The Wu-Tang Clan just celebrated its 20-year anniversary last November, and The RZA is trying to do everything in his power to represent for his crew. Whether it's through music or acting, The Abbot's main goal has been using different outlets to express himself creatively. Acting is a craft that we have gradually seen RZA using as his platform most often in the past few years, whether it has come through writing and directing The Man With The Iron Fists, engaging in full-on brawls with deadly martial artists like Tony Jaa in The Protector 2 or being a kickass bad guy for his latest movie, Brick MansionsThe RZA is cultivating a reputation for bringing the ruckus when it comes to the silver screen.

Brick Mansions, due out this Friday, Apr. 25 and co-starring the late Paul Walker, sets The RZA as an evil drug kingpin trying to thwart the attempts of undercover cop Walker and ex-con Lino Dupree—played by David Belle, one of the pioneers of the Parkour movement and the death-defying stunts that have become so closely associated with it—as they attempt to save run-down Detroit from endless corruption. The film is an American adaptation of the French film District 13, which relies heavily on the Parkour stunts that Belle is so famed for and in which Belle also starred.

With the movie premiering on Friday, RZA spoke with XXL about his latest foray into acting, what it's like playing a villain, and what he learned from working with Paul Walker. And stay tuned for the second half of our conversation with RZA tomorrow, where he discusses the current status of the Wu-Tang Clan, his relationship with Raekwon, and plans for the Wu's new single. —Emmanuel C.M.


XXL: For Brick Mansions you play a villain, and I also see you as a villain in Protector 2 in that epic fight scene. What is it like playing the bad guy? Is this a role you see yourself doing often?
The RZA: As far as an actor, I’m trying to find different expressions in myself. I’m taking acting seriously. I hope that the audiences are enjoying me and growing with me. It's like when you make an album; first Wu-Tang came out. Nobody knew who Wu-Tang was. Our first album sold 30K copies, and eventually it went on to become a platinum sensation. But it had to grow and people had to get used to what we’re talking about.

Same thing for acting. I’ve been acting for 10 years now. From The Man With The Iron Fist, to Californication, to American Gangster, I try to keep challenging myself. So when the bad guy role came up, I said, "Let me try it. Let me try and bring the ruckus, yo." In Brick Mansions, my character carries a gold gun, so I was busting shit. Like, that shit was fun. It’s good to be those kinds of characters. I’m taking it seriously, I’m keeping the Wu-Tang saga alive, and more importantly—being a young a man who started off in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Staten Island's Park Hill—I was supposed to be dead or in jail by 25. And I found a way to express myself and beat that statistic. I want to keep being that light.


What was it like working with Paul Walker?
Paul Walker is a good dude, a real good spirit. He had this great smile, and when he came to the set he had this whole energy [that] lights the set up. It was joy and a pleasure working with him. I miss the dude, man. He became a friend of mine and I really had a lot of respect for him as a man.

Did he teach you anything while you were on set?
One thing he taught me, or helped me remember—he was real into bringing his daughter onto set to be with him. I usually keep my family away from sets, and my family hasn’t been on a set with me in about six or seven years. He inspired me to invite my family up, and they came up to set and spent a week with me, and it was beautiful.

When I did Iron Fist, I spent 150 days away from my family. Brick Mansions was only a 60-day schedule. Out of 60 days I only had about 22-25 days of actual filming. After seeing how Paul was handling his schedule, I told my family to come up and hang out with me. He inspired to me to do that. I’m going to continue to do that for my other movies. I’m going to make sure my family comes by and spends a few weeks, comes on set and looks at how things are done and become a part of your father's work.

We don’t do that. We kept our children away from the studio, maybe because we was smoking weed and we grew up in the hip-hop era where guns and drugs, it's part of fucking hip-hop. [Laughs] Maybe it was better to keep them away then, but now I look at things differently. Involve your children in your work, because in most other industries, children was involved.  You see a lot of these stories in America, especially white America; you hear they're being able to pass things down to their sons. In Black America, you don’t hear that too much. It's very rare. That’s something we need in our community. As long as it's a good job that helps your family.


2013 EUROPACORP – BRICK MANSIONS, INC. Photo Credit: Philippe Bosse’

If you could describe Brick Mansions in one word, what would it be?
Entertainment. Hip-hop started in New York, right? I was a break-dancer. You take a cardboard box, you put it on the street corner, and you start dancing. First it was a sweep, then shuffle, until motherfuckers started spinning on their heads. It became a world sensation. Well, parkour is very similar. It’s a French martial art that David Belle and his friends sparked off in France, jumping off from roofs and fences and doing all these crazy wild stunts. These guys are doing shit themselves. This movie is doing this.

It reminds it of hip-hop a lot; it's so street. That’s parkour. They took it to a level of art and martial arts that’s fucking crazy. I think it’s going to grow to be a worldwide sensation, so I’m happy to be a part of this film. I’m not big on jumping off roofs, [laughs] but it's something magical; these kids can really do it. David Belle does a scene where he comes out of a ceiling and disarms me; he did it in two takes. Only reason why it took two takes was because they needed to get another camera angle. We get to see Paul Walker do what he do, that smile, driving cars, kicking ass on screen and you get to see The RZA come back and bring the ruckus.