When Halle Berry popped up in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, she was a virtually unknown actress trying to make her way in Hollywood. Who knew that playing a crackhead would launch her career.
By her side in the film, was the gifted and trained actor, Samuel Jackson.
In his legendary role as “Gator,” son of The Good Reverend Doctor played by Ossie Davis and his lovely wife, Ruby Dee, he rendered a legendary performance portraying the real live face of addiction in the 80s and 90s. His performance was legendary (as was her’s).
Do you remember Jackson’s Gator dance? How he shimmy and shook in efforts to persuade his momma to give him her very last dollar? Do you remember how he exclaimed that he “smoked the TV” when she asked for her money back?
Back in the day, that was an all too familiar scene in any urban city.
Gator was easily everyone in Hip-Hop’s cousin. And if Jackson’s character was our cousin, Halle’s was that fine girl next door that everyone wanted to date. No one would have ever guessed that beneath her costume of dirt, grime and sadness, was the Revlon beauty queen that we see now. Back then she was a no name that simple looked like the pretty jawn from down the block that got strung out in the wicked streets after trying rock once or twice for play play… who found out that there was nothing fun about this drug at all.
These two portrayed a narrative that made people a little more sympathetic to this particular type of addiction. But not as much as Chris Rock and his portrayal of Pookie in New Jack City.
Pookie was iconic. Addict. Then Hero. Then Addict. Then Hero. He took us on a roller coaster of emotions in this Van Peebles epic. Rock developed a person in this film; a person that struggled with the desire to be clean and the call of the rock. It was hard to watch NJC on so many levels (brothers betraying brothers, communities destroyed, people exploited by money, sex and drugs), but mostly because you fell in love with the characters and their sickness. As you watched, you rooted for them to win.
We wonder if that will be the same fate for Kendrick as he plays the character Laces in this week’s episode of Power on STARZ.
He nailed it.
Social Media went crazy as fans tried to reconcile their favorite rapper in such a degraded role. But Hip-Hop, let’s get real. Is that not addiction? Some of our favorite people suffered from the grips of this evil narcotic: Flavor Flav. DMX. Whitney Houston. Just look at how hard it is to reconcile that our faves are crackheads or even for us to look at all of the other popular drugs (including the current K2, Codeine and Opiod epidemics) and identify them as dangerous. Few are able to reconcile addiction with people that we admire, aspire to be like and love.
That is why when three of the four actors took their gifts to the screen and dared to push the envelop with mastering the nuances of addiction, it paid off big with critics. All of these actors have gone on to have major award winning careers (Ironically, Halle and Chris have played crack addicts multiple times in movies).
We will be watching to see if this pays off for Kendrick.