IN CONVERSATION WITH PAGE KENNEDY
Page Kennedy is a multi-hyphenate performer who has seen success on screens both large and small. While likely most recognized for his work as an actor, Kennedy is also a respected rapper and lyricist, who is well on his way to making his mark in the world of hip hop. Page just released his new album ‘Front Page’ in the beginning of July. He also stars in Netflix’s ‘The Upshaws’, which premiered Part 1 of its second season on 29 June. Part 2 is slated to release later this year.
Page, you have two passions in life, hip hop and acting. You were introduced to rap by your older brother at the age of seven. What made you fall in love with rap and hip hop?
Well for one, it was something new that I hadn’t seen before. And obviously when you’re at that age, you’re very impressionable. Especially by an older sibling that you may look up to. To me, my brother was cool. When I was seven, he was 17. He was in those top teenage years, so he was involved in everything fun that I could only dream of being able to be a part of. When he brought this element to me that I had never seen before and he was so exuberant about it, it made me that way. And then I saw the fashion and the way that he dressed and I saw how I dressed. I dressed like a little kid, like just whatever, but he had all of the fashion, the Adidas, the track suits, the Puma suits. And so the culture just grabbed me and I was insourced by the whole energy of it. You know, Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, that was my stuff.
What does this type of music mean and represent to you?
It means a way of expression. It means a voice for people who have unique and interesting lives and things to say, in their own way. Because there’s so many different types of rap, there’s different genres of rap, there’s something for everybody. If you don’t like Tee Grizzley and maybe you like NAS, if you don’t like NAS then maybe you like Asher Roth, it’s just different genres of rap music for everybody.
After you already had a passion for music, you then discovered your calling for acting, while attending the Western Michigan University. What was it about acting that made you want to pursue a career in it?
I already knew I wanted to be an actor since I was a little kid back in those days, like since I was seven years old, because I am a huge fan of Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson did a movie called ‘The Wiz’, where he played the scarecrow and I already was obsequious to him. And so when I saw him do that movie and I saw him singing and dancing, I was like “This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life, I wanna affect people the way he’s affecting me”. And then I would see his concerts and see how he would have people passing out and fainting just from watching him and I was enamored by that and I wanted to pursue that as well. And when I got to Grand Rapids Community College, they didn’t have a movie major, but they had a theater major and I felt like the greatest rap artist actors came from theater anyway, so I joined.
In acting you’ve built an impressive resume with appearances, both in some of the biggest shows on TV and in film. Which role to date stands out the most to you, as the one that left the biggest impact on your career?
Based off of the audience, based off of the engagement that I get from the fans, it would either have to be, U-turn sorry. It would either have to be U-turn from ‘Weeds’ or Radon Randell from ‘Blue Mountain State’.
I think those characters resonated with the public the most, I think they just gravitated to those characters the most. I had a lot of fun playing those characters. And I think my role as DJ on ‘The Meg’ will maybe supplant those, because this is a franchise, so there’s more opportunity for him to continue on.
You recently wrapped shooting ‘Meg 2: The Trench’ in Thailand, which is an upcoming American science fiction action film and a sequel to the 2018 film about a group of scientists encountering a 75-foot-long (23 m) megalodon shark while on a rescue mission on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. What can we expect from this sequel?
A lot more antagonist, a lot more jokes, faster, funnier and more kick-ass.
How would you describe filming a story about such a predator and your experience of filming in Thailand?
It’s a prodigious task to try to take on something as gargantuan as the Meg. We had great writers and great producers and Belle Avery had this story for many years and she finally got it made and we were able to bring it to life, so that’s incredible. Filming in Thailand, first of all, was extremely hot. It was so torrent in Thailand, just torrential heat every day. But the people there are so amazing, so differential, they are so kind and sweet and giving and warm that it made our time there just amazing. And Thailand is the most beautiful place that I’ve ever been to in my life. And I would love to go back there again. I love the Thai people.
While in Thailand, you had the chance to spend your downtime enjoying the sights, as well as Thailand’s wildlife inclusive of tigers, cheetahs and elephants. What was your favorite thing about Thailand’s wildlife?
