Mack Wilds Discusses How ‘The Breaks’ Brings Him One Step Closer to the EGOT – Exclusive
Hip-hop's resurgence on the big and little screens has been both entertaining to watch and appreciated.
The F. Gary Gray-directed N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton was a blockbuster hit last year, racking up $60.2 million at the box office in its opening weekend, easily making it the fifth-highest August opener ever.
On the television screen, VH1’s made-for-TV movie The Breaks, which aired in early January, was a success. The January premiere and immediate encore collected a combined 2.6 million total viewers. This helped VH1 make a 42 percent jump among adults under age 50 in January.
The Seith Mann-directed film, based on Dan Charnas’ best-selling book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, takes a look at the early '90's hip-hop scene in New York City and features actors Wood Harris, Mack Wilds, Afton Williamson, David Call and Method Man.
The movie was generally well-received -- except by Irv Gotti -- and with its ending leaving many questions looming around the storyline, the talk of a potential series started brewing. The news was confirmed when VH1 announced that The Breaks was returning to the network as a television series.
"The Breaks is VH1 at its best, intersecting ’90s nostalgia with hip-hop for the masses,” VH1 General Manager Chris McCarthy said. “Both the viewers and critics have spoken, and we couldn’t be happier to continue telling the story that has already connected with millions of pop culture fans.”
Before the announcement was made, XXL got Mack Wilds on the phone to discuss The Breaks, his dream of accomplishing an EGOT and his new upcoming projects.
XXL: The Breaks movie was great, man. What was the feeling for you after the premiere?
Mack Wilds: It was more of just a sigh, like cool, people are fucking with it; they really liking it; they appreciate what we did for the culture and potentially what we can continue to do.
Word, because the way it ended left so many question marks. There had to be a series for this.
I think to a certain extent that’s what we were shooting for. When VH1 actually brought that to the table and said it could actually be a series when they started seeing the first dailies. That’s what we started to aim for when it came to putting the rest of it together. It was just dope to see that we have an opportunity to do something. We couldn’t lose a moment of it so we did everything that we could to make sure VH1 has all the ammunition to see that we need to come back.
Do you see some aspects of yourself in the character you’re playing?
Absolutely. I try to put a little bit of myself in each of my characters. I try to make it as real as possible. So even things like how he would jump down the steps or threw the tape after they said it sucked, it's certain things, the quirks that I have personally that my friends can attest to.
Method Man playing your dad was crazy. He’s always Meth from Wu-Tang, Tical, How High. So seeing him play a father was cool. How was working with him?
It was great. I known Meth since I was a kid, since I was a toddler. To see him now, and I worked with him before on The Wire, Red Tails, etc. To work with him now in this caliber it was great, man. It's so funny because the character he plays is so opposite from him. [His character] was a complete asshole about music and the pursuit of dreams. But he pulled it off and beautifully and kept it so funny and real it was great. We couldn’t have had a better person.
What do you think about the criticism about The Breaks?
I think with certain things, there’s certain criticism that we've gotten… across the board from different people, from different publications, as long as people talking about it, I’m good. There’s nobody who can honestly say that full-out it sucked, it was horrible. Everyone has their own feelings, different things that were put into the film or different ways we portray certain things.
But at the end of the day, you can never say anything about, one, how close it is to home. Even though it’s a fictional story, which means you have to add some things to make it fun. But it’s so authentic for what it was at that time. And it was so many things we couldn’t fit it. So if you didn’t like this one just keep tuning in until we do the series because I promise you, you’ll like it. For everyone who had something to say, hey, maybe we have a part for you in the series [laughs].
What about Afton Williamson and David Call? How often to do you speak to them?
We have a group chat that we all talk to each other and get each other hyped up. Talking to them I stay excited about it and understanding constantly, and even talking to the director Seith Mann and Dan Charnas, the executive producer, we really did something, man. We really did something and we tried to make sure hip-hop felt it. It seems like it did.
You got any more movie or television roles coming up this year?
Yeah, we got a bunch of stuff that I’m working on, writing myself, stuff that I’m actually in. But I’m definitely a guy that likes to show and not tell too much so just wait and see. We got a lot of stuff coming up this year.
You released the new song "Love in the 90z" recently. Was the movie the inspiration behind that?
Originally, the song came off of a vibe that I got form doing The Breaks. Being in that vibe, me and Elijah Blake and James Poyser just being in the studio and working, that song kind of came out and became what it was. After a while, Salaam Remi brought in Scott Storch and Teddy Riley and gave it the finesse that it needed. It was definitely inspired by The Breaks. For the music video, I wanted to do a modern twist on such a classic film. It’s one of my favorite films in the world. We got a chance to mess around, me and Benny Boom, and I couldn’t say no to that.
So what music you got coming up?
We definitely got the album coming out very soon. We’re working on the album, just trying to finish it and make it perfect. We got a bunch of different ideas and bunch of different announcements that will show you guys where I’m trying to go with the music. It’s definitely some more dope, real dope stuff that we got coming down the pipe. I don’t know, I’m thinking about probably giving the fans something, maybe a mixtape before the album come out. Me and the NinetyFive we still stewing on it.
You’re in a really cool spot creatively. You’re accepted in music and acting plus you’re everywhere in New York City. How do you balance the time?
I think one of the best benefits especially being in this business is that your work is also very fun. So a lot of times people see you out or a lot of places that you’re seen, for us it’s considered work. With that, we’re working around the clock all the time. When you see us, when you don’t see us, we’re working. You should be most nervous when you don’t see me 'cause that means there’s something bigger than what you can even fathom.
Is there a goal that you want to hit?
You know, I think we all have dreams right? And we all have things that we aspire for. But the most beautiful thing about dreams is that I think we fail to realize that we go back to sleep the next day so we have another one. You may have a reoccurring dream but you have different dreams all the time so I’m every-changing. I’m always looking for a new goal to accomplish. After I achieve one dream, I want to go to the next one. For me, the one thing that I really want to do is I want to be one of the people in the world that has gotten a EGOT, which is the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony; get all four. That would be ill, like I would be happy with that.
So you want to do plays? Is there like a dream role?
Absolutely, shoot if Hamilton let me I’ll do that. But naw, I don’t know. Anything, I’m very into Shakespeare. I actually started in theater. Anything dope, whether it’s A Streetcar Named Desire or Romeo & Juliet or Hamilton or The Lion King or The Book of Mormon. Just something dope. I think that is our main goal with anything that we do or anything that we accomplish. We just want to do constantly cool dope shit. The NinetyFive, that’s what we stand by, that’s what we live for.
When did you get into music and hip-hop?
I think it was probably around the time I was like four or five. It was around the time when I heard [The Fugees'] The Score. Definitely heard Wu-Tang before that but it was more so the stuff my older brother had that I couldn’t already listen to. So like I would put the posters up because I was always a fan of the ideas that they had. Covered faces with swords, it just looked like all the anime and Japanese movies that I used to watch. But I don’t think I really fell in hip-hop and had to go back and do my history until I was about five when I first heard The Score and I just remember [raps] "We used to be number 10, now we're permanent...” I was like "Yo, this is crazy." So yeah.
You’re an anime fan? What you watch?
The first anime that I seen was Akira, then it went from Inuyasha to Naruto to Dragon Ball Z, of course. One Piece, there’s a bunch. Full Metal Alchemist, there’s a lot.
See 40 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 20 in 2016