Ed Symkus: Ice Cube keeps a cool head in the making of the third “Barbershop”
“Cube, he likes to be called Cube,” said a Warner Bros. publicist when asked how to address rapper-actor-producer Ice Cube just before he sat down to talk about “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” the third installment in what’s become the “Barbershop” franchise. O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson first gained national notice when he, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E helped put gangsta rap on the map as members of the South Central L.A.-based group N.W.A. in the mid-1980s. By the early-’90s, Cube’s stage scowl got him into the movies, as part of the ensemble in the hit crime film “Boyz n the Hood.” But just a few years later, he successfully slipped into comedy opposite Chris Tucker in “Friday,” and has since proven to be comfortable in both dramatic and comedic roles. In 2002, the hugely successful “Barbershop” featured him as Calvin, the owner of an inner city Chicago shop where workers and patrons could share a laugh or discuss important issues. It was a film in which the serious and the funny were combined. Though 2004’s “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” didn’t do quite as well at the box office, it certainly earned enough for another one to be considered and made ... 12 years later. Cube, 46, spoke about the new film, which remains a comedy, but takes on more of a serious edge, focusing on gun violence and gangs, last week in Los Angeles.
Q: Whose idea was it to do the third film in the series?
A: Bob Teitel and George Tillman (who produced the first two films) wanted to do another one, so they came at me. But I didn’t want to do another one, because I thought, “What are we gonna talk about THIS time? What’s the story? It’s gotta be more than just laughs.” So we came up with a story that was perfect to highlight what the barbershop really is — a place to laugh and socialize, but also a place to get some therapy. Our community’s not big on going to therapy or talking to people. But for some reason, if you get in this kind of setting, you start talking about your issues, and people there understand and sometimes they know how to help you. Sometimes they give you bull***t advice, but so do the psychiatrists. So it all works out.
Q: How did the “Barbershop” series actually get started?
A: Bob and George and (original director) Tim Story brought it to my production company Cube Vision. We looked at it, thought it could be a great movie, and we polished it up a little bit. What’s so cool about the barbershop is it shows that black people don’t all have the same opinion about the same issues. It shows that if you throw a topic up, there are all kinds of different opinions. I think it was a great discovery moment for people who believe that we just think lock-step on everything. You know, if you’re black, you think O.J.is innocent; if you’re white, no (laughs). We wanted to show complex conversations just like there would be in any community.
Q: The biggest difference in the new film is that there are now women cutting women’s hair in the shop as well as men cutting men’s hair, and there’s lots of banter between the sexes, some of it serious, some of it funny. But there’s no real anger, even when the men get kind of sexist.
A: I think in a barbershop it might get loud, it might get heated, but I don’t think people really want to fight over their views like that. People understand that this is a place where you can be yourself and it’s a place to debate what you really think. It’s also a place where you feel better about yourself when you’re leaving than you did when you came in because a guy is working on your self esteem, or a girl doing your hair is working to make you feel better. You can’t be too mad, leaving.
Q: You’ve been working more and more on the production end of movies, including on this one. Are you a really hands-on producer who’s always giving notes?
A: I’m a get-in-where-I-fit-in producer. I sit back, and I let the professionals that I’ve hired and have got around me do their jobs. And I try to keep the best that I can find around me. When you’ve got people like Bob Teitel and (director) Malcolm Lee, you’re dealing with people who know what they’re doing. As an actor, I need to get into my role, but I also need to keep that producer eye on everything that’s going, so I will step in if something’s not right. What I don’t like is corny; what I don’t like is Hollywood solutions to major problems. I just don’t like faking it. So anything I see that seems too Hollywood-convenient, or seems to get out of a situation too easily, I’ll step in and say we need to complicate this a little bit and make it more real.
“Barbershop: The Next Cut” opens on April 15.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.