Recent lottery winner Kevin Carson isn't so fortunate. Though lucky beyond human comprehension, Kevin isn't able to just hop off his couch and head downtown to collect his state funded check. It's the holiday weekend, and everything is closed until Monday. He has to wait out the claim for three long days. Which isn't going to be easy, as every one on his block knows that he holds this winning ticket in his sweaty little hand. And their isn't a neighbor who won't try and take it away from him.
Warner Bros. latest comedy Lottery Ticket follows Carson's exploits as he tries to keep a tight grip on this small orange sheet of paper. He could be a millionaire come Monday morning, or he could be a broken man with no means to claim what is rightfully his. Every single soul within his vicinity feels they are entitled to the cash. And nothing, including Hell or high water, is going to keep these peaceful citizens from causing a riot on his street.
We recently traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the high energy set of this upcoming adventure, which is being directed by Erik White in his feature film debut. Along with rap superstar Bow Wow, who leads the film as Kevin Carson, the film also boasts an erstwhile ensemble cast that includes Brandon T. Jackson, Terry Crews, Mike Epps, Keith David, Naturi Naughton, and Ice Cube in a very special and important supporting role. We were able to chat with Bow Wow and Brandon T. Jackson, who play best friends in the film. We were also paid a visit by the very cordial and talkative Terry Crews.
It's been a while since Bow Wow has taking on an acting role in a project. But for him, this particular film seemed like a no brainer, "I was so eager and ready to take this on. I have two jobs, and it's hard to find the time for both. If I do a movie, everyone is asking me, 'When is your next album coming out? When are you touring?' When I am hot, and making music, people are constantly saying, 'When are you doing a movie?' I just thought this was the time. I love movies more than I love rapping. So I was like, 'Yo! I have to get back into this!' If it were up to me, I would knock out three or four movies a year. My fans have been wanting it. My manager told me that this project had my name all over it. If they didn't get me, it wouldn't happen at all. Once I commited to it, it all fell into place. Three months later, I heard that Ice Cube wanted it too. He signed on as a producer, and he wanted to play Mr. Washington. Once that happened? Ice Cube and Bow Wow together in a film like this? The cast started rolling in. I was on board from day one."
Describing the film in his own words, Bow Wow explained, "The film is about a kid who wins the lottery on Fourth of July weekend. Unfortunatly, on that weekend, you have to wait to cash in your ticket. I have to keep this whole thing a secret. For anyone who has never lived in the hood, you might not know how hard it is to keep these things quiet. Now that the word is out, I am fighting off everyone that wants a piece of me. I have people fighting me, trying to kill me. They want stuff. I am going through all of these things in a two day period. I have to keep my mouth closed so that when Monday comes, I can go claim my prize. That is what its all about. When the word gets out that I have this ticket, it becomes total chaos."
Ice Cube and Bow Wow shared the screen once before in All About the Benjamins, a film who's plot also revolved around a missing lottery ticket. In the context of that thriller, the two rappers only shared one short scene with each other. Lottery Ticket gave them a chance to create a real on-screen repartee with one another, and it was a much different experience. Bow Wow says, "This relationship is unique. Kevin lives with his grandmother. He never had his mother or father around. People in the neighborhood think that Mr. Washington is a weirdo. But to Kevin, he senses something special about the man. Especially in our first scene together. This is a guy that never comes up from downstairs. All of the other kids think he is a weirdo because he never comes out of the basement. Kevin has a unique relationship with him, because he grows to understand that this is a real person. In a way, he becomes a mentor. The voice that a young man needs in his life. Kevin doesn't have a man in his life. Mr. Washington gives him some much needed wisdom, and Kevin returns the favor once he wins the lottery. Kevin gives him a job. Mr. Washington says, 'Who ever won should clean up this neighborhood.' Kevin listens to him. Kevin might be young, he might have a lot of money, and he might think about doing a lot of reckless stuff. But Mr. Washington is right. If you look around your environment, and maybe its bad, then he is right. It should be fixed. That is the relationship that Kevin and Mr. Washington have. It's like that grandfather-grandson kind of thing. The older guy schooling the younger cat."Their relationship isn't much different off-screen, "I've known Ice Cube for a long time. Even out there in Los Angeles. We play in the same basketball league for entertainers. That is where I first met him. We've always been cool. I shoot him an email every blue moon. I remember him having some projects, and I would hit him up, 'Let me come read for them!' He'd say, 'Alright, no problem.' That is why it's cool that we're here now, making this film together. I have been asking him so many questions. He is an icon. He also made that transition from music to acting. People take him very seriously. That is what I want to end up doing eventually. Just stop rapping and become an actor. I get a bug where I don't want to rap anymore. I just want to do film. It's weird for people to talk to me about this. Because in my mind I feel forty. I have been doing this since I was five. Things that I might have to wait for until I was eighteen? I have already done it, or seen it already. Therefore, I am already twenty-years older than I actually am. I am twenty-three. My next album will be my eighth album. Or my ninth. I have lost count. Most guys my age haven't even made three. So I am ready to stop. Ice Cube is like, 'No, man. You can go on to make thirty albums if you want to. You can always be an actor. And while you are doing that, you can drop singles, or make a record. Don't limit yourself. You could do this forever.' He is right. I listened to him. These are the things I talk to him about."
