By Miki Turner
Page 3 staff

For Ice-T there's nothing like keeping it real. So when the rapper/actor says at the end of our interview that he wants everyone to write "Law & Order" creator and executive producer Dick Wolf a letter and tell him that Ice-T needs more money, you get the feeling he's not joking.

"I'm helping out the show," he adds with a chuckle.

Ice T
Actor/rapper Ice T is all about keeping it real to the very end.
And on Tuesday's episode of "Law & Order: SVU," Ice-T is doing just that. The 46-year-old Newark, N.J. native, who has played Detective Fin Tutuola for the past three seasons, finally gets a chance to shine in an episode entitled "Careless." In it Ice-T helps solve the murder of a young foster child.

Ice-T talked about his role on the show, his music, the state of rap, and his respect for pro athletes during a telephone interview with Page 3.

1. Could you talk about how you've grown as an actor since being on "Law & Order?"

Ice T: When I came into the acting thing, I kind of got dropped into it through "New Jack City." Before I knew it I was doing films. But on "Law & Order" you're working everyday, so it can't do anything but make you learn how to act better. You gain confidence and you're acting with some of the best people in the business. A lot of people who come on our show are like Academy Award winners -- it's a top-shelf show.

1a. Why do you think some rappers make such good actors?

I think it's just a normal crossover from musicians and entertainers into the different fields of entertainment. You go all the back to Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Cher... it's just part of entertainment. I think the first thing people are going to have to realize is that rappers are musicians -- give us a little bit of credit. Because we come from the ghetto and we come from the streets, we had to really fight to get any kind of respect. Now people are seeing that we're talented. We're no different from anybody else. We've shown and proven by now.

1b. When you're being showcased like you are in this upcoming episode, "Careless," do you approach the work any differently than if you only had two lines?

Well, honestly, I like when I only have two lines in a show because I have more days off (laughs)! I'm not going to lie about that. But I'm not afraid of taking the reigns and taking off with the show so when they're like "OK Ice, you're going to be the star," I'm like, "Just give me the ball." You can get deeper into the role when you've got more to play with because you get to see me transcend from one scene right into another. You get to feel the texture of the acting a bit more than just a pop here, a pop there. But, you know, I don't mind the days off either.

2. What kind of feedback does the man who wrote "Cop Killer" get from cops in regard to the show?

I mean, pretty much cops like me playing cops. They dig it. They I.D. with me because all the cops in the street think they're tough and think they're hard-core. I play that kind of cop -- the one that just wants to grab the perp and break his neck. They get off on that. It's just some street stuff. I haven't had anybody say you shouldn't be playing a cop or anything like that. Everybody likes my portrayal of police. I've dealt with enough police in my life to know how they get down.

2a. Do you see a lot of Fin in Ice-T or vice-versa?

It's not totally me. Dick Wolf just said, "Ice, we want you to play a policeman. Imagine we gave you a badge. How would you deal with it? You've got so much to say about the cops so show us how to do it right." So, that's basically what I'm doing. I'm playing myself as a cop.

3. Given all the controversy surrounding "Cop Killer" did it surprise you that Dick Wolf would have the guts to cast you in this role?

Janet Jackson
According to Ice T, a pop star like Janet Jackson should have known better.
Not Dick Wolf -- anybody else in television, yes, but not Dick Wolf. Dick Wolf is an edgy cat. I worked with Dick Wolf playing a bad guy on "New York Undercover" and he knew what I was about. He could read me. He knew I was a no-nonsense cat and I wasn't here to make any trouble. He's basically the man as far as that's concerned. I don't think any of these other TV execs had the balls to do it.

4. Have you had the opportunity to score an episode?

I would, but you have to understand that "Law & Order" is pretty much set in stone the way they work it and they're not going to let anything really outrageous happen. I'm a little bit too avant garde for that. I'll score movies and stuff, but that show has to stay within certain boundaries and Mike Close has been doing it for so long, I think he knows the vibe they want.

5. There's a lot of sameness in the show. How do you feel about that?

If there's one thing I don't like about this show is that if you watch it long enough, you can figure it out. If you watch enough "Law & Order"s -- our show --there's certain keys to the show that kind of take away from the show. Let me tell you one key: whoever me and (Richard) Belzer beat up, they didn't do it. OK, so that's just one key. If you see me and Belzer beat somebody up in the first couple of scenes, they didn't do it. Once you start adding those keys together, you can start figuring it out.

6. Speaking of figuring it out, what do you make of the whole Janet Jackson debacle? Is this just another form of censorship -- like what you experienced with "Cop Killer?"

