The latest in a long line of sci-fi films depicting the destruction of a major American metropolis, "Battle: Los Angeles" has a lot to live up to and surpass. However, with stars from the likes of Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo and Bridget Moynahan, the film promises some big-name talent to bring life to an often-tired genre. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the gritty film follows a Marine platoon as they fight off alien invaders in Los Angeles and try to secure the safety of civilians trapped in the crossfire. First-person shooter and documentary-style cinematography makes the film leap off the screen, implicating audiences in fight for the fate of both Los Angeles and the world. I recently had the chance to speak with a few of the stars from "Battle: Los Angeles" including Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Ne-Yo.
Tatiana Craine: How did you prepare for your respective roles in the film?
Aaron Eckhart: That's a very good question. I prepare mostly the same. I do as much research as I possibly can for each character and the subject matter. Through my technique or whatever it is, whatever actors do, I try to personalize that material as best I can. For example, for "Rabbit Hole," I went to some grief groups and talked to people who had lost a son or a daughter or a sibling or a mother or father. Then I would go on the internet and YouTube people who video-blogged their grief and that sort of thing. So I use any tool I possibly can to get closer to the material. Like in "Battle: Los Angeles," we went through boot camp, we got to know our weapons, got to know the mind of a Marine. Whatever movie I'm doing, I try to make it as real as possible, so it's all the same.
Ne-Yo: To be completely honest, I didn't have to do much self-preparation at all. The people that put the movie together had all the preparation ready for us. We trained with actual marines for a few weeks. We had a gunnery sergeant, a master sergeant and a sergeant major there; they basically trained us like marines, which was a little difficult, to say the least. Waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning every morning, jogging three to six miles every day, calisthenics, eating that disgusting food. It was terrible. But at the end of the day, it was worth it-when you see the film, we look like actual marines. That was their goal, to make sure that when the movie came out, a seasoned marine could go see this and say, "Oh yeah, okay, they know what they're doing." They wanted it to look as authentic as possible, so they trained us as if we were really about to go to war. which was really hard on some of us. We were like, "We're actors. We're not really shooting anybody. You don't have to yell in my face like that." [Laughs] But it was what it was. Harris is a guy who's engaged and about to be married. He used to be kind of a playboy guy. He's an ex-football player, hurt himself, so he couldn't play football anymore. so he joined the Marines just to still feel that sense of camaraderie. He's always been a guy who's been about his friends, his homeboys. I hate to say it, but women never really mattered that much to him in the beginning until he met his fiancé. He was a college football guy, so girls used to throw themselves at him, but now that he's in the Marines, he's just another guy. He met this girl, and she treated him like, literally, just another guy. He's engaged, he's doing the Marine thing, he's enjoying himself, until this whole thing happens and he says, "I really gotta focus on the things that are important. I gotta buckle down and figure out the best way to solve a problem." [He] provides a little bit of comic relief, but his life has just started and it's about to end now, and this sucks.
Michelle Rodriguez: Basically she's a Tech Sergeant in the air force. And what the job is, is to basically detect atmospheric interference and monitor the basic surveillance system for global America. I call it "global America" because it's like every base station in the Air Force monitors all the activity going on in our atmosphere, and they basically match that and look for irregularities and try to assess if anybody's infiltrating zones that they shouldn't be from different parts of the world. It's really awesome what they do. So I play one of those Tech Sergeants who is measuring algorithms and that sort of basic job, but then the aliens come in and all hell breaks loose. So that goes out the window, and the guns come out. [Laughs] The training was pretty agonizing. I hate running. Every day running two miles, waking up at 5 in the morning, sit ups, push-ups. a lot of stuff I hate. The funnest part was training with the guns, which I love, which is my favorite part. The training was pretty darn hardcore. Not as hardcore as "Girlfight" where I'm literally gaining 25 pounds of muscle, but pretty hardcore. The training was agonizing but fun. I love running around with a gun, shooting a .50 cal even if it is blanks. It's pretty awesome. It's not every day you get to play with so many toys.
TC: What makes "Battle: Los Angeles" different from other films like "District 9" in the sci-fi, alien genre?