Brandon T. Jackson is Benny, Kevin's right hand man. At first, you'd assume that he'd have his best friend's back when all Hell breaks loose upon the neighborhood learning Carson is a big time lottery winner. Brandon isn't so sure, though. He explained his character's motivation in the film, "I'm the guy that is a hustler. Benny is very smart. He wants to get out of his surroundings. He represents everyone in the hood who is tired of being broke. He can't pay for food, cell phone bills. He almost lives vicariously through Kevin when he wins the lottery. He looks at that ticket as everyone's way out. He doesn't think they will ever have to do anything. They are good! Benny is also the comic relief. He is the heart of the film. It is a really cool role. I think a lot of kids will be able to relate. Kevin is a little more straight-laced. Benny is a little more heightened. He is a little more loose."
The setting of the film is meant to be relatable to anyone who has ever struggled with cash and all the problems that come without having any, "This takes place in the projects. Its anywhere in America. We don't tell you the city. If you have ever been to the projects, you know it's about poverty. This hits the recession right on the head. Benny is the type of person that sells doorknobs and earring backs, and knick-knacks. Anything to make a quick buck. The twist comes when Kevin wins that three hundred and seventy million dollars. It becomes a whole different situation. These two guys are no longer trapped. They can go anywhere they like. They can do anything they want. Its time to live it up. The tagline for this movie is, 'It's hot and we're rich! Let's live it up!' In the beginning, Benny actually says, 'It's hot and I'm broke. Let me live it up.' That right there says everything you need to know about the movie. It's Friday, you ain't got a job, and you ain't got nothing to do, you know what I mean? Benny is stirring up everything in the movie."
This is Brandon's second collaboration with Bow Wow since working with him on the roller skating odyssey Roll Bounce. Jackson was beyond ecstatic to hook up with the rapper-turned-actor a second time, "Working with Bow Wow is good. We are a little bit older now. Some rappers can't act, but then you have Bow Wow, who is a really good actor. Its fun to go off with him. He is always right there killing it. Its nice to have someone who is taking this so seriously."
The one disappointing aspect about taking on the role of Benny is that Brandon has to play it straighter than he has in the past, "I didn't really get to show my comedic side as fully as I wanted to in this film. I think Benny is funny. But he doesn't ever play the joke. He plays the situation. I had to take this a little bit more seriously. You see certain comedians in a movie, and they are constantly playing the joke. There is more heart to Benny. He is more human. It's not just a bunch of jokes. He is funny as Hell. The little things he does are funny as Hell. Everyone grew up with Benny. It's not the over the top stereotype funny that you see in movies every day. He is a real character and the situation makes him funny. I don't want to be one of those comedians that go straight for the joke."Terry Crews, on the other hand, is never afraid to go over the top with his performance. And he's enjoyed bringing a bit of humor into his own stately presence on set. He told us about his character, "I play Jimmy the driver. This script is really funny. You can come in and do a spot, and make an impact. This is a small role, but I am having a lot of fun with it. Ice Cube gave me my start. So this is one of those things where they called, and I said, 'Let's do it.' I don't like to sit at home. I like to be in projects. I like to get better. I thought this was a great movie to be in. When Kevin and Benny know for a fact that they have won the lottery, they go to Keith David. He plays the neighborhood loan shark. And I am his right hand man. I am in charge of driving these guys around on a spending spree. I am a grown man escorting these kids around. This film goes to show how money changes everything. And I become part of the gang. At first I am mad about having to baby sit these kids while they go on their spending spree, but then they start spending money on me. So its okay!"
Its exciting for the ex-pro football player to be working with Ice Cube again, after having appeared with him in The Friday After Next, "You have to realize how many people came out of his camp. Ice Cube has started a lot of careers. There are a lot of people who are around because he gave them their first shot. I am talking both musically and film wise. There is a whole cottage industry that has fallen from that tree. We have a show we're doing together next year. I am thankful that we are good friends."