Exclusive: “Chi-Raq” star Nick Cannon reveals, “I’m probably the funnest, coolest dad ever but I’m also probably one of the strictest and stern dads too”

By: Izumi Hasegawa   December 3, 2015

When I saw Drumline, I was very amazed by the dramatic acting talent of Nick Cannon. Since then, I have been waiting to see his acting work on screen. Then finally I could see it again in Chi-Raq. He shows off his dramatic acting skill as well as rap and comedic skills in the film. Now the dad of two young kids, he knows very much about the “value of life” that this film portrays. In this exclusive interview, Nick talked about his thoughts on the “value of life,”  fatherhood, charity work, health and more!

Q: The message/theme of the film is powerful (especially for parents), what the “value of life” is. When you become a parent, you know how valuable and precious life is, right?

How valuable and precious life is! We got to take responsibility for this generation and the next generation to teach those messages. Those messages unfortunately have been lost. We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle, the materialism, making it and prosperity and all this stuff that we forget to love one another. I hope people can get that from this film or just get that art. That’s what art is. In times of war and times of trouble and times of sadness and poverty, we have always been able to turn to art to remind us of our humanity. I think Spike did a phenomenal job of reminding people. It’s that hope, it’s that faith, it’s that idealism. We can make this world a better place and all it takes is one person to step out and start a movement.

Q: What kind of dad are you? Strict?

I’m all of that. I’m everything. I’m probably the funnest, coolest dad ever but I’m also probably one of the strictest and stern dads too. I believe discipline in the household, respect in the household are two of the most important things when raising up a child. But I’m also having a good time. I’m me, complex in a way where you have to be a well-rounded person. You got to be open-minded in raising children as well. When it’s time to put your foot down and lay down the law, you have to do it in a real way so it’s believable. I think, so far so good. Ultimately it’s rooted in unconditional love. I think that myself and my children’s mother are really focused on the same ideas of just showing love more than anything and whatever the environment is in helping understand, helping to encourage and understand the value of life.

Q: The holiday season is coming up. Family gatherings are coming up. Obviously you can’t watch this film with your kids since they are too young. What do you guys watch together at home?

Television, there’s so many things that you get to put forth as a family. Throw something on and say, “Check this out.” Or even like the holiday seasons, my children’s mother as well as myself are super festive. Do things all the time. You see us hosting on television and making songs. I think the time during the holiday to spend with family and to be able to share art at that time too is really special and we are both really grateful for that as well.

Q: You are a busy man. How do you do it? How do you have time to do it all? Do you sleep?

I don’t unfortunately [laughs]. But to me it’s all one job. I feel like I am in the entertainment business. I take every aspect of my job very seriously. When you are the CEO, you got to know how to do everything in the building. That’s just where it comes from. I am an entertainer. I think when you think of the entertainers of yesteryear like the (Frank) Sinatra’s, Bob Hope’s, Gene Kelly’s, Desi Arnaz’s, all of those people did many different things in front of and behind the camera. It was almost expected, you had to know how to sing, dance, act, produce. And I just think I’m probably cut from a similar cloth to where I just want to be able to spread my art and my entertainment in a well-rounded way.

Q: Any tips for how you balance all of this?

Keep your diet right. Lots of water, tons of water. And when you can rest get solid rest. Quiet meditation, deep rest to where your body is fully rejuvenated.  So even if you only got a few hours, you still feel one hundred percent.

Q: You were hospitalized a couple of years ago. How is your health?

I was hospitalized in the summer too. I was diagnosed with lupus nephritis, which is an autoimmune condition to where your immune system can get out of whack and start to attack your organs. People were like, “If you would rest more…” I honestly feel like this is just something I have to deal with. Everyone has their own hurdles, and hurdles are made to jump over. I honestly believe my condition has made me stronger because now I have to pay even more close attention in staying healthy and getting the proper amount of rest, putting the right things in my body. Granted now I’m probably a little more delicate than most but now my arm is a lot stronger because I have been building it up to combat whatever comes at me.

Q: So your health is okay.

NC: Yeah, I am stable. You got to stay stable. Like I said, everybody has to deal with something. I see my condition as something where I can be an example and I hope to inspire others who suffer from autoimmune conditions, just to say, you can live with it, you can get through it, you can live past it. You can be that example. That’s what I do. I wake up every day just thankful to open these two gifts called eyes, and really just excited about what this day is going to bring and the opportunity to live and walk on this planet one more day.

Q: When you have time, what are your enjoyable moments that last about two weeks at a time?

My kids. Honestly, always whenever I get a chance to spend time with them, we do silly stuff like go to Chuck E. Cheese and LEGOLAND, and I’m in there having more fun than them a lot of times, and just watching the smiles on their faces. If it’s not my own kids, it’s the time I get to spend with kids… I’m on the board with St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital, and spending time with those young people in there, seeing all of the adversity and things that they have to deal with in life, and they do it with a smile. It’s something special about children’s smiles that can really stop time and can really make you appreciate life. I want to see more of that. If I can continue to put smiles on people’s faces whether it’s through my art, through my passion, through my philanthropy, then that’s what we got to do.

Q: Where did you learn about charity work? Through your parents?

Yeah, my grandmother taught me, to whom much is given, much is required. You got to be a person of service. Always give yourself. It’s your duty and your privilege. My grandmother instilled that in me, and from my grandmother to my father and my mother as well have all been great inspirations in being nurturing and giving.

Q: What are your thoughts on gun control in this country?

I always say, “Stop the violence, put the guns down.” But on the same token I understand it’s pain in our community and hurt people, hurt people. So we got to deal with that pain at its core; and recondition our mindsets and recondition our communities and take our communities back. I think that’s what really needs to happen. Because we can sit around and argue politics all day long but if we don’t understand humanity then that’s when we are headed down the wrong path.

Q: Gun ownership is culturally different globally. It’s not safe to walk to school here.

I think we can all get to that understanding that the value of human life should not be able to be taken away with a gun or taken away with any type of weapon. We want to uphold respect, honor, and love. I think every culture really yearns for that and sometimes we go about it in the wrong way.

Chi-Raq opens in theaters on December 4th.