Well, I mean I just think that radios and televisions are built with these knobs that have off and on on them. I think that the airwaves are filled with a lot of craziness, but we don't have to listen to them. You can change the channel. I just think enough restrictions have been made legally... I mean Janet's supposed to know that she ain't supposed to do that at the Super Bowl. If Marilyn Manson had done it -- it's OK. But she did it and she's supposed to be a pop star. See, you have to know when you're stepping into these gray areas. In rock 'n' roll, we're singers who are known to try and break the rules. Jerry Lee Lewis is going to flip over the piano. I mean, that's just what we do. And you gotta be prepared for that. As far as the censorship, I think it's kind of played out. I think it should be left in the home with the parents.

7. There are a few famous brothers on trial this year for different things. What's your take on Kobe and Michael Jackson?

What's my take? I'm trying to stay out of court. That's my take on it! I mean my take is point blank that once you become a celebrity and have money -- you make one mistake and it's over. I mean, you have to take that seriously, whether it's Kobe or whoever. These are hundreds of millions of dollars in the balance and possible jail time.

One time I was out just being Ice T and telling one of my friends that I'm no different [than any other brother] and he was like, "Yeah, you are different." You gotta be careful. Some of this stuff that you could get away with back in the day; they're waiting for you to mess up [now]. Hopefully, all of those situations are wake-up calls for everybody in the business to watch your a-- because you don't have enough money to fight these courts. Whether you did it or not. If your name gets slandered like that it's going to be a cold ride for the rest of the way out. I'm trying to stay out of the press for real on that tip!

8. Where are you with your own music, and what do you think about the state of rap today?

Kobe Braynt
Kobe Bryant gets props from Ice T for his skills... umm, rapping skills, that is.
As far as my music, I just finished a new album that we're going to put out called "SMG," which stands for sex, money and guns -- what makes the world go round. That's my little rap project. I did it with a group in New York with a guy named Smooth the Hustler and his brother Trigger the Gambler. Also, we're working on a Body Count album now called "Murder for Hire." I do the music to remain sane. Acting is a very interesting art form but you're always somebody else. And if you spend your whole life being somebody else, people never get a chance to know you. With my music they kind of get under my skin -- what I'm thinking. It's kind of like good for me mentally. I enjoy the music, the acting is fun, too, but it's two different organisms.

Are you digging a lot of what you're hearing in rap today?

I miss the social commentary in hip hop. I miss Public Enemy and KRS and Ice Cube and the stuff we did, but I don't want to sound like an old fogy. I mean I get on the floor and dance to 50 Cent and Jay-Z, too. Right now, rap music to me is pretty much dance music. It's kind of like club music. It's based around the party and it's not really based around saying something that's going to move anybody. If you can go back to the days with Public Enemy and "Fight the Power" videos and those kinds of things; or the time we went to Arizona and spoke about the Martin Luther King situation out there, I miss that. But hey, I guess I have to put out a couple more albums.

9. Just a couple of quick sports questions. Any teams you're out there rooting for right now?

No, not really. I'm a not a team sports cat. I like players. I'm an Iverson fan, you know what I'm saying? I like the new cats and I like the Yankees because I like the players on the team.

So what do you think of LeBron?

Welcome to the NBA. It's a different game because you have to go out there and play against these guys every night. The first couple of years it's easy, but then this league will take a toll on you. So, everybody's trying to see who can be Michael Jordan and those are big shoes to fill. But I love the young cats man. They get up in the air and they've got that street ball edge. That's what people like to see because it's still a show. Sports are a show and we want to see the exciting players.

10. Have you seen any athletes who are particularly good actors lately?

(Long pause) Uh, I don't know. I saw Roy Jones. Roy was kind of tight in nature. He was looking kind of tight. I don't want to say anything in case Roy comes and hits me in the face or something, you know? But he seemed kind of tight. This is a loose art. You've got to relax, you know. You've got to relax because the character you're playing, it's his life. He's not stressed out. The words are just going to come out of his mouth. I think sports people, they're stressing too much. Now a lot of them can rap. Iverson can rap his a-- off. They wouldn't let him put his album out because it was too gangsta. Kobe can rap.

Kobe?!!!

Yeah, he can rap. He sounds like Wu-Tang Clan. He can rap. I mean, when you meet these athletes they can pretty much do everything better than you. I met Deion Sanders. He can out run you, he can out swim you, he can beat you in basketball and in checkers! These cats are supernatural. I'm in awe of professional athletes. That's just something else. I don't mess with them. I don't put anything past a professional athlete.

Miki Turner is a day and night laborer in L.A. She can be reached at dmiki@aol.com.