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During his short, public life, most people only knew one side of the Notorious B.I.G.-- the showboating, glammed-up rapper, who never smiled behind his big sunglasses and led a raucous, all-too-dangerous life. But there was another man there, a doting father and son, whom his mother Voletta Wallace evoked for the cast and crew of the upcoming Notorious. The woman who buried her son when he was just 24 was on the set nearly every day, helping director George Tillman, actor Jamal Woolard (who played her son) and especially Angela Bassett, who played Mrs. Wallace, capture the essence of one of rap's most influential figures.
Wallace joined Bassett for interviews last month to promote the movie, which she had seen for the first time the night before. She spoke forcefully but tenderly about her late son, and wasn't afraid to mention the parts of his life that show up in the film that she didn't approve of at the time-- and doesn't even like all that much now. Read below to hear what parts of Christopher Wallace's life made his mother want to puke.
Mrs. Wallace, what did you think about the movie?
I loved the movie! The movie was terrific, made me angry, made me sad. I learned a lot last night [during a screening] about my son-- a lot that I never knew. But I still love him, because he was from here [gestures to heart], and the love is still here. You can't change love. I think Jamal, based on the script, did a tremendous job. He portrayed the character I think to the fullest, and he should be complimented and praised for that.
And you were on set every day?
Every day except one day.
How was it to see the story unfold? And see Jamal and say, wow, that's my boy?
The first day I saw Jamal in person, I was in a corner [in the audition room] and I whispered 'That's my son, there.' He walked in with a voice like Christopher. And I had goosebumps just looking at him. He's so appreciative, he's so humble. He thanked me for me giving him the chance. He never knew he was giving me something. He thanked me for giving him the chance to, according to him, play the greatest rapper in the world.
Were you surprised at the impact that your son's death had on the world?
No. I was surprised the day of his funeral, because I never knew. I never knew, not in my wildest dreams did I know that my son was so loved. People came out that day because they loved Christopher Wallace. Yes they loved the artist, they loved the entertainer, they came out to say goodbye to him. That was the most painful, but at the same time was most appreciated.
What were the things you learned about Christopher in the movie that surprised you?
[Interviewers] ask me what I want people to get out of this movie, and i told them I want people to see the man, the father, the son, the friend, the man with the heart condition. When I went in, I saw the father, I saw my son, I saw the friend. The man I was not crazy about. The way he treats women, it makes me want to puke. The profanity that comes out of his mouth, it makes me want to puke. I always say I have a filthy mouth, but the way I have a filthy mouth is I say s-h-i-t or damn. But when I heard that profanity coming out of his mouth, it shocked me. I'm glad the movie was made, and I'm glad I saw what I did. I'm glad I experienced it. So I know. And I have to accept the fact of who he is. But it doesn't make my love any less.