N: This movie has heart. The difference with this movie is that they pay a lot of attention to character development. A lot of these end of the world films, you don't really get to know the characters well enough to give a damn that the world is ending. You don't care. You just want to see something explode. You want to see the Statue of Liberty fall over or something crazy. With this film, you actually get into the characters, you get into their lives, and what's going on, what they had before all of this happened. You actually get to the point where you actually give a damn about the characters. I think that's the thing that these cataclysmic, destruction movies lack, is that they get so caught up in all of the destruction that they forget about setting up the characters. They forget about the human element of the people involved. You want to be able to relate to these people. You want to be able to relate to them to the point where you're in their shoes, you're thinking, "Damn, what would I do if that was me? Damn, last time I got to speak to my girlfriend, we got into an argument, and now the world is about to blow up." You want to feel that. At least I do when I go to a movie like that. In a situation like this, I want to feel what the people onscreen are feeling, and I think that's what this movie does on top of the fact that the way Jonathan shot it-and this is for all of my black ops players and video game players. He shot [the film] very much like a first-person shooter, so you feel like you're in the movie. It's very innovative the way he shot the film, so there's a couple different reasons to go see this film.
AE: This movie is a war movie, really. It's a war movie that happens to [feature] fighting a foe from outer space, so it's based around aliens and that stuff. But it's really about a group of Marines trying to bond together and survive. It's filmed in a documentary-style, so it looks real a la "Black Hawk Down"-very gritty like we haven't seen before. It's also based on kind of a real story that happened, I think in the '40s, so it has a few elements that are different. It's a really kick-ass entertaining film, but it also has a lot of heart in it, too, so I know you'll enjoy it.
MR: The biggest thing for me is the perspective. You're like one of the characters, just being an audience member the way the cinematography is shot. The way that the whole film is shot is very "in it," very in your face, very first man shooter and I find that to be unique for a sci-fi flick. The only other time I saw something similar to this was in "District 9." But it wasn't as in your face and moving constantly. As an audience member you are in the film, and it's because of the way it was shot. I think that makes it unique in and of itself. The only other time you'd see something like that is "District 9" or "Black Hawk Down." I think that's really cool. It adds to the suspense and the whole vibe of making it real.
TC: I hear the aliens are a little different than others we've seen onscreen before.
AE: They have very human characteristics. They think like humans, and they're not very otherworldly. they are in their appearance, but in terms of their mentality and psychology, they're very human which is interesting because they become an equal force with our forces, and it's a real struggle. I think they're unlike anything you've ever seen in a movie before.
N: Reading over this script and just looking at the things that happen in this movie. If you really look at this seriously, I could definitely see how it would make people live life to the fullest. I don't think aliens are gonna come any time soon and wipe us out, but one lesson to be learned is to live life to the fullest. Never put off until tomorrow what you could do today.
TC: So it seems like this is more of a Marine-based film...
AE: It's really just a war movie that happens to have aliens. I think it's a little bit more than that. The aliens are so beautifully done and obviously very important in the movie. The special effects did a wonderful job with them. It's such a gritty, documentary-style filmmaking, and you really feel that the ground is here. You could be fighting anybody and it could be anywhere.
TC: What would you tell someone deciding whether or not to go see the film?
MR: You need to watch it, it's the best movie on the planet, and if you don't-you're stupid. [Laughs] It depends on who I'm talking to, of course. but the biggest thing that appeals to me out of the whole thing is the first-person shooter aspect of it. I mean, I never really watched an alien film with so much action where I felt like a part of the action. [Others] you're kind of outside looking in. The way that this movie was shot makes you feel like you're in it. I think just for the experience, I feel this is something you should go check out.
TC: During the filming of "Battle: Los Angeles," did any of you perform your own stunts?
AE: Yes, that's a good question. I performed most of my own stuff. I think there were some explosions I didn't do, only because you're just not allowed to. I did do a stunt, it was about three weeks before the movie ended. I jumped off a rock and landed wrong and broke my arm. So I had to do the next three weeks with a broken arm. But we were always hitting ourselves in the face and jamming our fingers and stuff like that, so it was a very physical film.
