In the 2002 film 8 Mile, actor Mekhi Phifer served as one of the film’s main characters, but according to Phifer, it was a role he nearly passed on. While speaking with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, the Harlem-born actor revealed that when he was first approached about 8 Mile, the movie seemed cheesy.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was interesting because when it first came up I was like ‘It sounded cheesy.’ I was like ‘nah.’ And I was due to start ‘ER’ actually right before the movie started. And I was like ‘Nah, I’m just gonna start the show, man.’”

It wasn’t until Phifer read the script and met Eminem in Detroit, that he began to gain interest in the film. He would ultimately go on to star in 8 Mile as Future, a character loosely based off of Eminem’s good friend, Proof.

“I wasn’t stressing it, but what I did was I read the script. And the script was real slick,” Phifer said. “And then they flew me to Detroit. And then me and Em just got together and just started building. You know what I mean? And I was like ‘Yo, I like this cat.’ You know? And then Curtis Hanson, dope ass director. It just all came together. You know what I mean? And we kinda wanted to be true to—Cause it was loosely based on Em’s career and Em’s life and Proof…And I felt honored—especially R.I.P to Proof. Being able to show him in that light. Cause I thought the movie was real slick. And I had fun portraying him.”

In addition to starring alongside Eminem in 8 Mile, Phifer had the opportunity to work with another Hip Hop artist while filming the Charles Stone III-directed film, Paid In Full. Phifer spoke on what drew him to the film, which also stars Harlem rapper Cam’ron, during his interview with The Breakfast Club.

He also recalled meeting with the friends and family of Harlem drug dealer Rich Porter while preparing for his Paid In Full role.

“I’m from Harlem, so I grew up as a kid knowing about these cats,” he said. “You know what I mean? I never met ‘em personally as a kid. I was just a youngblood. So, when it came around I was like ‘Yeah, I gotta be a part of this. This is a way to represent where I’m from.’ And then playing Rich Porter, or Mitch in the movie, you know—cause he was so cool. He was like legendary back in the days. You know what I mean? And people always talked about him and talked about they whole crew…What I did though as far as research, I met with Rich Porter’s sister. I met with his homeboys. One of his best friends, this cat Jay Black. So, you know, we just roll around, building, talking about things, and they show me certain spots where certain things happened. They showed me the McDonalds where they went to do the money drop for his little brother. When they kidnapped his little brother.”

In addition to 8 Mile and Paid In Full, Mekhi Phifer has also starred in Dawn Of The Dead, Soul Food, and Clockers. The actor will soon appear in the Neil Burger-directed film Divergent when it’s released on March 21.

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