Details: You're publishing a book, One Day It'll All Make Sense, this month.Isn't 39 kind of young to write a memoir?
Common: My manager approached me with the idea. The acting roles were picking up, and I was just becoming more assertive and more defined as a man, and I had accomplished some things that needed telling. But at first, I was like, "No, man, this is something older people do."
Details: It's not your average celebrity autobiography. You relied on your mother's words nearly as much as your own.
Common: My mom has obviously had a powerful influence on my life, and her voice can describe certain things that I couldn't see in myself. Somebody told me, "It's hard for the eye to see itself." Some things only my mother would be able to tell.
Details: At 12 years old, you were a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls. Do you keep up with Michael Jordan?
Common: He came to one of my shows at the House of Blues in Chicago, and I was smart enough not to introduce him until the third-to-last song, otherwise no one would have even paid attention to me. The thing I learned at that time was that the great players really handled their business. Michael, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird—you could just see the determination. When I'm around a Kanye West or even an Angelina Jolie, I can see that same thing in them.
Details: Have you ever compared notes with MC Hammer, who was a bat boy for the Oakland As in the seventies?
Common: No, never. I saw him once on a plane and we had a good conversation, but I never thought about the bat-boy thing. At the end of the day, Hammer had a big influence on pop music, but people always dwell on the fact that he made $30 million.
Details: Well, he also spent $30 million.
Common: Exactly. I didn't want to get to that part, I wanted to look on the brighter side.
Details: Your dad was a pro basketball player in the ABA, and you were on that track too, until you got poked in the eye in high school and started getting into rap. Would you like to thank the guy who injured you?
Common: I really would. I'm not trying to be sarcastic. Obviously God knew I wasn't going to make it to the NBA as much as I probably believed. This was divine order.
Details: You were born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., but you went by Common Sense until
you were sued by a ska band with that name in 1995. What ever happened to
Common: My film agent was just at a car dealership, and the guy saw he had one of my CDs and said, "Hey, man, I'm in this band Common Sense . . ." That was really painful for me at the time. I chose this name and was building my audience, and these guys sued me.
Details: But he's at a car dealership now—you can take the name back. Your lawyer can beat up his lawyer.
Common: Yeah, that's true. I'll tell you this much: As soon as you stop paying those lawyers, boy, that's an expense you don't want to incur.
Details: In the nineties, Ice Cube called you a "pussy-whipped bitch" during a
well-publicized feud. Do you find it ironic that he's now doing family
shows like Are We There Yet?
Common: We went through our battles and we're done with that. His early work was some of the best hip-hop that ever existed, and he's opened doors for people to make the transition into being a producer and an actor. I can't explain why he's more into doing film now than music. I can only speak for myself—there were times when I just wasn't inspired by creating music.
Details: You played a professional basketball player opposite Queen Latifah in your first lead film role, the coolly received Just Wright. Did you realize it was troubled when you heard the title?
Common: Let me put it this way: I knew it was a romantic comedy, and they do what they do and don't try to make it too creative, just play it straight down the line. I was honestly excited to have my first leading role. I was like, "Hey, call it what you want to call it. I just want to make this as good as I can make it."
Details: In 2008 you were cast as the Green
Lantern in George Miller's unproduced Justice League of America movie.
Have you seen the new movie?
Common: No, not yet, man. I've been working a lot. But I definitely wanted to be the Green Lantern.
Details: What does Ryan Reynolds have that you don't have?
Common: He's starred in a lot of successful movies, and obviously they wanted to start with the first Green Lantern. Hopefully they'll get to the John Stewart character, which is the Green Lantern I would have been playing. I will say there have been a lot of times that I've said, "Man, I wish I would have gotten that role," and then I see it, and I'm like, "Thank you, God," because the movie turned out to be mediocre.
Details: This fall, you'll be one of the leads in the AMC show Hell on Wheels. Is it harder to maintain credibility in your music career as you gain momentum in your acting career?
Common: I think you really have to remember what you loved about making music in the first place. Ultimately, people can be like, "We've seen this dude in many movies," but if they hear a song and they're feeling it, they can look past all the personal things and not hold it against you that you're also an actor. But the music has to be there, know what I'm saying?