TC: How was working with director Jonathan Liebesman?
MR: He's freaking awesome. Love that guy. He's down to earth. He attacks every situation from a thousand angles; he doesn't really let it close any doors while he's working. He leaves everything open for change. I admire that, and that massive attention to detail. He's constantly analyzing everything about everything, and I love that because that means that he's animated. That means that he's constantly interacting and always moving pieces. I like directors like that. He's not scared to play; he'll let you play. And he's really good with actors. He's good at communicating with actors, I think. He's just a great guy.
AE: I can't speak more highly of Jonathan. He is a director who knows how to tell a story and tell it entertainingly for a wide audience. He knows exactly what he wants; nothing gets in his way. He's prepared. The tone and the vision of the movie is really Jonathan's. We always use three cameras, and we were always shooting multiple and long takes. It's very real. He was very specific always in telling us what the aliens were doing and what time, what they sounded like and how we should react. all that sort of stuff. He kept all the actors involved at all times. He has a very concrete vison of what's going on. That's so important for an actor, because to an actor, you can rely on that. And he makes the actor see the alien in his mind so we can be on the same page. That and his enthusiasm and energy really made a great film.
N: For one, Jonathan is a freaking slave driver. He's very, very, very much a perfectionist. Not to say I don't love the guy to death-I do, he's an incredible guy. He's that guy who's going to push and push and push and push until you want to punch him in the face, but the end result is the best performance that you can possibly get. It was a little difficult with the CGI thing. I am still very much a novice actor, so for me, to act like I'm terrified of something that's not even there is a little difficult for me. But you know, with Jonathan's help and with the other seasoned actors' help [it was easier].
TC: What was it like working in Louisiana?
AE: We filmed it in Louisiana; it was too expensive to film it in Los Angeles. In the middle of summer, we went to Louisiana, and we went through three weeks of boot camp, which was intense training with the marines, retired colonels, and retired staff sergeants. They stuck us through the paces. We all had rank, so we trained in rank, we ate in rank, we showered in rank. We did our bunks. Everything was uniform. We went out there every day, and we learned our weapons. We learned how to take a room, all this sort of stuff. We did it basically 12 hours a day, all in gear. We really got to know each other, we got to learn what we liked about our characters or what we liked about each other, what kind of music we liked, the jokes. all that sort of stuff. So when the guys were in the movie, we really didn't have to act.
N: I didn't get to do a whole lot of hanging out when we were out there shooting the film. It was very much a [workday] from 5, 6 o'clock in the morning to late, late, late night, so by the time we were done shooting I had a studio bus parked on the grounds of the hotel we were staying at, so I would go from set to the studio bus and record music. I didn't get to experience the city as much as I'd like to. I went to Larry Flynt's Hustler's Club a few times, that was cool.
TC: How was it working with each other?
N: Aaron Eckhart is the actor that is in the role until the credits roll-a method actor. I'd never experienced working with a method actor before, and in this movie, he plays a hard-ass, so I was the first to be a little confused on set. In the role, he's playing this character, and then you go to lunch and you try to say something to him, and he throws the character at you again. It's like "Woah, brother, to hell with you too." It was one of those things, but then they explained to me that he's not being an asshole, he's a method actor, so he's still in character. I'm like "Oh, okay, well, shit, I wish somebody would've told me that." But honestly, he was cool, it was cool. It was an experience that I've never experienced before, but man, that's kind of intense. Especially depending on what kind of character you're playing-to stay in character the whole time that might be a bit much. I don't know if I can do the method acting thing, but I gotta give hats off to him, because he's incredible in the film, and he definitely played the role to the nines. It was incredible.
AE: [Michelle Rodriguez] was great. She really brought a lot of character to the piece. She has a very unique and interesting way of looking at characters and always has questions that nobody has thought of. She does her research. She's just great to have around. Everybody really loved her energy. She is really fun while she's working. She was an excellent addition [to the cast]. She's up for anything, too. She's a tough girl and game for anything. Ne-Yo impressed me right off the bat. We were thrown into boot camp so quickly that all of this outside personality soon just went right into the movie. I quickly forgot that Ne-Yo was a pop star and just got to know him as his character. He just took to it like water. He's a very humble guy. He's a very sweet man. He got along with everybody. He's funny. He was a hit with everybody. But like I said with Michelle, he was very into the movie. He was very into the action and the military training, and I was very impressed with everybody.
