Will Expounds on Everything from X:Men to “Yes We Can”
William James Adams, aka Will.i.Am, was born on March 15, 1975 in the City of Los Angeles where he attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. But by the time he got around to launching his own clothing line (“i.am”) in 2005, the talented Renaissance man had already found fame as front man for Black Eyed Peas, the multiple Grammy-winning hip-hop group with hits like “Let’s Get It Started” and “My Humps.”
A versatile musician, Will not only plays various keyboards, the bass and drums, but also sings and raps as well. Besides Black Eyed Peas, he’s produced several successful solo projects, plus he has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Sergio Mendes, Usher and Flo Rida.
Perhaps his most important cultural contribution came during the run-up to the presidential election, when he released “Yes We Can,” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY], the Emmy-winning song which ostensibly served as the Obama campaign’s unofficial theme song. Will made his first foray into acting last fall when he provided the voice of Moto Moto in the animated feature Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Here, he talks about all of the above, and about X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he co-stars opposite Hugh Jackman as John Wraith.
WiA: Hi Kam.
KW: Thanks for the time, Will. By the way, is this you or just a hologram of you?
WiA: No, this is really Will.
KW: I remember when you were interviewed by Anderson Cooper as a hologram on Election Night. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deoOTqT-SMI]
WiA: Yeah, it’s wild being a hologram back then and now being teleported in X-Men Origins.
KW: I believe that your song “Yes We Can,” played a pivotal role in getting young voters excited about Barack Obama and that it helped him become President of the United States. How do you feel about his first 100 days in office?
WiA: So far, he’s done great! People are enthusiastic about America like they haven’t been in a very long time. He’s passed the Stimulus Bill… the Stem Cell Research Bill… he’s closed Guantanamo Bay. Base on that, this dude has overachieved already. It’s really too early to be judging him, but I’m super thrilled that he won, and I think he’s doing a phenomenal job so far. The people judging him now are the doubters who think there’s a possibility that he’s going to fail. We can’t afford that. It’s all psychological. If he fails, that means we’ve failed, too, to since he’s in the White House because of us. If we’re going to judge him now, then we have to judge ourselves also, and ask, what have we done since his inauguration?
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks what inspired you to write “Yes We Can?”
WiA: My passion. I was inspired by his speech, and by all the invisible freedom fighters from the past who you never read about in school.
KW: Did you think it would help Obama become president?
WiA: No, I wrote it basically so teachers could teach his speech in school. I wasn’t thinking, “I’m going to write this song to make Obama our president.” That’s not logical. I was thinking, “I’m going to write this song so we would have a politician’s words being taught in schools.” That was something I could do that would have an immediate effect.
KW: That’s brilliant, Will!
WiA: Thank you. That was the real reason I did it, although there was the possibility that this dude could become our president once he was already being taught to the kids.
KW: As for X-Men, what a spectacular screen debut you’re getting to make by being a part of such a popular film franchise.
WiA: Yeah, it’s more than spectacular. It’s unbelievable, and kind of crazy, if you ask me.
KW: Did you base your approach to playing John Wraith on anybody?
WiA: I modeled him after my cousin, Earl. He used to be a very, very bad, bad man. He’s done some bad, bad things, but he’s also a very approachable, likable, huggable kind of guy. He has some bad friends who’ve done bad things, too, but he has a conscience.
KW: How would you describe your character’s relationship to Logan, aka Wolverine?
WiA: He and Wolverine are close buddies. They go off into the world, and mess up things, but he has a heart, and knows when enough is enough.
KW: What was working with director Gavin Hood like?
WiA: Working with him was incredible. First of all, I love his movies. He’s very talented and very endearing as far as making you feel comfortable about tapping into all the emotions you need to deliver. He pulls the best out of you, and that’s awesome.
KW: And how was it acting opposite Hugh Jackman?
WiA: Hugh Jackman is the nicest guy on Earth. I was like, “Dang, dude,” he was so super nice.
KW: Are you planning to make more movies?
WiA: I would love not only to do more work as an actor, but to write and direct.
KW: You’re an incredibly accomplished Renaissance man who has made a mark in a number of fields. But you started out in fashion. Is it still your first love?
WiA: Yeah, I love fashion. It is my love.
KW: I know you were born in Los Angeles, but where are your parents from?
WiA: My folks are from Mississippi.
KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan wants to know, where in L.A. do you live now?
WiA: [Sings to the tune of Hollywood Swinging]
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
WiA: It’s more the opposite. I’ve been asked a lot of questions I wish people wouldn’t.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
WiA: Afraid about what?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
WiA: I’m happy every day of my life.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
WiA: Last night.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
WiA: Can I be honest.
KW: Of course.
WiA: I’ve never really read a book.
KW: Why not?
WiA: I can read pretty well, but my attention span is really short. When I read, the first paragraph is great, the second is great, but by about the third paragraph or so, I’m just reading the words and it’s no longer sinking into my mind.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
WiA: I’m going through that right now.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
WiA: I have many heroes. When it comes to molding my character, my grandma, Sarah Cain, is my biggest hero. We call her Nanny. And my mom, Debra, of course, too. But aside from my family, my biggest hero is Quincy Jones, by far.
KW: A big fan of yours, Marcia Evans, loves those CDs you made with Sergio Mendes. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh307IdQ4cw] She wants to know, how you liked working in Brazil.
WiA: I loved working there. Brazil is one of my favorite places on the planet.
KW: Marcia was also wondering what you think of the Brazilian culture.
WiA: I love the culture because black people in Brazil are Brazilian, whereas in America, black people are black. The Brazilians have graduated and have accepted pigment, so they all just celebrate Brazilian-ness. I’m not saying we need to abandon our origins, but Brazilians are from Africa, too. America is almost there. Most of us don’t know what part of Africa we’re from anyway.
KW: I recently read a book by a sister who went back to Africa to find her roots and came back feeling more American than African.
WiA: Interesting. Brazil has faced the same issues we have, but the difference is that they were conquered by the Portuguese. Sergio Mendes taught me a whole lot about African culture and how we’ve evolved from slavery. He pointed out that the Portuguese didn’t strip their slaves of their culture, so the Brazilian people were able to grow together as a nation, avoiding what America is suffering from.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps, like my son who is majoring in music in college?
WiA: I would say just to continue to make music and to share it on the internet. That’s the future, in just making it and sharing it.
KW: Thanks again for the interview Will, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
WiA: Thank you so much, dude.
To see a trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine,
To see Will.i.Am’s campaign video for Barack Obama, “Yes We Can,”
To see Will.i.Am’s duet with Sergio Mendes of Mas Que Nada, visit:
Te see a hologram of Will.i.Am interviewed on CNN on Election Night, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deoOTqT-SMI