O’Shea Jackson has been entertaining for over 30 years. While just a teen, he made an impression on his first fans at parties organized by Dr. Dre. He was a member of C.I.A. (Cru’ in Action!) a hip-hop group, alongside K-Dee and Sir Jinx, who provided backing vocals for Dre’s World Class Wreckin Cru’s single “The Cabbage Patch.”
In 1986, he and Dr. Dre joined forces and formed the pioneer gangsta rap group N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude), along with Eazy-E. They went on to produce the classic album, Straight Outta Compton, which spawned an award-winning biopic and grossed over $200 million.
Fast-forward. From gracing album covers to movie trailers, Jackson, at 46, is an actor, screenwriter, film director and producer with an unforgettable nickname, Ice Cube. He launched his acting career playing Doughboy in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood (1991).
“My brother gave me the name Ice Cube. I used to always try to talk to his women so he thought I was cool,” the South Central L.A. native tells “ET!” during a rare interview at the home of his parents, Hosea and Doris Jackson.
With a reported net worth of $140 million, Ice Cube is sitting at the helm of yet another timely comedic franchise since Friday, with the third installment of Barbershop scheduled to be released in theaters on Friday, April 15, 2016.
“We’re happy with the movie we have. I think people are excited to see a contemporary story about what is going on … today,” he tells rolling out during a one-on-one interview at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills.
The first Barbershop, released in 2002, the sequel, Barbershop 2: Back in Business followed in 2004, and then a spin-off (Beauty Shop) and a TV show in 2005.
“They wanted another Barbershop movie and I didn’t want to do another one. I was like, ‘Why should we do a movie?’ All we are going to do is talk about celebrities and that’s it. Which is cool, but it’s not a reason to do a movie.” Then came the tipping point. “I read an article where a guy used free [hair]cuts [as a means] to stop the violence,” he says of one of the factors that informed his decision to move forward with filming.
“The barbershop is more than just a place to gossip or talk trash. It’s a place where people walk in with real problems; they’re looking for answers, especially in our community where we’re not into therapy. It’s a place where they let it all hang out.”
In Barbershop: The Next Cut, Calvin (Jackson) and the crew at the now fully unisex salon band together to identify a means to decrease senseless crime in their South Side Chicago neighborhood.
“Calvin goes from relentless owner burdened with a business to being a guy who’s respected in the community and sits down with the OGs to tell them to squash it. That’s great progression for Calvin. A great progression with who I am — the wise one. There’s a parallel between Calvin in the film and O’Shea — what I am experiencing in my career,” he shares.
Barbershop: The Next Cut combines two themes: politics and comedy. There’s a battle of the sexes as more women have been brought in to join the camaraderie. The more complex of the themes is the gun and gang violence in Chicago. It’s real and heartbreaking. According to the Chicago Tribune, there have been 135 homicides already this year, a 71 percent jump from 2015. In the first three months of 2016, over 700 people have been shot, a 73 percent increase from this time last year.
There is a delicate balance that had to be made to convey hot-button issues.
“Screenwriters Kenya [Barris] and Tracy [Oliver] are dope. They are the link. Director Malcolm [D. Lee] is great. Collectively, we knew what we needed to do to ensure that it’s more than ha, ha! We had to answer, ‘How can we find that silver lining without making fun of the tragedy or whatever it is we are dealing with? How do we find that levity so it will be powerful and digestive by the masses?’ ” Ice Cube explains.
“We did the movie about something real. Calvin has a 14-year-old son who rocks dreads and could care less about a barbershop. He wants to be like Chief Keef or somebody; he wants to be a Vice Lord. He gets into it with the GDs. Real Chicago. We didn’t want to do any fake names. We had to talk about what people were really going through. Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples — the real s—. Having real Chicago natives Common (Rashad), Deon Cole (Dante), Lamorne Morris (Jerrod) to chime in was perfect.”
Each member in this ensemble gives 100 percent. They deliver their lines well. When it was their time to shine, they’re bright. There are producers in film and music who don’t always know when to back away from the spotlight and allow others to get their 15 minutes.
Not Ice Cube.
“Know when to step back. When you have talent like JB Smoove, you have to give him the stage. When it’s over, jump back in and keep it moving. It’s like emceeing a great show. When they hit the screen, they’ve got to be funny. They have to be everything they want to be and what the audience wants them to be. When you see Deon Cole, what is he going to say? You have to provide that platform. Let him have the floor; he will feel better about his performance. It’s the same for Eve, Nicki [Minaj] and Regina [Hall]. You never want to underutilize great talent,” he spells out.
How do you make allowances for so many cast members, when you have larger-than-life comedic talents like Cedric the Entertainer and Anthony Anderson?
Calvin plays the foreground when he has to and the background when he has to. As an owner, your mind is on a lot of different things when you are trying to run a shop. I feel like Calvin has to be subdued in his banter. Phone ringing, bills ain’t getting paid. It’s maturity … like changing and switching lanes, you don’t have to always toot your own horn. I know dudes who do movies and have the same power I have and suppress everybody thinking, “Let me figure out how to get in there.” I think it hurts the movie. It’s better when everybody is good and everybody is funny. If someone else steals the movie, I don’t care. People know I brought it to the table. And if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the finished product.
What’s the key to a good sequel?
When there’s no prior reference necessary … the key to sequels is to make standalone movies and not borrow from previous movies. You never know the order when people discover your movie. A person might see the second one first.
How do you get a movie into the hands of a Hollywood producer?
It’s not easy. You have to have a great piece of material. To me when you go in with more ingredients, you have a better chance to get it. You want to walk in with more just an idea; everyone that meets this dude walks in with an idea. You’re at the bottom. You walk in with a script; you’re a little higher. You walk in with a script, and Cube says he’s going to play this part; then they could see that movie and we got a star. You come in with two stars, you have a package they can’t resist.
What’s your formula for choosing projects?
When we did the film Straight Outta Compton, we knew people had the same anxieties and issues in Los Angeles like Chicago. It was the same kind of climate and that’s the reason the movie worked. At the same time, it’s a shame that things don’t progress. With this movie, we could have done it two years ago. Hopefully, two years from now times won’t be the same, but it probably will be. It’s like the communities are not changing as fast as we’d like. These movies make it seem like we are super smart, but we are just highlighting what is a constant in the community.
What kind of father is O’Shea Jackson?
I am extremely present. I am in the front with everyone else. You need to be present, in the lives of your family, in the lives of your friends and more than just a body there, but a present influence.
I feel like the luckiest dude in show business.
Correction: Ice Cube played point guard at Taft High School and studied architectural drafting at a trade school in Arizona. A father of five, he’s been married to Kimberly Woodruff Jackson since 1992. They have three sons and one daughter, O’Shea Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Darrell, Shareef and Kareema.
Story by Yvette Caslin
Interview by Demi Lobo
Photos by Ndeye Thioubou