Method Man – also known as The Panty Raider, Ghost Rider, The Long John Silver, Johnny Blaze among other things, and last but not least, Clifford Smith is not only an accomplished hip hop artist, record producer and actor, he’s also got quite a charming personality on him.
In “The Wackness,” which ironically contains many of the hits he wrote, produced and performed, with the The Wu-Tang Clang, Method Man plays Percy, a Rastafarian drug lord who supplies Josh Peck’s character, Luke Shapiro, with weed to sell on the streets of New York.
Recently, Method Man sat down with Los Angeles CityZine at the press junket for “The Wackness” to discuss his role in the film, his thoughts on current artists, new projects, including a comic book and how it was like working with Sir Ben Kingsley.
How do you think this move reflected that era in New York and is it pretty accurate?
Yeah i think so, as far as Josh’s point of you, I didn’t know they had it that hard, I thought the white kids was rollin’. It was pretty spot on, the whole Giuliani thing, even down to blowing the Nintendo cartridge.
In this role, I loved your accent, did you work hard to it, did you work with a teacher?
Yeah it was somebody I’ve known for a long time, I’ve always been around Rastafarians, they come to New York to do their pharmaceuticals. Anyway, I worked with this person, she took the time to write it out, so I could read it exactly the way it said. We did a whole night of that, and then I came 3 days later, because I had to go over it by myself, Jonathan (Levine) loved it and he did it, he gave me a lot of lee way to do what I wanted with that character.
Was more done that’s not in the film that could be on the DVD?
Yes, there was so much there, I had a whole long page page of dialogue that I worked on for 3 days, but its cool, the way the movie runs, maybe it doesn’t fit in that spot, but the did what they had to do, and they did a good job [with the film].
How did u like working with Sir Ben?
Hmmhmmm (laughing)… at first I didn’t know he was going to be there, when I first went to the set, I was on my way to my trailer and there he was, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to see “Sexy Beast” or “Ghandi,” he was so cool, very humble, down to earth dude.
Did you call him Sir Ben?
I always call him Sir Ben.
Why don’t u just call him Ben?
Out of respect, the same way if I knew your first name I would put “Miss” in front of it.
Aren’t there several Wu-Tang Clan songs in the film?
Was that your choice, did you pick them?
I had no idea they were even in there, when we did my scene, when I sat down at Sundance in the premiere, and I was sitting and I’m waiting and waiting and one came and then another and I was like “yeah yeah,” and you know I couldn’t help tappin’ my foot to it. It definitely took me back to a time where I thought hip hop was in it hardest era , where it didn’t matter how you looked, it was what’s up here (points to head).
Can you expand on that because there’s a huge difference, it not so much social issues anymore, it’s pop now…
Yeah it’s pop, now you know kids have access to so many things. You don’t have to buy an album anymore. Today it doesn’t even feel like a movement anymore. Back then it felt like it was a movement you know, you always wanted to be the first person in line to get that album. Now they churn it out like fast movers, in n’ out, you can’t even grasp on to an artist long enough, buy the time you do, they’re gone already.
What’s next in music for you? Are you putting out any albums soon?
Yeah, you know I try to, but sometimes the schedule gets hectic, like when I was doin’ “The Wire,” Wu-Tang and I were overseas doin’ that tour, and I had to fly back and forth, like I would fly after the show, go home, take a car, get there on set, after I get off set I’m back to the airport. It’s hectic at times but if you really want something you just gotta do it and when you love what you do you never work a day in your life.
Would you do another series if it were the right one?
Yeah, I have no problem with television, except that blasted sitcom on Fox, and I love those dudes giving us the opportunity to shine but, wrong time,wrong dudes.
Are you producing your own music still or working on another album?
We’re working on it, we always get like ‘Executive Producer’ credit, now we OG’s, we earned that spot even if we don’t press a key you know, my word play is enough to get me an ‘Executive Producer’ credit but me and Red Man are working on it, gonna try and bring it in the 4th quarter, hopefully, Def Jam and Diddy will do us right.
So are you actively looking for other roles?
Yeah but I’m doing it without an agent. After my sitcom, I’m gonna admit, Hollywood left a bad taste in my mouth, it tasted like shit and crackers, I just want to reattach myself to my area, where I live at, my neighborhood and get back in to my music. So, I gave myself a little break, I was still on “The Wire” in season 2, so i still had that. Now I’m still just letting things drop in my lap.
