Big Boi, who found that the release date for his first film "Idlewild" would be delayed, filled his time by shooting another film, director Chris Robinson's "ATL."
"After I finished 'Idelwild' I was in the studio working on my music to finish the soundtrack for that movie," says Big Boi, born Antwan Patton. "When I got the call. [Producer] Dallas Austin was like, 'They want you to play this role in the movie.' I was like, 'I don't know if I can do it because I have to finish this Outkast album so ["Idlewild"] can come out.'"
Once Will Smith, whose Overbrook Entertainment is producing "ATL," said he wanted Big for the part, the musician shifted his schedule around to accomodate production.
In "ATL," the Georgia native plays Marcus, whose decadent lifestyle and 28-inch rims are financed by the young drug dealers working for him. His latest employee is teenager Ant (Evan Ross), whose respect for Marcus' business acumen soon turns into fear when he can't come up with the money.
Although Patton is a nice guy in real life, Robinson felt he could use that trait for the atypical bad guy role.
"I wanted Marcus to be charismatic because truthfully those kind of guys are charismatic," says the director. "Those guys aren't the guys that are rough and tough ... they do what they do so they can lure people in. They're charming, and Big Boi has such a charm but at the same time a seriousness with his music."
But once Marcus reels in his prey, he uses intimidation to protect his investment. In one scene, Marcus stealthily drives up to a convenience store and startles Ant, who spills the chocolate milk he was drinking all over his t-shirt.
"I was having fun with it," says Big Boi. "There were no scripted lines or nothing. [The director] would be like, 'Okay, this would be the parameters that you are doing. You do your thing. I want to see something organic come away from it.'"
"It was funny because a lot of times I wouldn't even know some of the stuff he'd do," confesses Ross, who was impressed by his co-stars improv acting style. "Like you saw the milk scene. That was all him. When that happened, I jumped."
Patton feels that being a modern-day musician helps him to be a good actor, especially when there's less pressure to perform in front of a crowd.
"I think part of music, especially like when you're doing videos, there's an actor aspect of things when you play different characters," he explains. "[Acting] is easier, actually. You don't have to worry about, 'Hey, I'm gonna get on the stage and I'm gonna make up some moves.' I just learn my character so when I go on screen, it'll come across correctly. It's smart. I can see how you can catch the acting bug. It's fun to be somebody that you're not."
"ATL" opens on the south side and nationwide on Friday, March 31st.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times