As Machine Gun Kelly, Colson Baker has made waves and a name in the rap game. His goals in Hollywood are no less lofty: “I didn’t come in to be a sidekick. I came in to be a box office-selling, culture-changing movie star.”
After supporting roles in the Showtime series Roadies, the techno-thriller Nerve and Netflix’s much-binged viral thriller Bird Box, Baker has a slew of movies on the horizon — and two in as many weeks. He plays a street-smart Chicago criminal who rebels against the alien invaders ruling America in the sci-fi Captive State, (in some theatres Friday), dons skintight leopard-print pants as drummer Tommy Lee in Netflix’s Motley Crue biopic The Dirt (streaming March 22) and stars opposite his buddy Pete Davidson in the coming-of-age comedy Big Time Adolescence later this year.
“Tommy Lee was the first role where I had to just become somebody else. I need to be pushed a little bit with larger roles and more dynamics in a character,” Baker says. “It’s hard to milk five emotions out of being onscreen for 10 minutes.”
With an as-yet-untitled Netflix sci-fi film co-starring Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the way, Baker, 28, took time out from working on his new record — for release this year or else “you’ll next be interviewing me from an insane asylum” — to talk about his new movies, befriending a Saturday Night Live star and being honest.
Question: Did you internalize the Captive State concept and wonder what you would do if aliens came to Earth and took us over?
Colson Baker: For the cast that was constantly fighting aliens, I’m sure that was something they tapped into. Me, I had one scene with an alien and I couldn’t see it because it was a green screen the whole entire time. I have no idea what my mental state was other than “Run from the green circle.” (But) they look awesome.
Q: Are you a sci-fi fan in general?
Baker: Absolutely. I’m huge on fantasy worlds, period. The tattoo on my back is a Dali piece that’s a giant ode to surrealism. I’m definitely a fan of escaping what’s going on in your real life.
Q: Do you have a favourite fantasy world?
Baker: If you didn’t pick up a hockey stick and take off the end with the little flipper on it and pretend like you’re a Jedi, I don’t know what you were doing as a kid.
Q: Was it just as cool torching roaches and revisiting how really crazy life was in Motley Crue’s heyday?
Baker: Rock ’n’ roll is not PG-13, and that’s also not a fantasy world for me. It’s where I live to this day, pretty much every day.
Q: What one scene in “The Dirt” really tripped you out?
Baker: We like to imagine that there’s no way two rock stars could be in a competition for how gnarly they are by licking each other’s (urine) off the ground next to a pool with families sitting at it. But it’s true, man.
Q: You share screen time with your pal Pete Davidson in both “The Dirt” and “Big Time Adolescence.” What bonded you two?
Baker: He had been a fan of my music and I was a fan of his comedy. And he also smokes so much weed and I smoke so much weed, and it’s really hard to find stoner partners. When we were filming The Dirt, we’d just be in each other’s trailers, just smoking all day and laughing. … That one was just meant to happen because now that’s my best friend, man.
Q: Hip-hop seems like a very competitive place — case in point, your feud with Eminem. Have you found acting to be an industry with less beefs?
Baker: No, there are plenty of actors that I (expletive) hate. I don’t separate work from personal. Just like there’s people that I dislike in music, there’s also people in the acting world that I don’t agree with or I think they’re too into themselves or they’re overhyped, and there’s people that work at the restaurant down the block from me that suck, too. I don’t really take it upon myself to hide my inner feelings about people. My mouth is too honest, man. If I don’t like you, you’re going to know about it.
Q: What’s been the guiding force for your new music?
Baker: I had a big wake-up call on the way to thinking that I was done with this album by someone saying, “You haven’t let anybody in your heart or your mind past a certain point, and that is the reason why you’re not seeing the same fans you connected with, that’s why you’re seeing them drift away.” I had to go and erase my whole album and start from scratch. What I was holding inside is so much better than any of the facade that I was trying to cover it up with.