In T.I.'s latest role as drug dealer-turned entertainment mogul Lucas Frye on season three of Showtime's House of Lies, Tip has been able to show his acting chops, which, according to the show's creators, Matthew Carnahan and David Walpert, exceed all expectations.
"When you bring in somebody who's a non-actor you just don't know what you're gonna get," Carnahan noted when talking with reporters. "It was a big risk. I think he had been undisciplined on other projects, or so I had heard, but he just came in and he was prepared and he was funny, funny, funny," added Walpert.
Carnahan first discovered the "Whatever You Like" rapper's sense of humor during a table read for one of season three's early episodes.
"I definitely didn't realize how funny he was at first," remembered Carnahan. "But a lot of the stuff he was coming up with, a lot of it was on the page but a lot of it wasn't. He was great and unpredictable in a good way."
In season three, T.I.'s character is as complex as he is charismatic, sparking up a relationship with one of the show's main characters, Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell), while simultaneously battling with his brother (Mekhi Phifer) over company decisions. According to David Walpert, T.I. was the perfect fit.
"He's not playing a rapper, he's playing a hip hop entrepreneur, so we talked about a few other hip hop artists but mostly it was other actors that he was up against for the part," Walpert pointed out, also adding, "I think we wanted a little feel of danger but also someone we thought would be sympathetic and he scored on both those counts, which is a tough one cause there are tough guys who don't feel vulnerable or comical and I think he did both really well."
Walpert and Carnahan agree that after this role, the Grand Hustle emcee should be primed to take his acting game to the next level. "From the moment we sat down with him he had a real sense of the character. He hadn't even read anything, he went off a description. We just told him it's kind of like a Jay Z or Dame Dash and he knew that situation and said he had a few ideas about how a character like that carries and uses power and he really knew it," remembered Carnahan, with Walpert concluding, "I really feel like now he can take this [experience on House of Lies] and cash it in for a big feature. He just has, whatever that 'thing' is, he has it."
(Photo: Greg Gayne/SHOWTIME)