with Kam Williams
Headline: Jamal Weighs-In on His Reincarnation of Biggie Smalls
Like the late Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., Jamal Woolard was born and raised in Brooklyn. He also raps under an alias, Gravy, and he’s even been shot in a drive-by. But Jamal not only survived the attack, but immediately went on the radio for a scheduled interview ay NYC’s Hot 97 before getting treatment for his wounds at a nearby hospital. Of equal import is the fact that he’s the spitting image of Biggie, which gave him an edge when Fox conducted a nationwide search for someone to play him in its new movie Notorious.
Consequently, Jamal is now making his acting debut in the title role of Notorious, surrounded by a talented cast which includes Angela Bassett as Biggie’s mom, Naturi Naughton as Lil’ Kim, Derek Luke as Sean “Puffy” Combs, Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur, Antonique Smith as Faith Evans and Sean Ringgold as Suge Knight. Here, he talks about landing his big break and what was involved in portraying the hip hop icon.
KW: Hey, Jamal, thanks for the time.
JW: It’s all good!
KW: So, how was it playing Biggie?
JW: Oh, man, it was the opportunity and experience of a lifetime.
KW: Where in Brooklyn did you grow up?
JW: I’m from L.G., Lafayette Gardens.
KW: Do you still have ties to the neighborhood?
JW: Yeah, definitely. My mom and my grandmother still live there.
KW: I went to high school on the spot where Medgar Evers College is now. Are you familiar with that area?
JW: Yeah, Crown Heights.
KW: Tell me about the time you got shot in Manhattan just as you were about to go on the radio.
JW: Nah, I don’t want to talk about that.
KW: Then tell me how you prepared to play Biggie, mentally and physically.
JW: I just went to my own Biggie Boot Camp. Eating, I was at 285, and went up to about 340.
KW: Was that healthy?
JW: It was really life threatening, because I have diabetes. But I put myself into that zone in order to do what I had to do.
KW: Besides looking like him, what mannerism did you have to master?
JW: The walk… the wobble… mastering the shield… knowing when to use the left hand, how to talk to people, how to talk down to Kim, how to treat my moms, knowing when to be Christopher, when to be Biggie Smalls, when to be Notorious B.I.G. And knowing how heavy he was as Notorious and not to move too much. Knowing how to move and that I could be much faster when I was Biggie. Knowing his voice differences, too. So, there was a whole lot involved in preparing for the role.
KW: What was it like working with such a great cast?
JW: Oh, man, that was a blessing working with Derek Luke playing Puffy and Anthony Mackie playing Pac. Plus, they were veteran actors. I was new to the game and they coached me through it. That was the best thing about it, having their support.
KW: You know, Jennifer Lopez became a superstar after playing a murdered icon, Selena, in a bio-pic. This could happen for you, too. Are you planning to concentrate on movies now?
JW: I’m focusing on acting right now, but I’m trying to do a little of both.
KW: So, who do you think shot Biggie?
JW: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know nothing about that.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
JW: [LOL] Yes, indeed!
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan asks: Where in L.A. do you live?
JW: I live in Edgewater, New Jersey.
KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
JW: Whoreson by Donald Goines.
KW: Is there a question no one has ever asked you, that you wish someone would?
JW: Wow! Nah, people ask me every question conceivable.
KW: Rudy Lewis asks: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
JW: I would have to say Biggie, Martin Luther King and Obama.
KW: How did you feel when Obama won the election?
JW: Oh man, incredible… incredible!
KW: Music maven Heather Covington’s question: What’s music are you listening to nowadays?
JW: I’m still in my old zone, so I’ve got Big, Pac, Jay and Nas on the deck. [Laughs]
KW: What’s your favorite of Biggie’s songs?
KW: Have you gotten any feedback from anybody portrayed in the movie?
JW: Definitely. I got a lot of help and feedback from Faith [Evans]. I also got a lot of support from Lil Cease, Mrs. Wallace and the members of the Junior M.A.F.I.A.
KW: What’s up next for you?
JW: Like I said, acting is my newfound love. So, hopefully, some other things will come.
KW: Thanks again for the interview, Jamal, and best of luck with everything.
JW: Same here. Thank you so much.
Read Kam's interviews with the stars of Notorious:
Read Kam's review of Notorious.
Read Kam's review of the Notorious DVD.