Three years after the release of Keanu Reeves action thriller, “John Wick” (2014), the former assassin and his puppy try to live a recluse life but he’s unwillingly forced out of retirement for an international killing spree in “John Wick: Chapter 2”.
“A challenge with a sequel is to do something original on something that was already built,” said director Chad Stahelski during a press conference for the film. A major new element of “…Ch. 2” was the introduction of Grammy and Academy Award-winning rapper, Common in the role of Cassian. In a series of intense fight scenes which made the audience feel like they were in a game of “Mortal Kombat”, the bodyguard turned assassin (Common) battles with Wick (Reeves) from the streets of Rome to the subways of New York.
When the audience last sees Cassian, his life hangs in the balance but with Stahelski all but confirming that “John Wick: Ch. 3” is already in the works, we haven’t seen the last of Common’s kick-ass persona.
With nearly fifty acting credits to his name, Common shows no signs of stopping between a production deal with HBO and five films in various phases of production throughout the rest of 2017. While it seems as if the Chicago native has been able to seamlessly make the transition from artist to actor, Common gives insight into honing his craft, the intensity of fight training for the role as well as insight into the spontaneity of set life.
On the well coordinated fight scenes:
Common: As far as I’m concerned [Keanu] can kick ass, he just has “it”. I know we’re doing it for a film but you can feel the strength. Some of that doesn’t feel like film work, it feels like dude it’s throwing this blow so you better be ready to move or it’s going to connect. So I know Keanu is saying he wouldn’t want to be in any MMA or UFC competitions [laughs] but I definitely know that he’s the warrior that we see John Wick as.
What attracted him to the franchise and the work that goes into becoming an assassin:
C: When I saw the first “John Wick” it was very special to me; it was what I enjoy about watching movies. As far as training goes, knowing that I was going to have an opportunity to join that world and work with Keanu and Chad…when I first spoke to Chad, I said, ‘I wanna be a great action artist that can really deliver. I wanna be one of the greats on screen as an actor and a fighter.’
From there Chad watched what I could do then he took me through the basics of 8711 which is the stunt company they work with and I learned so much. It was a lot of work but I wanted him to know that I was committed and I would give my heart and soul to this. Getting to work with Keanu and seeing how he would come in everyday after doing all of these different scenes with the different fight coordination and he always brought 110%, I loved it. The perfectionist that I have within me, Keanu also has. Every time we would rehearse, if we didn’t end on the right note, [we’d say] ‘where’s the flavor?’ The most joyous part would be when we’d get the flavor back and have everything right [during rehearsal] then it gets to Chad on the day of and he’ll flip it and you have to be ready. You have to be present and be aware and that creativity and that energy with all the training is what you want as an actor. It was a wonderful experience for me.
On changing emotions and going from cool and composed to the passionate fight scenes:
C: One of the best things as an actor is to know that your director can take you to that world so you’ll listen to anything he or she says. With Chad I knew that I could do that so that’s how we arrived at that scene: my “maybe almost death”, we don’t know [laughs]. My character had an initial coolness as things hadn’t gone a stray yet. I was doing my job [as a body guard] and once John Wick came on the scene–while I look at our characters as rivals, we also have a reverence and respect for each other. But once he crossed the line and made Cassian do what he had to do, that’s when you see the intensity come out. And he’s going against the best but they both feel like they’re the best so you get that real tension and friction that’s what took him from that cool place to that intensity.
How his background as a hip-hop artist informed the work he does as an actor:
C:Some of the most beneficial things that being an artist has given me as an actor; you’re not afraid to do things and you’re used to being in front of people. Being a hip hop artist allows me to let go of all of the things most people would be embarrassed about, I’ve experienced that. I’ve been on stage and had the equipment go out as I was performing and I’ve had people throw pennies at me when I was performing. So it’s not too much that can throw me off. Those things make me grateful that I come from the hip-hop culture and doing music. All the rest…you have to be an actor because everyone that tries to make the transition [from musician to actor] can’t do it so you have to be true to the craft and really have a passion for it.
On his childhood dreams of acting:
C: As a kid I loved going to the theatre and to the movies but I didn’t have the courage to do it but therewas a certain point where I hit a ceiling with music and I [decided] to study something that I was always passionate about and that’s where this came from. Now this is my desire and dream, I’m still that kid dreaming of it.