TC: What drew you to "Battle: Los Angeles" originally?
AE: I read the script and I thought, "Well, I'm not sure about doing an alien film right of the bat," but I got in the room with the director, Jonathan Leibesman who is a 32 year-old South African. Great guy. And he didn't even have a job yet. For all the college students out there, and all the people who want to be directors and producers and actors and all that sort of thing, you know Jonathan didn't have the job, but he made a presentation that was outstanding. He did it all himself. He used his computer. He did all the aliens. He showed us how it was going to work. He timelined it. Impressive stuff. He showed us a clip on YouTube of some Marines going through Fallujah, and said this is what this movie is going to look like. And as soon as I saw that, I said, "I'm doing it, I'm in." And true to his word, Jonathan filmed it exactly like that clip. He made it entertaining. He made it big. I think we came up with a good film. I guess the lesson for me with Jonathan is to go out there, and you can make it happen if you just put effort into things. This [role] was new for me. This is the one character of my career so far that I was sad to leave. I really enjoyed Staff Sergeant Nantz and just being around the Marines. And just for selfishness sake; I hope they make another movie, because I would love to play this character again. It's kind of a childhood dream; every actor wants to be in a war movie, and they want to cry, they want to be in a Western or something. so I feel like I covered one of those bases with this film.
N: I'm always a person looking for a first. I want to challenge myself. I want to try something else. I think to stay in your comfort zone is to guarantee you're going to live a very, very long life, but you may live a very long, boring life. Who wants to live forever? I don't. So I decided to try something I've never tried before. They said, "You can play a marine, it'll be a very physical role-very hands on. There will be stunts in there, but if you want to try them yourself, by all means, go ahead." I was all for it. I was like, "You know what, let's go!" I got a couple bumps and bruises to walk away with, and at the end of the day, I think I did a damn good job.
TC: What's the appeal of the sci-fi film genre?
N: "Stomp the Yard" was a great film, about dancing and that whole thing. but I felt like I wasn't really challenged all that much. Don't get me wrong, learning how to step was definitely challenging, but as far as the role, I played me. It was me being me. This role, Harris, is somebody completely other than who I am. He's going through something that I've never gone through, something that I wouldn't want to go through. I'd never join the Marines, and no disrespecting the Marines-I have absolute respect for the Marines-but I'm just not tough enough. This was an opportunity to completely step out of what you've seen me doing. I feel like you'd expect to see me dance onscreen, you'd expect to see me sing a song or something-because that's very close to what I actually do. No one expects to see me roll up in an M16 shooting at eight-foot tall aliens.
MR: It's my world, baby, I love it. I'm a geek at heart. Mythology, it's H.G. Wells, predicting the future, using your imagination, exaggerating reality, pushing borders, agitating, constant state of entropy, quest for balance. it's like we're trying to figure out what this whole thing is. It's like we've got this unique little planet in the middle of fucking nowhere. It's gnarly, and I love when people explore possibilities. A lot of people think that sci-fi isn't tangible, but then again, I find it so tangible. I feel like it's in many ways predicting the future. It's awesome. It's my world, and I'll dive into it. I'll make love to it.
TC: In that case, what's your favorite sci-fi film?
MR: You can't do that to me! Well, here's the thing, I could say something like "Avatar," but that's the commercial me speaking. I just love the fact that love was translated into a universal language. The snobby me would be like, "Come on that's so commercial, give me a break. Why don't you say some cooler like 'Blade Runner'?" And I would say "Blade Runner." That was awesome. People like that movie, but I thought it was insane, it was great. But "Blade Runner" just really captivated me in such an original way. I like so many different things about so many different sci-fi movies. definitely "Blade Runner" if I had to chose-it'd be in the top five.