I started off with the wild monkeys. That was pretty harrowing actually, cause we had to walk up a very large hill called Monkey Hill to even get to them. And then once they started coming out, they came out in droves. It’s like a preponderance of monkeys, just coming from everywhere. And then we also had food too, which you’re not supposed to take there, because then they really get excited about that. They’re wild monkeys, so they’re unpredictable, they’re markerial. But they’re sometimes cute and sometimes aggressive. I tried to take pictures with some and my girlfriend was by one of the big ones, but then when I tried to go sit by her, he attacked me. He jumped on my back and started hitting me on my back. It was really scary. And then they stole her shawl, they took it from her and they ran off with it.
After that is when I just went on a tangent of going to see stuff. We went to see tigers, we went to see cheetahs, we went to feed crocodiles, swim with dolphins. Then I went to two different elephant sanctuaries and at one I got to shower with the elephant in the ocean. And that was my favorite part, because the elephant was like a pet, he was like a puppy. He had a personality, he played with me, he was funny. He seemed like what a smart dog would be like that you have as a pet. So the elephant definitely was my favorite.
What would you say you have learned from your time there?
The biggest thing I learned while being there is to be kind to one another. It sounds like such an easy thing to do, but in America I don’t think that a lot of times we lead with that. I think we lead with defense, we lead with entitlement, we lead with a sense of being disrespected very easily. And I appreciate life so much, it’s so important to me, it’s so valuable and precious, that I don’t wanna do anything that will take that away. And so patience, grace and love is what I learned the most from being in Thailand. And I just wish that I could bottle all of that up and then just permeate it through America so that we would be able to live more of a Buddhist lifestyle, like the Thai people.
At the end of June, Netflix’s ‘The Upshaws’ premiered Part 1 of its second season. Part 2 is slated to release later this year. What can the viewers expect from the upcoming episodes?
I was filming both the series and the movie concurrently, so I was only able to do a few of the episodes in the second half. I just flew back for maybe like three or four episodes, so I only know about the first part of part two. But in that part, it’s just a lot of hilarity, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a lot of great storytelling and good acting. Kim Fields is always amazing and so is Wanda Sykes. It’s just a lot of fun stuff and good stories, a continuation.
In the beginning of July you released your new album ‘Front Page’. How would you describe this album?
I would describe this album as a good listen, It’s something for everybody. Half of the songs are generated towards my core audience, where they are laced with bars, content and stories. And then the other half are just like fun, easy listening music that is palatable for everyone to hear. You could play it in any situation, at the birthday party, basketball game, cookout, playing dominoes with your friends, riding in the car, getting ready. It just feels like good music. And that’s the first time that I had that amount of songs that fit in that genre, so I think sonically it’s my most aesthetically pleasing album to date.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration or idol?
Eminem, because of his effect on me early on. I knew about Eminem before 1999 when he came out, because I’m from Detroit and we would frequent the same spot at the hip hop shop. And he also had a tape that he put out, called ‘Infinite’, that my boy Ozi gave me and let me have. I had been a big fan of his early on. But then when he came out with ‘My Name Is’ and did all of these freestyles and all this stuff, it’s just music that I didn’t hear, it wasn’t available, no one was doing it in the way that he was doing it. His rhyme patterns, his ability to have a funny, quirky personality and talk about things that are impossible to do, but do it in a way that is complete wordsmith and perfect patterns and rhymes, was just something that was a breath of fresh air. It was immediately magnetic to me and it just stayed that way. He’s been the biggest influence, he’s been my favorite rapper for the longest amount of time and I love him.
Do you have any exciting, upcoming projects lined up, besides Part 2 of the second season of ‘The Upshaws’ and ‘Meg 2: The Trench’, that you can share with us about?
I already started back writing, so I’m already in the beginning stages of creating my next project. I have this ‘Straight Bars’ mixtape series and the next one will be ‘Straight Bars V’. I haven’t necessarily started on that yet, but next year you’ll be getting a mixtape and another album to be concomitant with the release of ‘Meg 2: The Trench’. I also have ‘The Upshaws’ Part 2 of the second season coming and I’m ubiquitously online, doing funny stuff on TikTok and Instagram.
Interview by JANA LETONJA