Though Method Man only plays a small role in one crucial scene, his
presence in The Wackness, adds a necessary touch of
credibility to this indie film paean to New York and its homegrown
hip-hop culture. Given that the story is told from a geeky white,
Jewish, 18-year-old pot dealer's perspective (he's more into weed as
a social statement than as a way to financially elevate him out of
the 'hood), having a former Wu-Tang Clan member/founder performing
even a small part as Jamaican drug supplier Percy who has an
approving encounter with Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) and his sort-of
customer/mentor, semi-partner Dr. Jeffrey Squires (Ben Kingsley)
lends the film a further authenticity.
Happening during the summer of 1994 when the streets of New York
are full of a funky, soulful hip hop exemplified by Wu-Tang and the
sweet smell of pot The Wackness darkly celebrates a coming
of age for both the 18-year-old Luke, and the middle-aged shrink
Squires. Set against the backdrop of newly-inaugurated mayor Rudolph
Giuliani's regime, when the law & order fanatic begins to implement
anti-fun initiatives against such vile crimes as noisy portable
radio play, graffiti-bombing and public drunkenness, the film
celebrates a positive cultural abandon that seems sorely missing in
Nominated for Sundance 2008's Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and winner
of the Audience Award, director Jonathan Levine's touching film
takes advantage of Method Man's expanding acting experience (he's
been in films and TV shows such as Oz, CSI, The Wire, Garden
State and Soul Plane) to join the movie's other fine supporting
actors such as Olivia Thirlby and Famke Janssen. From the seminal
hip-hop collective he formed with Redman, DOB, and RZA, the former
Cliff Smith has established a successful solo artist/producing
career. But it was his time with that supergroup Wu Tang Clan on
such albums as Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers and Wu-Tang
Forever that he made a mark in history that spurs on such
films as The Wackness.
How was it revisiting this historical moment in hip-hop, 1994,
through this film?
Well I didn't get that until I saw the film. When I did my scene it
didn't have music. I just had to draw off what I read in the script
and the scenes that I shot. when I saw the movie, the music could
have gotten a credit t was pushing the story along in certain areas
I had a feeling of euphoria; and I had a feeling of nostalgia when
listening to the music in the film. I was like; damn that's where I
was at in
How does it feel being an actor in a hip hop environment rather
then being a hip-hopper affecting the environment?
I've come a long way to start off. It's a little crazy to sit there
watch this film and hear a song that I did playing in the background
of my scene; it's silly in a way, for a lack of a better word
especially when it's you watching it. I don't know about it for
everybody else, but for me it was a little silly.
you think director Jonathan Levine picked the right music for the
soundtrack? Did you help him? You think you had an influence?
I know I had an influence; he put my music in the film. I had
nothing to do with putting the soundtrack together, that was all
This film seems to be a tribute to NYC hip-hop as the roots as
opposed to the West Coast.
It's a tribute to the city actually. As far the west coast goes, we
always had a lot of love for the west coast, that's why I didn't
understand why there's was no Snoop Dogg songs in there's when he
came out in '94 they almost played the whole album on the radio.
Were you happy to see this film portray an appreciation of the
Absolutely man. There is a culture out there of pot heads; we are
growing bigger and bigger everyday. People are using it for
medicinal purposes now.
Was it interesting looking at pot through your character's
When you are there and you're seeing how the whole thing works as
far this guy goes... I've lived most of this shit so, I've sat
inside "gates," that's what we call them and shit; the dread, if he
likes you and shit, he'll talk to you. It ain't just a
hand-over-fist type of thing. You get to talking now and then.
That's the connection between Luke and Percy. Percy trusts Luke. You
don't get a lot of that so you want to keep the people you trust
Was there anybody as a reference to get the character and accent
Every Jamaican I ran into in my lifetime [was a source]; as far as
the dialect goes, I had a good coach.
You must relate to the concept behind the film, for this kid to
use hip-hop and pot as critical elements in his growing up?
The music definitely pushes the story forward and Luke as well. The
pot definitely bridged gaps between him and his psychiatrist; him
and his supplier; and him and his love interest. The coming of age
thing, this is a dude trying to find himself. he way the pot plays
into it is exactly as I told you... He's asking questions, trying to
find out were he stands with this girl and where he stands with
himself. He's about to be a man and life sucks that's where the
whole concept of the wackness comes in because right now everything
looks "Wack" to him.
Did you find it weird being in a film with both Ben Kingsley and
Mary Kate Olsen?