TC: On that same note, what's your dream plot or idea for a sci-fi movie?
MR: You can't geek me out with a question like that! That's a good one. I'd love to be flying around in a giant insect with my hands stuffed in its thorax [in a] fighting sequence. Yeah, on planet earth, like maybe a hundred years ahead trying to infiltrate the aristocrats' lifestyle in Mars. Maybe some war issues between the government and free spirited Man. I like the idea of monks and scientists getting together, too. I think that's really intriguing. I'd like for that to occur, because I think there's so much awesome technology that would come of that. It'd be sick.
TC: If you could remake any movie, what would it be?
N: I'd remake the '80s cult classic "The Last Dragon," and I'd cast myself as Leroy Green. I've been a martial arts fan for a very, very ,very long time. I studied martial arts for about five or six years. I think that would be a fun role to play. I don't even know what I would bring to the role, I just feel like that would be a lot of fun to take a cult classic and try to modernize it a little bit. You don't want to take it too far out of the realm that it was [in] because you know, people have tried that and failed at it. So you know, I'd let it be what it is, but I'd modernize it just a touch. Just the martial arts of it alone, martial arts in Harlem, that's crazy to me, so that's the one I'd do.
TC: Did your roles as Marines transform your views about the military at all?
AE: Absolutely. I've always had a high regard for our soldiers and armed forces. I recently went on a USO Tour to Afghanistan, and I met a lot of Marines an Army members. They're good kids, and good men and women, and I certainly can empathize with their situation. One thing I learned about them is that they're fighting mostly for what they believe in, but they're fighting for each other. We tried to embrace this, because you're out there alone and you have to rely on each other. You have to trust each other, and you have to live or die with each other. I think this film is very respectful of the Marines. We had their cooperation, and we used their toys. I hope that when the Marines or soldiers see this movie that they will feel we treated with respect.
MR: Throughout the years I've been doing [acting], I've had a pretty great relationship with the military. The military is the military. Not much about my opinion on the military has changed. I love the boys and the girls. They're awesome. The one thing that really did stick out to me, that before wasn't as potent in my meetings with the military was the lack of camaraderie between different subsidiary groups, like Army versus Air Force versus Marines versus National Guard versus Intel, Spec Ops. You know, it's friendly sometimes, the way that they crack on each other, but there are really some serious opinions about each other, and it's not necessarily nice when one's speaking about the other. I always found that kind of weird.
TC: Ne-Yo, you've been in the press recently about your feelings on artists relying on Auto-Tune for their music. What are your thoughts about that as an artist that doesn't use Auto-Tune like that?
N: I don't want people to think I'm trying to bad-mouth anybody using Auto-Tune. I just think just think there's a way that you're supposed to use Auto-Tune. It's just one man's opinion. If you don't agree with me, I'm fine with that. The way T-Pain uses Auto-Tune, it's a style. It's his style; he came into his own as an artist using Auto-Tune. That's who he is; that's cool. The way Kanye uses Auto-Tune on "808s and Heartbreaks," again, it was a style and did a lot of things. It wasn't like "I need this in order to sound good. I can't make music without this. I need this to be creative." That's not what it was. I thought even in the case of T-Pain, he sounds good without Auto-Tune, but he chooses not to because that's his style. For a person to call themselves a singer, an R&B singer, but you turn on their song and it's just Auto-Tuned out throughout the whole damn song-that's the part that irks me and gets under my skin. It's like, "Come on man, I put blood, sweat and tears into my craft. I put hours in to make sure I can sing and dance at the same time and sound good doing it. And then this guy comes in with a machine and gets praise for it; I'm like, "No." I feel like Auto-Tune is training wheels. If you're a singer, take the damn training wheels off and sing. That's just my personal opinion. It's one man's opinion. I might get in trouble for it; I always seem to, but it is what it is.
TC: Your fifth album is going to come out within the next year or so. What kind of style are you going for with your latest record?
