- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

LOS ANGELES Ice Cube, famous for his scowl, thaws out somewhat by playing a small-business owner beset by worry in the urban comedy "Barbershop."
In the Capra-esque tale, his character plans to get quick cash to support his pregnant wife by selling the store but finds that his family also includes the people in the Chicago neighborhood who rely on his establishment as a place to congregate.
Unlike the growling, cocky characters he has typically played, he says playing Calvin the barbershop owner gave him a chance to show some heart.
"I wanted to bring that out expand, you know? as an actor on-screen, and show different sides of me," he says, relaxing on the set of Fox's "The Bernie Mac Show" before filming a guest appearance. "I realize that acting is giving. You just gotta give up more and more of yourself, more and more emotions, and really let people see you do different things."
The 33-year-old rapper-actor, born O'Shea Jackson, first achieved prominence as part of the breakthrough "gangsta rap" group N.W.A., which described the life of violence and crime in poor Los Angeles-area neighborhoods on its 1989 debut album "Straight Outta Compton."
He quit the group, which also included Dr. Dre and the late Easy-E, the next year over business disagreements, then released the successful solo albums "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" (1990) and "Lethal Injection" (1993).
His acting debut came in 1991's "Boyz N the Hood," playing the first of his unhappy tough-guy roles as Doughboy, a gang member who pins his future on the street violence that eventually consumes everyone around him. Similar roles continued with 1992's hidden-treasure thriller "Trespass" and the 1995 race-relations melodrama "Higher Learning."
In the 1995 comedy "Friday" and its 2000 sequel, "Next Friday," he let his guard down for some silliness as a grumpy dope smoker stuck in a neighborhood of zany characters, and his most critically praised performance was as a religious soldier in the 1999 war satire "Three Kings."
"We know Cube as the hard guy, and I think he has the most popular frown in all film history," says Tim Story, who makes his debut as a commercial-feature director with "Barbershop."
"I think Jack Nicholson might have the most famous scowl, but I'll come in a close second on that," Ice Cube responds.
For the character in "Barbershop," however, the actor had to play someone who was unsure of himself, fearful of conflict and willing to put loyalty over financial success.
"I was prepared to go in there and give Cube a long speech about how to play this," Mr. Story says. "But in reality he is a family guy, and his life is not super-hard anymore, fending for this and that. He found sensitivity in his real life that he could put into this role."
Besides managing his own business (Cube Vision Productions), the performer and wife Kimberly Jackson have four children three sons, age 15, 11 and 2, and a daughter, 8.
"It puts everything in perspective," he adds. "I can relate to having a family and wanting to do what's right for them, but also knowing that I got a lot of people that work for me and under me that depend on my success to keep everything going."
His last rap album was a greatest-hits compilation released in 2001, and Ice Cube describes his musical career as "on hiatus."
In November, he'll appear in the holiday-themed sequel "Friday After Next" and he's now filming "Torque," which he describes as "The Fast and the Furious" on motorcycles.
"I love to rap, and I love to act, too. But in this business, you can't force it," he says. "You kinda have to be willing to go with the wave and what's happening. And right now, the movie thing is happening."

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