Let’s Talk: Artists Turned Actors

Originally, I was going to make the title picture for this post DMX and I will explain why later but then I thought about it and went with Tupac. Let’s start with Mr. Shakur.

A Different World: The Tupac Shakur Episode - part 1/6 - Homie, don't ya  know me? - YouTube

Pac went to a performing arts school with his best friend Jada Pinkett so he was bound to be a performer in some respect. He just happened to be a phenomenal and prolific rapper and actor. I imagine if his life wasn’t cut short he would be kind of like what Donald Glover is to us. He would seamlessly be able to toggle between music and acting, which I admire in the artists I’m about to mention. Surprisingly, much like with his music, Pac was able to do and be apart of so much before his untimely death. My favorite role from Pac, and yes, this is completely biased, is when he played Piccolo in A Different World. Let me tell you why this is my favorite role over say Lucky in Poetic Justice or Bishop in Juice. A Different World, in general, was a show that taught its audience about life in college, specifically a historically black college. The situation was sort of touched on in an earlier season with Dwayne and his childhood friend but it reached its peak in the “Homey, Don’t Ya Know Me?” episode. Piccolo was Lena’s (Pinkett) old boyfriend from Baltimore. Now, like I stated before, Jada and Pac met in Baltimore at school, so I enjoyed the fact that they incorporated that in the show. People also always saw Pac and Jada as a couple so I liked how they were cool enough to play off of that as well but back to my point. Pac, and Monica Calhoun for that matter, was able to deliver the distain and venom needed for someone who was truly mad that one of their own “left them” to go to college. I also have a soft spot for best friends being in a movie together like Leo and Tobey. Fun fact, he was supposed to have Tyrese’s role in Baby Boy but was fatally killed before the start of production. I think that movie would have been WAY different with Pac as the lead. I’ve seen a lot of Poetic Justice shirts and paraphernalia so it would seem like that is everyone’s favorite role from him but you all tell me.

I think Will Smith is the most famous and successful example we have of an artist turned actor but there are a few others like Justin Timberlake.

Justin Timberlake New Movie: Upcoming Movies (2019, 2020)

We’ve followed Justin Timberlake since he was a Mouseketeer back in the day, and personally, I think he’s been giving us quality work. You know you love Branch in Trolls, even though the character probably doesn’t like us too much. He also has had some stable success in both music and acting and has done well with going between the two. We saw a different side of him in The Social Network and I wanted more of that from him. I haven’t seen much from him recently, but when you do a Pixar movie like Trolls and Trolls: World Tour, do you really need to do anything else? Maybe? No? I’m sure he’s not done and we’ll have to wait for his next big role. I don’t think his genius stops with Trolls.

Quaran-TV: 'Hollywood' Netflix series stars N.J.'s Queen Latifah ...

Dana Owens, better known as Queen Latifah, has been on our necks for years. Personally, I think I love her as Cleo in Step it Off. I will forever have a space in my heart for this movie but Queen was one of the leads in the classic 90’s sitcom Living Single. She has a cameo role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and has been soaring since. Most recently, she played Hattie McDaniel in the Netflix series Hollywood, which I haven’t seen just yet, but I know she slays. I miss seeing Lee Daniels’ Star that used to come on after Empire. She was so good in that role and the show itself was so complex. It wasn’t just a show about these three girls who wanted to sing. There was conflict that we didn’t even see coming and her as Carlotta was the centerpiece that kept it all together…for the most part. Recently, she’s done a lot of dramatic roles. She went through her phase of comedies so what haven’t we seen Queen do? Maybe be a hardcore villan? Tap into that raw, evil energy? Tell me what you want to see from her that you haven’t.

Exit Wounds (2001) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Earlier I said I was going to make the picture for this post a picture of DMX but went with my gut and posted Tupac, but Earl Simmons could have been the GOAT. DMX, if he could have kept himself straight, would have been the greatest actor of our time, I think. I see him as a hardcore Wood Harris, and no, I don’t think it’s too late for him to step back into the game. I want someone to give Earl a chance and bring him back into the acting fold. Think about the roles he played in the 90’s? If he wasn’t overcome by his own demons, he could have used that anger in his work and we could have so masterpieces. Honestly, I think we could all think of some roles where the energy we would get from X would be better than the actor we got. Let me think on some roles and we’ll discuss.

But tell me, who did I leave off of this short list of actors? Can you think of anyone else who excels at both music and acting? Anyone, besides Donald Glover?


  1. LL Cool J was the first to come to mind. Ice-T is another one, though I think he did both acting and music simultaneously instead of starting with music then becoming an actor.
    There are also guys like Lin-Manuel Miranda. If you go way back, you can add a lot more musical theater people like Dick Van Dyke, Barbara Streisand, and Bing Crosby.
    Artists like Jared Leto and Ben Platt went the other way and started with acting, but then shifted over to music.


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