N: That's a good question. I'm actually still in the process of figuring out what that style is going to be. First and foremost, I want to thank anyone who went out and got the "Libra Scale" album and just allowed me to get a little too cool for the room and get off on my artistic thing. I appreciate that. "Libra Scale" was definitely a step in another direction from what people are expecting from me, so I appreciate anyone who stepped out on a ledge with me on that album and went out and got it, paid attention to the story, or at least tried to. This next album is going to be a little less complicated. This album is going to go back to the "Just listen to the music and vibe out" - that's what it's going to be about. No complicated story to try and follow, no "Okay, what happens in part three?" I'm just going to make music to make people feel stuff. That's my goal with this. I'm going to write songs to make you remember old boyfriends, or make you love the one you're with even more. Or a song that you say, "When I get married, I want this song to get played when I'm walking down the aisle." Those are the songs I'm trying to write for this particular album. "Libra Scale," it was an experiment, a journey into unknown waters. I've never directed a video before. I've never written a treatment for a video before. I've never written a story and written songs around that story before-so it was a lot of firsts in that album, and in that, I was a novice in a lot of things in that album. I've got to say, the album did pretty good for a guy who's never done that stuff before, but on another side of that, I do understand that it was a little different for the typical Ne-Yo fan. It was like, "You know, you're a superhero now. Interesting." Love was the inspiration for the fourth album. Love was the inspiration for the first through the third. Love is one of those things that will never go out of style, so you will always find that thread in any album that I do. You'll always find that common thread.
TC: Speaking of love, you've recently become a father. What kind of inspiration does that parental love bring to you?
N: I'll put it to you like this: now, it's not about "Let me grind it out and do these shows and let me hope to sell a billion records because I want to buy another Bentley. Now, it's about Little Mama's gotta eat, Little Mama deserves to live the life she's been brought into for her entire life. Little Mama's gotta go to college at some point. Everything I do now has an absolute purpose, and I don't mind it. It honestly just makes you grind that much harder. It's a little difficult because I want to spend every waking moment with her. She's not where I am now, and it's eating me alive. I hate being this kind of dad, but it's what you gotta do. I can't stay home every day, because nobody's making [money], and then there's a lifestyle change. I have to make sure that my daughter never needs anything. I've never felt this level of responsibility or care for another person. I've been in love before. I know what it is to love a woman. I know what it is to love my mother. I know what it is to love my craft. I've never ever felt like I would die, steal, kill, torture someone for another person before, and that's what I feel for my daughter. I don't care what it is, I don't care what I've got to do. "You will never hurt. You will never need. And if I have anything to do with it, you will live the best life possible." That's what my love for her is. I've got to say, it's inspiring in itself. I haven't gotten to the point where I can write a song about it, because every time I talk about it, I get choked up. Trying to sing about it is a whole other situation. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever done, and it's the best thing I've ever done.
TC: Any future projects in the works, Aaron?
AE: I'll tell you one that's already in the can is a movie with Johnny Depp called "The Rum Diary." It's based off of Hunter S. Thompson. We filmed it in Puerto Rico. Basically, Johnny Depp plays a down-and-out newspaper man who goes to Puerto Rico to get a job, and it's a beautiful movie. Johnny's really great in the movie. I'm about to start up on a movie called "The Expatriate." It's a CIA thriller that we're filming in Europe about a father and daughter who are on the run.
TC: You're working on a few screenplays at the moment, Michelle. Can you talk a little bit about the process?
MR: Basically the one I'm working on right now at the moment I'm fifty pages into it. It's got kind of like a "Pulp Fiction"-esque vibe to it-not as exaggerated as Tarantino or Rodriguez-but for sure it's in the realm of surrealism. Throughout the story you have to kind of wonder if it's real or not. It's more of a New York-based sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll kind of vibe.
TC: You've been in a lot of "tough girl" roles from "Girlfight" to "Blue Crush" to "Avatar." Do you find this is more of a persona that's written into these roles? Or do you bring the tough to these characters?