Are you developing anything for yourself though?
I have a comic book. I’m going to sit down with some people from Nick Cage’s production company and we’re gonna see if that works out.
You created it and drew it?
I created it and it was drawn by Sanford Green who does a lot of work with DC Comics and Marvel and David Atchison wrote it.
What is it about?
Method man. It’s a story about the order of the sacred method, these are like murder priests, they’re descendants of the first murderer Cain, so they have the burden of his sin on their backs for all eternity so they have to basically fight sin in our modern times, so my character Method Man or Peerless Poe, he leaves the order of the sacred method because for one he’s a rebel, for two the anti-hero thing works in comic books, and he just couldn’t deal with the celibacy thing of being a priest. So he steps off and does his own little thing, but people think he’s a kook because he only takes cases no one else will take, far fetched cases that deal with the paranormal and things of that nature.
Is there an actor that you would like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
I like Don Cheadle. I was really big on my man Eric Bana, Gary Oldman, especially in “True Romance.”
Who do you think is really coming up in the music scene that you wouldd like to get behind?
Kanye (West). I think he’s somewhat responsible for what comes out of his mouth, you can tell he takes time with the music , that’s only elevating us to the next level, where we can be televised at the Grammy’s instead of pre-telecast. Jada (Kiss) has always been consistent to me, but I tend to go more to the bottom of the barrel you know, like Sean Price, you know guys like that they keep me fresh, because their area is closer to the street.
What are you reading now?
Well actually there’s one book that keeps coming up, lee child’s nothing to loose, i might just go get that, I want see what that’s about, everybody I see has that damn book.
Are you surprised that “The Wire” was critically so acclaimed by everybody, but that it never kind of caught on, I don’t think any year really caught on…
I can’t explain it, the only thing I can say is we got a show that , I don’t know, anyone that didn’t stand around the water cooler and talk about it or say that it was a great show, I mean how it got under the radar, I don’t get it . The writers, the directors, even the actors, they come to work with no ego’s, no nothin’, ready to do it, put on a great show every time and not even an Emmy nomination, not one. Well we’ll see this year, but I don’t get it, you take a show, like the two of us, you look at the ratings, and how many people watch it, its not that high up on the list, but critically acclaimed and it’s been nominated for some things. I think America is ready to deal with certain things, but not everything and I guess “The Wire” hits kinda too hard or Hollywood is just not on their radar, period. Like “We don’t recognize you guys.”
What was it like working with Josh?
Josh was a pleasant surprise. Josh knew his hip hop, and I think I was a pleasant surprise for him because I knew my comedy. That’s how I started, I started out with comedy, so we kinda clicked real fast, I’m telling you, this was the most comfortable set I’ve worked on since “Belly” and the reason “Belly” was so comfortable was because that was nothing but a 2 and a half hour video shoot.
I read somewhere that the bass player from System of a Down, is working with some members of the Wu-Tang Clan…
Yeah Shavo, that’s my boy, he just called me as a matter of fact, I love Shavo.
What’s he working on with you guys?
They’re doin’ some rock-hip hop collaboration, he keeps tryin’ to get me to come in but I’m never here long enough to go in with those guys. Me and Shavo we go to that restaurant over there on La Cienega, the Japanese BBQ. I don’t eat red meat anymore so I haven’t been there in a while but jeez hooooooooooooooooooo!
Are you vegan now?
No I’m not vegan.
Just no meat?
See, in order for me to be vegan, that means I have to give up milk, cheese, I’m not really crazy about milk but I love cheese. I can do the vegetarian thing, maybe for a while, I’ll see if I can do that. its been 6 months strong, no red meat, I’ve been doing a lot of turkey, a little bit of chicken, but they make so many things with turkey now, like turkey sausage, ground turkey, turkey bacon, turkey ham…
Is this a personal choice?
Personal choice, definitely, because if I could’ve I would have eaten a steak everyday for the rest of my life, but that’s not good.
So is it health wise, or you love animals….
No it’s health wise, John Wayne had , what, over 60 lbs of beef in his body wen he died.
Who else are you collaborating with?
Me and Red Man are goin’ in to do our next album, that’s pretty much where it starting, we haven’t made any phone calls yet, but we have a few guys we wanna work with like Outkast, we wanna do a whole duet type of thing, do something for the kids.
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics