Ludacris Proves His Range With Roles in ‘Fast X’ and ‘Crash,’ Creator Credit on Netflix’s ‘Karma’s World’
In November 2001, Ludacris was set to release his third album, “Word of Mouf.” At the same time, however, his debut on film, “The Wash,” was also about to hit theaters. Luda’s role in the DJ Pooh-directed comedy starring Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg was small. But “The Wash,” along with his goofball antics in several of his music videos (“if you do them right, videos are like acting reels,” he says), put Luda in front of major league filmmakers such as the late John Singleton and Paul Haggis. In back-to-back films, the rapper became a movie star as Tej Parker in 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious,” followed in 2004 by the Oscar-winning “Crash.” Some 30 more movies would follow.
“The theatricality of my videos, my image — it was a bit of transition, going into acting, playing myself playing the Ludacris persona,” says Luda, credited in film as Chris Bridges. “But ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ was a great way to start, because the year after was when ‘Crash’ came along. And now, I was able to get further away from the ‘Ludacris’ that people knew me as. I knew that I wouldn’t get any recognition as an actor if I didn’t act different from that persona. ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ gave me a name in film, but ‘Crash’ — a serious, dramatic Oscar-winning film — changed the game for me. And rest in peace to John Singleton who put me in ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ as a crash-course in how to work in film. Tyrese was in ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ with me as well, and he also came from the music world, helping to talk me through some things.”
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Ask Bridges if the idea of transitioning from hip-hop into movies was methodical, and the rapper-actor stated that it was something of a happy circumstance.
“Man, it was all gas and no brakes at that point,” he recalls. “There was so much going on, and so many opportunities about, and I was loving every minute of it. I definitely knew I wanted to be in movies. Take it back to when I was nine years-old, with getting applause and gaining confidence as a rapper. Same thing happened here – people liked me in my videos, then ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ hit in a public way, and then ‘Crash’ hit even harder in a critical way. Now, I could take that as seriously as I did music.”
And though “Crash” touched on the subjects of racism and class in America, “2 Fast 2 Furious” — the second film in the “Fast” franchise — was pure popcorn-fueled adrenaline. “I love the motion of “F&F,” says Bridges of his six appearances as referee/tech expert Tej Parker, with May 2023’s “Fast X,” as his seventh stretch at the speed-demon drama.
Twenty-years from his starting gate as Tej — with the May 19 arrival of “Fast X” quickly approaching — Bridges sees room for development when it comes to his tech nerd character. “I always tell the writers that if my character doesn’t grow, I would consider not being a part of it,” he elaborates. “I continue to learn more about Tej as I believe the audience does with each chapter. About how intelligent he is, and how he is the glue between all of the other characters. Tej has opened up more as a person with each film, plus, we have witnessed his greater fighting skills, now, especially in the martial arts that you never knew that he had. ‘Fast X’ gives you a more in-depth portrait of who he really is, and how he operates. And there is so much more left to the imagination.”
Bridges starred in family fare such as his computer-animated musical children’s television series for Netflix, “Karma’s World” (inspired by his daughter, Karma Bridges), and stars in the forthcoming Christmas release “Dashing Through the Snow,” directed by Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “The Fantastic Four”) for Disney+.
“Tim is the greatest director, very easy going,” says Bridges. “He knows how to light African Americans, which is extremely important, and his DP is right there with him. This is a film with a Black Santa Claus. I can’t name many movies with a Black Santa. I love doing movies that shine a light on how beautiful and bold African Americans are, and to get a different take on the norm. And I love how I can go from hardcore dramas like ‘Crash’ to the action of ‘Fast X’ to a Christmas movie.”
While Bridges can say nothing about where “Fast X,” is going, it is common knowledge that its upcoming sequel is supposed to be the end to the “Fast and Furious” series. How will that feel for Luda? “I think phenomenal,” he says. “I felt phenomenal coming back into ‘F&F 5.’ I mean, when you are someone who did one, then kept getting called back — 7, 8, 9. I was grateful six movies ago. I will be amazed and happy because this is a film series that has been part of peoples’ lives for a quarter of a century. I could not be more thankful that I am part of something, outside of my music career, that has had such an impact.”
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