system and take it more seriously. If I was a teacher there would be certain students in my class that would just stand out and you end up giving them more time and energy than you would others. It's unfair and you're supposed to spread it out, but everyone knows a star when they see one. Everyone knows when they have that charm or charisma about them, and it makes you say, 'Look, if I give you everything that I have outside of what you naturally have on your own then I'm going to create a better you.' It's all a part of doing God's work to elevate people.
How many times did you get hit while you were boxing?
Gibson: Oh, I got hit a few times. He's a little rough, man.
Did you hit him back?
Gibson: I don't know [Laughs].
Were you able to draw from anyone that you know personally to build this character?
Gibson: No. No. There wasn't anyone.
Did you spend time around any real officers?
Gibson: There was a guy that did consulting work for us who was incredible. His name was Scott and he actually went to Annapolis. To answer your question I would say him more than anyone, but mainly - I drew from him because he was the real deal as far as far him really going to Annapolis. I had that scene in Memorial Hall about all of our friends that had died, we were all together, the plebes and everyone. We went to Annapolis for about four hours one day and we were just on campus. He was taking us around and showing us the boxing ring and showing us the Navy Base, and when we got to Memorial Hall he broke down and cried. So I took what I saw from him and used it in the scene when I did that one with James.
Did you have to go to boot camp or anything?
Gibson: Oh yeah. It was probably about two weeks. There was a lot of friction on that set. To date that was the hardest film that I've ever worked on in my acting career. There was a lot of friction between me and James. He's a method actor and I don't really consider myself a method actor. I respect method actors because you have method actors that go too far sometime - that's what I would say - with being in character the whole time. It kind of creates a situation where when the director yells cut they don't cut. I'm not talking about the boxing scene, but they're in character and they don't get along with me in the movie and so they're going to go out of their to not get along with me even when the cameras aren't rolling. I don't really operate like that. I'm not talking down on him at all because it exists in Hollywood. You got some people who say, 'Don't call me Sylvester Stallone. Call me my character's name. And don't look at me in the eyes because they don't look at me in the eyes in the movie.' People can get a little cooky I think. I'm one of them people who just like I'm talking to you right now I can go from being like this here and then just get into it. 'So what are we doing.' I can jump into my shit and then I can get right out of it. But some people can't do that.
When does 'Waist Deep' come out?
Gibson: April 28th 'Waist Deep' is coming out and it's going to be special.
ANNAPOLIS opens on January 27th, 2006
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