Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is a man of many talents. Over the past seven years, he’s transitioned from rapper to actor alongside some of the best in the business. In his latest film Freelancers, he carries his own opposite two Academy Award winners: Robert De Niro and Forest Whitaker. Jackson stars as Malo, a rookie cop who’s pulled into a world of corruption — on the right side of the law. He along with his childhood friends AD and Lucas, are tested when the boundaries of good and bad are blurred. ScreenCrave recently spoke with Jackson about his character, the unpredictable script, and pulling together an A-list cast.
You’ve worked with Jessy Terrero in the past, as he’s directed some of your music videos (“Wanksta,” “Many Men”). How did he get involved with Freelancers?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: I actually brought the screenplay up to Jessy.
You previously starred with Robert De Niro in Righteous Kill. Did you have anything to do with him signing on?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: I made the phone call to De Niro and got him involved. After he actually committed to the project it helped me get Forest [Whitaker]. Because you want to stay in good company. You’ve got two Academy Award-winning actors in a project, and I was able to get myself together. You don’t want to be unprepared when you’re in the presence of that kind of talent.
Forest Whitaker plays a very corrupt and unbalanced character. How was it sharing scenes with him?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: I got a chance to speak to him the day before we actually started shooting. And it was a completely different person from who I worked with the majority of the time onset. He came in character. We didn’t do much talking while we were actually onset. Afterwards, back in the trailer, we’d get a chance to talk. Everybody — they were so focused. De Niro was a little more relaxed. I could get a conversation out of him in between us doing a scene. But Forest was all the way. I guess it [was] because of his character. It had a lot of different energy in it.
A lot of familiar TV cops appear in Freelancers (Michael McGrady from Southland and Matt Gerald from The Shield). Was that deliberate casting?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: It was very well put together. I watched those shows. After we got De Niro and Forest, it was easy. It helps to start with people who have the larger portions of the actual film to get put in place. And then have the casting agent find people that fit the rest of the world that’s going on. It’s easier for people to see them under the circumstances they are in the film, because they’ve played roles that are associated with the lifestyle of a police officer.
In the film, Malo and his friends are paired with veteran cops. Unfortunately, their training officers are really jaded, angry and prejudice. Why is that?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: That anger is attached to the financial [situation]. Of course there’s that status — they can flip the lights and run the red lights when they feel like it. But they’re not earning very much. It’s pretty tough not to profile a person when the dress code or the style of the guy you keep arresting is [the same]. If you ride past the same corners where the same people in the environment dress a certain way, you start to feel like, ‘Yeah, he could be doing something’ regardless if he’s going to do something out of pocket or not. You just see the possibility based on what you’ve seen in the past. And over time, you start to develop that thinking. You may not be conscious of it but it’s there.
Malo’s friends seem like two sides of the same coin. AD is more rational and apprehensive, while Lucas has no boundaries. How did you see them?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: They served as the good and the bad angel on your shoulders. They served that for Malo’s character. To be aware of those things, and to come from the same environment. AD was there, but he still had the morals. He shied away from the situation. The other character [Lucas], he was overcompensating for growing up in the environment they did and being white.
Malo treads the line of being a hero and a villain. Why can’t we figure him out?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: That’s what excited me about the project. I feel like I’ve seen those movies so much. I’ve seen them so often that it’s not really exciting to me.
There’s a line in the film where he says he never claimed to be a good guy.
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: In the whole film, his goals are changing. His goal early on was to impress LaRue, Forest’s character. It’s like when people make comparisons to Training Day, it’s an extreme difference. Forest’s character LaRue is as bad as Denzel [Washington] was, [but] my character embraces the things they ran away from in Training Day. And kind of regresses until he’s worse than LaRue himself.
Is his morality intentionally vague?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: In life, people don’t actually have one intention. So what made me excited about it not being very clear what he was, was he made decisions at different points that you felt like he was the responsible leader on some levels. But then, he would just do things just because he was in the heat of the moment. That feels real to me.
Is Freelancers a revenge story or a redemption story?
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: In the first act, it does feel like a redemption story doesn’t it? Because there was someone in Malo’s life that his family deemed him unfit for because of his earlier activities. Now I’m a police officer. Now I’m the right guy. When he actually ends up in a circle of people based around his dad he finds himself doing most of the things that he started on the streets — on the other end. It just shifts. But those times are what made me excited about the actual project because I didn’t know where we were going. When I was reading it for the first time, I said, ‘This is good.’
Freelancers is available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, August 21.