There's nothing especially new about rap stars taking roles in films and TV shows. LL Cool J, Eminem and Ice-T, among others, have done it.
But Chris Bridges is dead serious about his acting career, and if you think otherwise, well, you're just being ludicrous.
The performer still best known to many by his Grammy-winning rap persona, Ludacris, makes a double play on television this week, first with a Sunday, May 20, comedy cameo on FOX's "The Simpsons," then with a prominent guest appearance on the Tuesday, May 22, season finale of NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
"I'm extremely happy about how this worked out," Bridges, 29, says. "The 'SVU' thing is going to be huge. On 'The Simpsons,' I'm only on there for a quick second, although I don't like to downplay anything."
There's no way anyone is going to downplay that "SVU" guest appearance, an intensely dramatic follow-up to a 2006 episode introducing Bridges as Darius Parker, the stepson of Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (Ice-T). That episode, titled "Venom," climaxed with Darius' arrest for the brutal murder of a woman and a baby, a crime Darius said was prompted by long-simmering rage over being abandoned by his mother (guest star LisaGay Hamilton) when he was an infant. Just before the final credits rolled, Darius swore that if he had to face trial for the murders, he would bring down the rest of his family with him.
"Darius delivers on everything he threatened in that last scene," Bridges reveals. "Whenever you're on trial, you have the right to kind of defend yourself, so I sit second chair with my lawyer, and that's what makes it extremely interesting, I must say. Everything he promised before is going down, and it's extremely emotional for all of these characters. I don't want to give anything away, but there's definitely a twist to it that no one expects."
Bridges already has proven he can act, playing the conniving Skinny Black in "Hustle & Flow" and earning a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the acting ensemble of the Oscar-winning "Crash" but the role of Darius Parker is arguably the most challenging acting role he has tackled to date.
"Darius is the most complex character I've ever played, with everything he's got going on," Bridges says.
"I don't feel like I'm very much like Darius, but that's one of the great things about acting. I do think, however, that every human being has emotions that he can bring to the forefront. Certainly I have certain traits in my personality that I can relate to Darius, although probably on a smaller level. That's what is so great about this episode, and my evolving as an actor, because the true test of time is coming. I'm going to try to be versatile and continue proving to people that this is something that I want to do."
The little cameo appearance on Sunday's 400th episode of "The Simpsons" is nowhere near as demanding, but Bridges says he is very happy to be a part of this pop-culture milestone.
"I'm playing myself," he says of his animated gig. "I can tell you that someone has to go to the dentist, and there's something called Luda-Crest toothpaste. I'm trying to encourage kids to brush.
"People always tell me that I'm 'animated' anyway, in my videos and my music, and I take it as a big compliment that [the 'Simpsons' team] would even think of doing something like that. It's extremely flattering and I love it, because I have a 5-year-old daughter myself and a lot of things I'm doing these days amaze her, which makes me feel better about what I'm doing and how I've evolved as a man."
While Bridges says he is very happy that people in the industry seem to be paying attention to his growth as an actor, he admits this new career might never have happened if filmmaker John Singleton hadn't called him up out of the blue and offered him a featured role in his 2003 action flick "2 Fast 2 Furious."
"He loved my work in my videos," Bridges explains. "I guess he saw potential in me as an actor, but although I always loved movies, I never had really thought of that as a reality for me. But I had a lot of fun with the movie, and I knew that was something that I wanted to continue to do."
For his "SVU" role, he still is billed as "Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges," but he says he looks forward to a day when he can make a clean break between his acting and music careers.
"Ludacris is a character all within itself, because that's my music persona," he says, "so when I do movies, I don't want to be looked at as Ludacris. I want to be looked at as Chris Bridges, the person who is trying to work as a character actor. Once people get to know the 'Chris Bridges' name, I will take 'Ludacris' completely out of there when it comes to acting. That's my goal. I wouldn't say I'm really close to that, but I would say that I definitely am on the right path.
"I love not only surprising other people, but also surprising myself. I believe that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish and do anything. I'm definitely out to disprove the myth that some people may have that I can only play one kind of character."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times