Method Man plays a pretty small role in the movie The Wackness, but at the time the movie is set, 1994, he was anything but minor. Part of the Wu-Tang Clan, which was just reaching fame in the early 90s, Method Man was the only artist to collaborate with both Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., two of the most influential rap artists at the time. Suffice it to say that you would not have found Method Man running an underground pot dealing business in New York City in the summer of 1994.
But that’s the role he takes on in The Wackness-- Percy, a drug dealer and friend to awkward Luke (Josh Peck). Method Man sat down with a group of New York journalists last week to talk frankly about way more than just his movie. Read below to hear his opinions on everything from the state of the music industry to New York City gentrification, and oh, a little bit of speculation on whether or not there’s a superhero costume in his future.
You do so many things in your career—you sing, you act, you produce…
I don’t like 9 to 5s.
Which for you is more creatively fulfilling?
Music, of course music. I’ve got more creative control when I do music. Plus, there’s no feeling like being in a stadium and 30,000 people singing the words to a song that you wrote.
What was it about this project that attracted you?
Well I wanted to do something independent. I had spoken to my manager about it. But I wanted to do something quality. [Jonathan] gave me an opportunity to shine, so I commend that brother a lot.
Did you know anything about Jonathan’s work at all?
No. But YouTube is a mug, boy. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, I saw a trailer for that. Three things made me do the movie. 1) I wanted to do something independent. 2) Ben Kingsley. And 3) When I met Jonathan.
Tell us about meeting Ben.
That was crazy. When I first got to the set, I was on my way to my trailer, he was coming out of his trailer. I didn’t know if I was going to get Sexy Beast Kingsley or Gandhi Kingsley. It was a little bit of both, though. He was a really good guy. I didn’t feel uncomfortable around him at all. He’s very accommodating. He earned that title, Sir.
How do you feel about the idea of this movie showing 1994 New York to young people for the first time?
You can’t even really call this a period piece, because ’94 wasn’t really that long ago. The music was a lot better. Coming up in ’94, and Jonathan trying to capture it in this film, he had to include the music, because it played such a big part in the early ’90s, especially the hip hop.
So what’s happened to music now? I can’t even listen to the radio today.
They want to blame the artists, and of course we’ve got to take some of the blame for it, but the record companies are pushing it out like fast food now. It’s hard for them to adjust to the Generation Y. These kids, I don’t even think they understand what power they hold. Without knowing it, they’re crippling the music industry by going on their computers and downloading. We’re in a digital era, a voyeuristic era too. Remember when you had to watch Rescue 911 and they had to do the dramatizations? Now we have actual footage! It’s crazy. But a lot of [the problem with the music industry] has to do with the people behind it. Radio has to be held accountable, record company execs have to be held accountable, and the artists.
Do you see a lot of potential in that online distribution of music?
Oh yeah. It’s a double-edged sword. If you’re an up-and-coming artist, trying to be recognized and be seen, that’s a great outlet. But if you’re already established, it’ll kill you.
What are your memories from 1994?
Wu-Tang was just hitting, really hitting. We went to L.A. to get a buzz out there. I was working on my solo album at the time. Everything was brand new. I’m meeting stars for free, going to the Soul Train awards, flying first class on an airplane. Getting my own suite, instead of having to bunk with somebody all the damn time.
Do independent movies like this inspire you to make something on your own?
I’ve always wanted to do something on my own, before this. It’s just the nature—kid from the hood. I hate to sound clichéd, but it’s where I’m from. We’re ambitious. I’ve always wanted to make my own movie. I have ideas flowing through my head all the time. That’s why when I got the opportunity to do this comic book, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been reading comic books since I was a little tyke. I still read them today.
So would that movie in your mind be based on a comic book, a superhero?
Yeah. Definitely. Minus the love story, because they’re killing my comic books, they’re prostituting it. Girls are going to come sit in the seats anyway. A lot of girls like boy stuff. Look how many tickets Sex and the City sold. If you want to sit the girls in the seats, you don’t have to put the love story in there. They have stuff they can go see. The Notebook? Is that the name of that damn movie?
So what’s your ideal superhero movie of the ones that we already have?
Tops for me was definitely Sin City. A History of Violence-- some people didn’t know that was a comic book.
You like action too. Do you want to be an action hero?
I’ve got to bulk up more. I like more grounded stuff, like Requiem for a Dream.
You seem like you watch a lot of movies.
I do. And I’m a sucker for nominees at Golden Globes and stuff like that. I will go check those movies, just to throw my thumb down. I hate all that artsy fartsy shit, but when it’s artsy fartsy and it’s good…
You really seem like you’re ready to make your own movie.
If I do, I would like to do a film like that Bugsy Malone movie, with Scott Baio and all the kids.
Not even the musical aspect. They dealt with gangster stuff, but in a playful manner. Instead of shooting bullets, they shot custard.
Would you make something based on your own experiences?
Mmm-hmm. My childhood experiences, definitely.
What was it like going to Sundance with The Wackness?
I was a small fish in a big pond. The experience could have been way more enjoyable. It was at first, until all the swag stuff that I was invited to. Those people that stand at those doors, you’d think they were giving away their own stuff. Peons need to stay where peons need to stay, let’s put it that way.
A lot of the press on the film has focused on the pot angle. And your character is quite a dealer.
Yeah, he supplies. But the way I see the character is he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. That’s his culture. So he doesn’t think he’s doing anything illegal. The reason why he and Luke are so tight is, being in the business that he’s in, you can’t trust a lot of people. So when you find one you can trust, that’s someone you hang on to.
1994 was a year of big change in New York City, and it seems like those changes are still happening today. Harlem is changing, the Lower East Side is changing. People are being run out. Did you see those comparisons in the film?
I didn’t see that part of it, because [the movie] is actually coming from Luke’s perspective, and it’s just his world. And in a city as big as New York, to make it contained like that is a great job too. You know, we had to survive Reaganomics first. That shit just ripped the whole city apart—pardon my Swahili. The crack era just damaged us. Then we get Giuliani, turns it into a police state—cops everywhere, which was good and bad. You had some dudes using excessive force. Some people have died or been beaten wrongfully, and Mayor Giuliani always stood by the side of police officers. You do see a ripple effect from what happened in Times Square, because now it’s spreading up all the way through Harlem. Now in Harlem, they’re raising the rents and kicking the people out. Harlem has a rich history, a rich black history out there, and it would be a shame to see that thrown away.
So what about your music career?
I’ve always worked hard on my music, but in the past three years, getting beat up by the media and the radio and all these people, I’ve been turned off. I can see if I was getting beat up and badgered by these people, but in the same note these people that they’re praising have better music and are way better than me. But that’s when I’ve got a problem with it.
What’s coming up next for you?
More music. Me and Redman are working on an album right now. We’re trying to get it out in September. Def Jam Records.
What about another movie or TV project with you and Redman?
We’re waiting on Dustin [Abraham] to finish writing How High part two. The direction he was going, we weren’t feeling. He was way out in space with it somewhere. We told him we want something more grounded, more ghetto. Yes, we want to piss off the bourgie black people.