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With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus crisis, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense of how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood’s top writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.
A prolific producer and actor, currently doing both for ABC drama For Life, 50 Cent is used to keeping a busy schedule. So, after spending nearly two months in his New York City home, he naturally seems a bit restless. Speaking with THR, the rapper talks about how he’s spending his days (working out and an excessive reading list for his four Power spinoffs), modeling his career after Sylvester Stallone and why he has thus far ignored the pull of quarantine-era Instagram Live battles.
Hey, you hanging in there?
What’s a normal day like for you now?
I was blessed with getting some gym equipment, weights and stuff, so I go downstairs and I work out a little bit before breakfast. I do things in stages, little things. I watch TV. Twice a week, I have an hourly call with my staff. I’m working on multiple projects, and I’ve got the spirits business.
Are vodka sales up?
Oh, it’s increasing. It’s one of the businesses that don’t take a hit. People get stressed, and they go to one of two things: prayer or some vice that helps them not feel those feelings.
You’re in New York?
Yeah. It’s tough in New York, because the buildings themselves are a representation of people on top of people. We’re conditioned to be pretty close to each other. But you learn to mind your own business fast.
Are you going outside for walks or anything?
Before I got my treadmill, I was running outside, but it was more of an attempt. If you’re used to doing three miles on the treadmill and you go out on the street, you’ll be back really fast. First attempt, I came back and I couldn’t breathe. I was pretty sure it was from running and not corona.
So now you’re only working out at home?
In my Connecticut estate, I had a full gym. Mike Tyson owned it before me. It had every type of workout machine you could think of. I chose not to do the same here, initially, because I assumed I’d just go to the gym in the neighborhood. People buy these machines, even like one piece, put it their house and it just sits under the bed — so having a full fitness club to yourself makes you wonder how much you really can use.
What made you stay in the city instead of going to Connecticut?
Oh, I sold that place. I gave the proceeds to charity. I needed that place, man. There are points when you need confirmation of success. It was more than a house. It was also connected to my viewpoint on Mike Tyson. At that point [in 2003], all I had was about $800 a month for bills on a place and a monthly car note on a small Mercedes Benz that I bought my grandmother. Then, when I came home from a tour, I had $38 million. And if you don’t figure out how to spend it, they are going to take it. So I went to look at this property, and it was 55,000 square feet. It was like the entire block that I lived on at the time.
That’s very large.
And it was amazing in the beginning, because you want to bring everybody. You’ve got 18 bedrooms, 25 bathrooms, a nightclub that hosts 1,500 people, a fitness club, indoor-outdoor basketball, a studio. You got everything you need in one place.
Except a bodega.
You can pick an area and pay someone to come make you a bodega. (Laughs.) You can bring as many people as you want and still have your privacy. And it has to be a nonstop party for you to be utilizing a property like that. But there’s a point where you look around and you go, “I have 20 people here for no reason.” Nobody else has 20 people when they go home. That was not the goal.
What are you working on these days?
The BMF [Black Mafia Family] project is greenlit now on Starz. We’re doing everything behind the scenes for the show, and we have tentative dates if we can go back to business. If we do, there are adjustments that have to be made. There are going to be waivers for people who want to work. The insurance companies are not going to insure this COVID stuff.
And you’re attached to produce all four Power spinoffs?
I’ve never read so much in my life. (Laughs.) I get so much of the tedious part of what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s a lot more work than performing, for me personally. Not to take away from the craft of acting … but once you have backstory of a character, you become more and more comfortable with it. This process is always new information, and there are lot of things that require your participation as a producer.
Do you get pressure to appear on camera for the projects you produce?
My hero in my career is Sylvester Stallone. He made Rocky and Rambo. He went and made all of the stuff he needed to be a successful actor. So, if the project is as good as you say it is, why won’t you be in it? A lot of good actors become producers because they have such a strong value that the studios will take their things. But the stuff that they’re not in, why would they take it?
What about stuff you don’t produce?
I did Den of Thieves, with O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Gerard Butler [in 2018], but I first read that project five years before they made it. I had asked my agents to give me really good action scripts, the best ones they could get their hands on. I was reading the different scripts and getting excited by them, but then we’d talk about them and the guys who analyzed them were saying it was shit. I’m like, “What? You didn’t like it? This part right here, where everything blows up? This is good action.” And they were like, “No, that’s some bullshit right there. You don’t want to do that.” (Laughs.)
You know what you like.
Look at For Life. That was two years ago that I picked that project. It lands with perfect timing, with everything going on even social awareness and the [justice] system. I knew that eventually they’d be ready to deal with it. And it was interesting making it. There was one point where someone at Sony, in their legal department, she started a conversation about whether or not we utilize the fact that it’s a true story. What? That’s the whole thing! What the fuck?! We find out that she previously worked in criminal law and worked in the district attorney’s office.
And all Hollywood generally wants is preexisting IP or projects based on true stories.
This is why you should do it! But they look at it in so many different ways. And it’s rare that you have a project that’s a hit and you don’t have anyone sue you. The only thing anyone can do in America is sue. Now, can you win or can you get something? That’s a different question.
How invested are you in the music on the shows you produce?
There’s a place for bad music, and a lot of the time it’s television. It’s the last place they spend the money in the budget. That’s where they cut corners. You’ll hear some shit playing in the background of a major production and go, “Who is that?” The song that’s playing at one o’clock in the morning, the hottest song that you would play at a nightclub — that’s the song I want.
But a lot of TV shows with good reputations for music got them by breaking new artists.
The radio is not making stars anymore. They don’t pick a record from any artist and say, “We’re going to play this and break this artist.” They’re just surviving. They’re not looking to grow. Now you have to look at Spotify and YouTube to see who’s getting streamed. Anyone who can get in a recording studio is in the music business. You can make a record and put it out tomorrow. The record business, now, they don’t even have artist development. They’re finding artists that already have momentum.
What new music are you listening to now?
Roddy Ricch. I listen to his joints. That kid is dope, and he’s definitely not afraid to try new shit.
Do you have any interest in these Instagram Live battles?
Everybody is on Instagram right now. All of the artists battling each other, that’s fun to watch, but I haven’t done that. When my show For Life came on, I was doing a Live so I could communicate with the audience before and after the episodes. We had things to talk about though. I try not to over-utilize those things. I’m not turning it on because I’ve got no one to talk to. I’ll just call someone. (Laughs.)
What are you looking forward to doing when this is all over?
Getting back to work. This year got off to a good start. I got my Hollywood Star. I won a [NAACP Image] Award for directing an episode of Power. Things were going in the right direction. This just slowed me down.
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