In today’s Hollywood era, there is no escaping the preconceived stereotype that a movie sequel is simply a money grab. Actors know it. Directors know it. And there is no way stopping a social media groupthink once the ball begins to landslide.
Which is why Ice Cube made sure to iron out any preconceived stereotypes he personally had in early stages of his latest film, Barbershop: The Next Cut.
“We had to be more than just laughs or ‘roast-the-celebrity’ so we just came up with a great story that fit like a glove and was perfect to really just highlight what the barbershop really is,” Cube tells HipHopDX during a roundtable interview for the film, which arrives 12 years after the last installment, 2004’s Barbershop 2: Back in Business. The veteran actor and iconic rap legend credits returning producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman, Jr. and writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver with accomplishing those demands of refreshing an old story and making it culturally relevant for a completely different decade.
A lot has changed in the world—namely in the world of Chicago—since Cube Vision and New Line Cinema made an impression in the scarcity realm of black cinema. While the original films did highlight the societal ills and challenges faced in the South Side of Chicago, the ensuing years has seen the Windy City become an integral war zone for gun violence, earning the unsolicited nickname, “Chiraq” and even having rappers and citizens being shot in broad daylight. The mission for The Next Cut was to make such perils apparent to the moviegoer, while still putting forth the effort to entertain.
To strengthen the mission, a new wave of cast members were introduced. Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Eve get to interact with first-timers, J.B. Smoove, Deon Cole, Regina Hall and Tyga, among others. Also new to the series is another thespian who shares zero degrees of separation from Ice Cube: Common. He’s cast as Rashad; a character who fits the description of many of the Grammy and Oscar Award-winning star from Chicago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he played himself.
“He’s a new character in the film but the backstory is he’s been a friend of Calvin’s [Ice Cube’s character], Common, born Lonnie Lynn, explained. “He has a son who just moved in with him; he’s married to Eve’s character Terry and he represents the strong, black man in the barbershop. I was able to improv but I was actually learning from the [ensemble cast]. For me, it was like watching musicians who can improv like in a freestyle or cypher. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”
Cube also spoke highly of his new co-star’s (and new recording partner) time on set.
“When Michael Ealy couldn’t do it, we were looking for another handsome brother that the ladies would like,” Cube recalled, laughing at our notion that Common fulfilled the light-skinned quota for the film.
“I think he adds that authentic Chicago flavor to the movie. Shooting in Atlanta, just looking over and seeing Common made me feel like, ‘we really in Chicago!'” Common was just great. To me, he’s leading-man material. We were lucky to have him. We were lucky to have him. We did have our beef back in the day, and it’s no residue left from that, which is amazing.”
Next Cut director Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man) specializes in bringing together African-American casts and allowing the characters to each make their mark in various angles in terms of topics. According to Cube, the importance of the barbershop (or beauty shop for that matter; as evidenced in the film) to the community isn’t one that should be taken lightly.
“What’s so cool about the barbershop is it shows us as black that we don’t have the same opinion about the same issues,” he says. “If you throw a topic up, just like us in this room have all different opinions, the same thing is going to happen in the barbershop. And I think it’s a great discovery moment for people who think [we] agree on everything. Kind of like ‘If ya black, you think O.J. [Simpson] is innocent [Laughs]. We wanted to show that there are complex conversations about this just like it would be in any community, and to me that’s great for the psyche for whoever is watching.”
Nonetheless, with the regards to the balance of funny and frfr, the dark side gets its day. New Girl star Lamorne Morris, another newcomer to the series, plays Jerrod, a manchild barber who is largely centered around comedic relief but he also came into filming with personal experiences in mind.
“I was born in Southside, Chicago and then I moved to the Westside suburbs when I was about 15. So I could see the difference…When you’re living in it, it becomes normal,” Morris, 32, admits. “For me, this movie was intense. I remember people being shot in a barbershop. My best friend was robbed in a barbershop. And after they robbed him, as they were leaving, they just shot it up. Nobody got hit but certain things just become senseless. It’s almost like a nightmare at certain points. But, the cool thing about this movie it kind of offers a viable solution to a certain extent. It starts from within.”
It wasn’t all attempted homicide and Barbicide for Morris growing up, however. He does admit he saw his first porno underneath a barbershop roof. Such invaluable knowledge can’t be taught in a classroom.
Earlier this month, there was a shooting in Chicago that made it tragically unique in the news as the victim was actually livestreaming on Facebook when he was shot multiple times, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Common tells us he was aware of the incident but was immediately turned off by the headline (“I didn’t even want to watch that video”) but is aware that a turnaround point, big or small, only comes with action.
“We don’t only want to deal with themes in Chicago. We want to see it all over,” Common says before stating “I want people to leave [the film] being inspired but also to have fun, too. We put art out there as something to help inspire and help bring awareness to things and also just entertain, but it has to go beyond the art and we have to be active in the communities; finding out what really communities need. From my observations, it’s always been the jobs and opportunities that is helpful to bringing peace to people. Because when you got a job and money, there’s less time to go and do crazy things. Also, we got to help support education and giving the youth chances to have programs and stuff. That’s just some of the things. I don’t have all of the solutions. I don’t think a movie offers all of the solutions but we doing our best to put out the right energy and hopefully the people can enjoy the movie and feel inspired to make a change.”
Common also vigilantly works with his Common Ground Foundation, an organization he describes as “village support” where educators help kids learn they have options to dream through programs two weekends a month and a summer camp in July. His mother, a longtime member of the Chicago Board of Education actually serves as one of the visionaries.
It’s a place to laugh and socialize but it’s also a place to get some therapy. [The black community] is not big on going to therapy and talking to people but for some reason, you get in that kind of setting and you start talking about your issues and people there understand and know how to help you. Sometimes they give you bullshit advice but so does your psychiatrist, so it all works out.” –Ice Cube
Mandatory weighty issues aside, Barbershop: The Next Cut is still portly with laughs and relatable moments for fans who identify with any sect of Hip Hop. Cube has no qualms in pulling his producer card, as he maintains he doesn’t like anything corny nor Hollywood solutions to major issues.
When we asked if the Barbershop franchise could be experiencing a television spinoff, Saturday morning cartoon or even whole grain cereal that’s part of today’s complete breakfast, his comedic sarcasm alluded to the suggestion there probably will be more in store.
“After the Barbershop come out, that’s the end of the world, right? I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said with a grin.
One prediction could be a very solid box office showing.