MR: I think it's really just men thinking that in order to have a strong woman, she has to have masculine qualities. They write her that way. I mean, it's not really my fault. What is my fault is that I pigeon-hole myself into these types of roles because I don't find anything else attractive. [Laughs] You know, the kind of falling in love chick or the one who's chasing after some boy-they're just stories that I don't really enjoy and find incredibly redundant and monotonous. Sometimes they're incredibly interesting to watch in a drama by a well-seasoned actress. But as far as working, I don't find it appealing to embody those characters, so I stick to what I find fun. Action! I like girls to do stuff. I don't like them to be sitting around whining about stuff all the time. I find it incredibly annoying.
TC: Any idols or inspiration?
N: I like versatility in an actor. There's a couple different reasons to pay attention to certain different actors. Take Denzel Washington for example. He's the kind of guy where if you cast Denzel Washington in your movie, you know exactly what you're casting. He's the guy that's going to be himself in every film, but that's what you love about him, which is why you cast him. But then you take Jared Leto, somebody like that who is an absolute character actor, to where every film that he's playing, you see somebody completely different. It's like his look will change or his voice will change or whatever the case may be. I like actors that can do that. I've always wanted to be that guy who could turn into a whole other person if I felt like it. That's who Jared Leto is, on top of the fact that he's doing music now, which is just incredible to me. Let me see, Denzel is one, Jared Leto is one. I love Tom Hanks. I love the fact that he can do drama, he can do comedy. I've never seen him in an action role, but I don't doubt that he could do it if he just put his mind to it. Diversity. those are a few [actors]. Bruce Willis is another one.
TC: How about musically?
N: I listened to a little bit of everything. For one, I was born in Arkansas, which is Deep South, so initially, it was a lot of soul music-a lot of Marvin Gay and the O-Jays, the whole Motown sound, and all of that. My mom moved us to Las Vegas at a very young age-I think I was about 9. My mom's musical tastes changed a little bit. She was always the kind of woman that could get into a lot of things, very versatile with her musical selection. So once we got to Vegas, I listened to the Sammy Davis Jr., the whole Rat Pack, that kind of era, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, and from there it went even further. She got into country music a little bit. My mom was a melody person. No matter what the genre of music, as long as there was a melody she could relate to, she would listen to it. My mom was my hero, so anything that she was into, I was into. As far as my musical influences, the people that inspire me to do what I do. there are four in general, I call them my four kings: Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis Jr., Prince and Stevie Wonder.
TC: Ne-Yo and Michelle, you both make consistent transitions from one medium to another-Ne-Yo, you do it with music and Michelle, you do it with television. Do you experience any difficulties going back and forth?
N: Let me start by saying that I have not abandoned music, nor do I plan to. Music runs through my veins. Acting, though it's fun and I have a respect for it, it's just an interesting hobby for me right now. It's something that I'm trying. I believe in experiencing growth and trying new things, and if you try something out, and you find that you're pretty good at it, then keep going. That's how I think. So acting is one of those [things]. It's just another way of expressing myself. It's another form of self-expression. But as far as my music, I'll never stop doing music until the world decides that they don't want to hear me anymore. In which case, maybe you'll see me in a lot more movies. But as of right now, I'm going to try and balance out both.
MR: To me, there's really no big difference, other than the fact that you get more air time with your character. You have more time on television than you do on film to actually make arcs. I think that's pretty cool with television. With film, it's more rushed and everything's pretty much set for you. Fifty percent is the script and fifty percent is what you bring to it. You pretty much know everything that's going to happen. Television's a lot more unpredictable that way; you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. With a film you have it from beginning to end. You can analyze it a thousand times if you want to or you can create whatever you want, but it's pretty much set for you. In television, the unpredictability of not knowing what's going to happen next week is awesome. There's more time to play on television than on film.
TC: Lastly, "Battle: Los Angeles" is one of the many films in which Los Angeles gets rampaged, like in "Escape from L.A.," "2012," "The Day After Tomorrow," and others. What do you think the appeal of, to some extent, destroying Los Angeles is for audiences?
AE: [Laughs] It's got to be masochistic in some way, you know what I mean? [Laughs] The self-hating Los Angelenos. [Laughs] I guess the film industry is based out here, and we're very familiar with it. It's what we see, and I guess it's fun to destroy it.
"Battle: Los Angeles" hits theaters everywhere Mar. 11.