FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
The movie "Four Brothers" took the top spot at the weekend box office, making over $20 million. NPR's Ed Gordon talked with one of the stars, Andre Benjamin.
ED GORDON reporting:
Andre Benjamin is best-known as half of the Grammy Award-winning duo OutKast. Their album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" sold over 10 million copies, propelled by Benjamin's number-one single "Hey Ya."
(Soundbite of "Hey Ya")
Mr. ANDRE BENJAMIN (Actor; OutKast): (Singing) Hey ya, from mom and dad, we're sticking two together 'cause we don't know how. Hey ya.
GORDON: Benjamin's adding to his creative repertoire by trying his hand at acting. Earlier this year, he was featured in John Travolta's "Get Shorty" sequel, "Be Cool." He co-stars in John Singleton's new film, "Four Brothers."
(Soundbite of "Four Brothers")
Mr. BENJAMIN: (As Bobby Mercer) What are you hiding, Jerry? Huh? What are you hiding?
Mr. MARK WAHLBERG (Actor): (As Jerry Mercer) I found out you had something to do with happened to Ma.
Mr. BENJAMIN: (As Bobby) I swear to God, Jerry, I'm gonna kill you right here and now.
Unidentified Actress: No, Bobby, no!
Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Jerry) Now Angel's gonna ask you some questions. And, brother, the time for lying is over.
Mr. TYRESE GIBSON (Actor; Singer): (As Angel Mercer) We know you lied about your business, and we know you got mixed up with some gangsters.
Mr. BENJAMIN: (As Bobby) Hold on, man.
Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Jerry) Stay down!
Mr. BENJAMIN: (As Bobby) You all trippin' because I made an insurance payment?! What?! I paid all her bills! How many years did I have to take care of her myself?! You all were around doing nothing! And you gonna tell me I killed her?!
GORDON: Andre Benjamin, welcome, man. Good to have you with us.
Mr. BENJAMIN: Man, thanks for having me on the show.
GORDON: Listen, man, a busy couple of years for you, and you've moved without missing a beat from music to movies. What's been the hardest transition for you?
Mr. BENJAMIN: I guess shedding, I guess, the expectations of what they think I am, you know?
Mr. BENJAMIN: Especially in film, you know, it's all about, you know, changing characters. So, you know, if people--they've seen me as Andre 3000, you know--this wild and crazy type of character. I guess it's hard for some casting directors or, you know, filmmakers to see that I may have something, you know, else to offer. That's why I felt like the "Four Brothers" role was, you know, key to the beginning of my career, just to show, you know, that I could do a little bit more.
GORDON: I understand--I read somewhere that when you read the script you immediately fell in love with it. Is that true?
Mr. BENJAMIN: Yeah. I thought the story was great. I thought the story of the four brothers, you know, being that two of them were black, two of them were white--I thought it was kind of strange at first and I thought it was kind of kooky, and that kind of attracted me in a certain sense.
GORDON: Andre, if you would, give me the plot for "Four Brothers."
Mr. BENJAMIN: Yeah, "Four Brothers," two black guys, two white guys, we were adopted when we were kids; we grew up on the streets of Detroit. And the lady that adopted us--she was killed; she was murdered. And the police say it was a random shooting. So when my brothers come into town to attend the funeral, we find out that that wasn't the case and we have to dig, dig further and further and deeper and deeper. And we find out, you know, things that we didn't want to find out. And I really don't want to give away the story a lot, but you have to just pay attention to what's going on. You have to pay attention to, I guess, the development of the story.
GORDON: So much has been made of musicians, singers, etc., coming in and being seen as commodities, if you will, to help move a movie. How do you consider yourself? Do you consider yourself a musician first, an actor, or just an entertainer?
Mr. BENJAMIN: I guess an idealist, you know, pretty much a dreamer, you know. We were kids, we grew up in, I guess, a renaissance age where, you know, we were born around the same time a lot of the great American companies were born: companies, you know, like Apple and, you know, Ralph Lauren, that company, and some of the, I guess, greatest ad campaigns; and, you know, the MTV age, age of video. So I think we had so much; we were given so much, you know--you know, visually. And we heard so much that I'm kind of like giving it back, you know. I'm--I love film, you know. I love music. I love creating. I love creating ad campaigns. I love designing clothes, you know, even, you know, the clothes in the videos and on stage and clothes that I wear in the street, you know--normal sportswear. You know, it's clothes that I've design so I'm even looking forward to building my brand.
GORDON: Now what about the fans who know and love you for your music? So many people concern themselves with the--if one becomes popular and does well in film, we may not see you back in the studio turning out music. Do you ever see yourself letting that go?
Mr. BENJAMIN: No, not at this point. I mean, even right now we're working on a new album that should be out at the end of the year. Even if it comes to where, you know, the music and film kind of marry, you know, I think I'll always do music. Like this next OutKast album will be the soundtrack to a film that's starring myself and Big Boi, and it's a 1930s period piece, like a musical. And so, I mean, I'll always write--I mean, even if it's, you know, behind the scenes or--I mean, because I most definitely don't want to be an older, you know, entertainer--hip hop entertainer because to me hip hop is all about youth, you know? And I just turned 30 in May, you know. So I'm most definitely looking to get into things that I can do for the rest of my life.
GORDON: Well, Andre Benjamin, many say you stole the show, and it's not easy to do with John Travolta and Cedric the Entertainer on the screen with "Be Cool," and so many people talking about your performance in this new one, "Four Brothers." We appreciate you spending a little time with us, and good luck with the film, man.
Mr. BENJAMIN: Thank you, man. I really appreciate it.
CHIDEYA: That was Andre Benjamin speaking with NPR's Ed Gordon.
That's our program for today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.
I'm Farai Chideya. Ed Gordon will be back tomorrow. This is NEWS & NOTES.
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