With Sir Ben it was bug because he doesn't leave the set. He chops
it up a little. He's a real, genuine cool dude. It helped when we
started shooting the scene because I was so comfortable around him
it was like a cake walk. I didn't meet Mary Kate until Sundance and
the first few interviews we did. Running into her so many times you
get to chatting and she was real cool and calm, and down to earth.
doesn't get fair shake in tabloids She's a nice girl sweet girl.
You don't get it much in the tabloids do you?
I get a little controversy; it doesn't escape the urban network
How do you approach doing acting versus making music?
It takes a lot more preparation. With music, It's just a vibe; I get
a feeling then I sit down and I write what I feel. With acting, I go
over certain things and do my repetitions to make sure I don't
forget my lines then when I am on set, I see the other actors, and
what I am working with. When we are shooting a scene, I see what the
other actors are doing and see how I can play off that. In the end,
it's silly too because it's just a bunch of grown ups playing
you freestyle much?
Not a lot.
When you write how does it work?
Sometimes the music will give you the theme, other times you can be
watching, like, a TV program and then it hits you, "I want to write
about this." Then you sit down and jot like your first four lines
and then you look for the proper beat that can match that and you
continue writing the rest but in the midst of doing that you are
jotting down little ideas on the side that you can put inside the
whole stew once you start to cook it.
What are your roots? Both in pot culture and music culture
hip-hop's an amalgam...
As for pot, I love my purple haze [laughs]. The roots for me
probably musically or culturally... I love anything my moms pops
were listening to I had to adopt as my own. It's an abundance, from
rock to hip-hop, pop to alternative, soul, blues, jazz, then
everything gospel... It all incorporates into my everyday being or
how I do my thing as far as writing or portraying list this
Rastafarian on the screen. It's authentic because I've been there,
and I draw own experience.
Do you miss Wu Tang? It represented this community in hip-hop.
Yeah we [were] always a tight-knit group. We still are but it's a
little different now since we got kids. We've moved on to other
things and other chapters in the entertainment business. It gets
hard to stay in contact but I think the unit as a whole is as strong
as ever especially through our children who still scream "Wu Tang."
And I haven't done a show yet by myself or with the whole crew that
people didn't scream "Wu Tang."
What about the new generation of hip hoppers; do you see an
evolution or not?
We're recognized as big business but we're still not televised...
at the Grammys. We're expendable now since so many
people are doing it. It's like fast food; they're shipping it out so
fast you can not grasp onto any artists long enough to even like 'em.
By the time you do there's somebody comes out with the same sound or
a similar song or dance mix or ringtone.
When I started out it wasn't about the jewelry you had on. I'm not
saying you didn't have the yin and yang... You had to have that
because Biggie [Smalls] and them was always fresh... They kept their
jewelry.... [But] Wu Tang was always grimy with no jewelry; the best
part about the whole movement was the lyrics the lyricism was
there. There was no denying that New York cats had that certain edge
over everybody else.
Wu Tang also understood that it wasn't just about rap; it was about
the music community in general. Definitely. That's why Wu Tang could
go overseas with [bands like] Rage Against the Machine, or do shows
with Marilyn Manson and the Red Hot Chili Peppers so perfectly
because people can dig that group mentality [whatever the style of
How did you make the transition for a musician to an actor, not
as a star but as a character actor?
I didn't go out looking; it was more thrown into my lap. I always
thought of myself as a bit of a character anyway [laughs] I'm
a Pisces and I've always had a bit of an imagination, I've always
been a bit of a comic book fanatic. I used to watch the shows on TV
and emulate what I saw, like what any kid does. If you can keep
30,000 people entertained for 45 minutes on stage then you can jump
on the screen with one camera and do the same thing.
What's your favorite comics?
Anything X... Yeah, X.
Have you thought about writing one yourself?
Maybe something might happen with this comic book thing; I'm trying
to write my own comic book now, a joint called "Throwbacks."
Are you writing or drawing it?
I used to draw back in grade school but that's as far as that went.
We used to have a dope teacher named Ms. Gold. We had a comic book
club after school, so I've always been interested in comic books.
What do you think about how comics have evolved since your day?
Well, I think they are prostituting them now. They didn't start with
the movies; it started with the variant covers. When it was a 100
million dollar business these dudes were raking in the dough. They
would come out with seven different covers for one comic book. It
devalued a lot of the books. Now it's like what's that for?
What else do you have coming up?
I just did an episode of Burn Notice which premieres this
How do you balance it all?
I would do it all at the same time if I could but sometimes it's
impossible. So I have to find out what's in first position and I
make sure that get's done.
How was the thing that affected you the most about this film?
I tell Josh every time I see him. It's the part when Olivia calls
him in the hallway for breaking his heart or whatever and he says
"Nah, I want to hold on to this, this is real for me." Man, that's
my favorite part of the film.