There are two sides to the man best known as 50 Cent.
First, the street-hardened rapper from South Jamaica, Queens who famously survived nine bullet wounds in a 2000 shooting. And then there’s the rising Hollywood star who’s appeared in more than a dozen films and gave a smile-filled sit-down interview to Oprah in June.
Somewhere in between is Curtis Jackson.
Currently, the world can get another look at the enigmatic celebrity’s Hollywood side when Jackson, credited as Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, stars opposite Robert De Niro and Forrest Whitaker in the police drama “Freelancers.” The film, which is now available on Blu-ray/DVD and XFINITY On Demand, is the story of an NYPD rookie named Malo (Jackson), who turned to a life of law enforcement after a troubled adolescence. However, Malo soon finds himself on the wrong side of the tracks when he falls in with his father’s ex-partner (De Niro) and a crew of dirty cops.
I recently caught up with Jackson to discuss the movie, life after movie stardom and the two sides of his famous personality.
David Onda: I think people will be surprised by how good you are in “Freelancers.”
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: You know what? I’ve been working for a while now. I got the little jitters out of me. It’s just being comfortable and knowing the project, because I know I was going into it – I’ve got Forrest Whitaker and Robert De Niro. I’ve got two Academy Award-winning actors. I’ve got to show up. It’s show time.
Onda: Was it weird for you to play a cop?
Jackson: I played a police officer before, and the difference was I played a New Orleans police officer. The difference in New York City is how fast the city is moving. We went to the firing range with police officers in New York, just trying to feel the vibe of them. A lot of them – you would think maybe this guy’s actually a guy that’s in the neighborhood. He’s no different from the guy that’s on the corner and just made a decision to go and actually be a police officer. And they know exactly what’s going on anyway, just being from the environment the entire time. It made me feel like – Oh, ok. The concept that I had of this guy that I was creating in my head – let me throw that away. [laughs] And I came up with something that feels a little more authentic and it worked out.
Onda: You’ve worked with director Jessy Terrero before this. Is that how you got involved in this project?
Jackson: We’ve done two movies together. We’ve done 50 [Cent] music videos together prior to this. So I’ve been pretty comfortable with his actual direction – him telling me “do this” or “do that.” Or he’ll come and say, “You know what, that’s not the best thing I’ve seen you do. Give me something else.”
Onda: I don’t suppose Robert De Niro is a fan of your music. Was he familiar with your work?
Jackson: It’s pretty tough for you to miss it. Whether it’s your personal preference or not, you’ve heard of it. My new song, “New Day” – it’s me, Alicia Keys and Dr. Dre – but at the start, you hear Robert De Niro. I put his voice in the very beginning of the actual record.
Onda: Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
Jackson: There’s a scene that popped in my head as soon as you said that. It’s a scene where Forrest is drunk and De Niro’s telling me to go and take care of something. And we did the scene and it was never the same. Every time we did it it was completely different from the last time. We knew the gist of what we were actually doing and it was never the same. Forrest left and he came back and I was like, “Is he drunk?” He was in character. [laughing] Like, “What the f— is going on?”
Onda: What’s harder – being a hip-hop star or being an actor?
Jackson: Right now … right now it might be acting. Within hip-hop, to establish yourself now, all you need to do is work. Because the general public will meet you before you meet a record company nowadays. Like, if you go into the studio and record it, you have the ability to use even your telephone to create the video clip that could be posted on YouTube and it goes all over the world. Meanwhile, to act, there’s a long line out here.
Onda: Do you feel like people are cheating to get famous as opposed to how you made it?
Jackson: No, I think it’s using the new outlets that are available. The platforms now online provide you the ability to meet the general public before you meet the record company. You can have your music be viewed around the world and there’s no one who doesn’t have access to it once you post it on YouTube and stuff. So, what I was doing in the early stages of generating enough interest to have the bootleggers bootleg my material, create mix tapes that would circulate around – it turned what’s a nightmare for an established artist into a dream for an up-and-coming artist. It would allow the bootlegger to be my service, my distribution company. Now you can actually make money off your work. If your YouTube channel’s poppin’, you could sell ads and have product placement in a clip that actually gets millions and millions of views.
Onda: Can you be a Hollywood movie star and then go back to making the kind of music you were making at the time of “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”?
Jackson: I think the authenticity of that project was me coming out of that situation at that moment. When something’s well done, then people won’t deny it. A film based on someone’s life – we’ll watch it even if we don’t identify with the experiences they’ve had in their lives. Right now, because of the success, I consistently reflect on how far I’ve come. A lot of times, when I go sit down and start writing music, I’m writing [about] the experiences when I didn’t have it. Meanwhile, the guy that has nothing right now is writing the lifestyle I actually have right now. Because he wants to actually be in this position and he fake it ’til he make it. He’s rich already – his chains are like mine but those are not diamonds. It’s a complete reversal.
Onda: Who is closer to the real Curtis Jackson? Is it the street-hardened rapper, or is it this truly likeable guy we see talking to Oprah?
Jackson: Growing up I always had to be two people. I said that when I was on Oprah’s show. I had to be aggressive enough to get by in the environment that I come from. So, if you ask someone who knew me in that actual period, they’d say, “Naw, that’s an act” – because they know me from the aggressive side. But my grandmother has no idea what you talking about. [laughs] She’s like, “What? Not my baby.” When you put me in a threatening situation and I’m around something I’m not comfortable with, then you kind of get the 50 Cent vibe outta me. Other than that, I’m in more Curtis mode.
Onda: Even my mom saw you in the Oprah interview and said, “That 50 Cent is a really nice guy.”
Onda: And my mom would never listen to your music. No offense.
Jackson: That’s how my grandmother does it. My grandmother don’t listen to it. She buy it though. She buy it.
Onda: And the CD just sits there in the wrapper?
Jackson: In the wrapper. She says, “Sign it.” They’re not even open, but they’re signed.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.