By Samantha Ofole-Prince
One of hip hop’s most poetic and respected lyricists, Common has carved out a lucrative career in the entertainment industry.
With eight albums, a Grammy award, six movies, several books and a ninth album, “The Believer, The Dreamer,” due out December 20th, it has been a good year for the entertainer, who makes his voice-acting debut in the animated feature “Happy Feet Two.”
A coming-of age tale, which focuses on the positives of non-conformity, “Happy Feet” in 2006, introduced audiences to a loveable toe-tapping penguin called Mumble, who teaches us that it’s perfectly ok to be different from the rest. A global hit that appealed to critics and audiences of all ages, the film earned numerous accolades, including an Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature, and also fueled greater efforts for environmental and wildlife conservation.
In the sequel set to release in theaters Nov. 20, Common voices a character, who director George Miller describes as “the cool dad with a hip-hop swing.”
“I watched the first movie,” says Common, whose previous film credits include Smokin Aces, American Gangster, Wanted, Date Night and Just Wright. “It moved me. So to be able to be a part of that legacy was really exciting.”
A 3D animated movie with an all-star cast, the film features the voices of Elijah Wood as Mumble, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Alecia Moore (P!nk), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara, Hugo Weaving and Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores, Jr.
“I never thought I’d get to play the role of a dancing, singing, rapping penguin,” says the actor/rapper, who voices a character called Seymour. “George allowed us to do improvisations, and it was almost like being in a freestyle session, where you can improvise and come up with great songs and riffs. In the recording booth, pretty much every day, I would come out of there with my shirt soaking wet from sweating, because I was expending a lot of physical energy getting into the character,” he says.
There’s rock, soul, hip-hop, rap, plenty of tapping and dancing and beautiful Antarctic landscape.
“This movie provided me with one of the best creative experiences that I have ever been in, and was a great way to start in my first voice-over career,” Common continues. “My character is soulful and has a certain essence. It was very new for me and refreshing.”
Being able to use his musical talent on the movie was also a huge plus for Common.
“I liked how the music has a universal tone to it. No matter what walk of life you are from, you can appreciate the music,” he adds.
Common will next be seen on the AMC’s series “Hell on Wheels” where he plays the role of Elam, a freed slave seeking work on the Transcontinental Railroad. He also stars with Jennifer Garner in “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” in theaters in 2012, and opposite Danny Glover in “Learning Uncle Vincent,” which releases in 2013.