Mekhi Phifer has such fond memories of working with Eminem on ‘8 Mile.’ He spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about possibly working with the rapper again, initially turning down his role, and his partnership.
It’s hard to believe that in 2022, the movie 8 Mile will be 20 years old. The movie was one of the best films of 2002 and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Mekhi Phifer, 45, played Future alongside Eminem’s Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr. Even after nearly two decades, Eminem and Mekhi remain good friends. Mekhi talked with HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY about whether or he and Eminem have discussed working together again.
“We haven’t discussed that. While we were doing 8 Mile, I think he got his fill of the rigorousness of being the lead in the movie,” Mekhi told HollywoodLife while discussing his partnership with Nutri-Grain. “He’s definitely an artist and a musician. That’s his passion. I think he’s really good because he’s a natural. But I don’t know if he’s trying to necessarily explore all the characters and trying to do a whole thing. I think he’s very focused on his music. But I would love to work with him again. We would have some more fun for sure.”
The actor revealed that he recently spoke with Eminem to do some “catching up,” and they “want to get together” soon.” Mekhi reflected fondly about his experience working on the movie. “It was such a wonderful experience just shooting that movie,” Mekhi continued. “The camaraderie that we all had, you can see it on screen. The friendships that we all had… all those guys are friends today. Rest in peace to Brittany Murphy and my guy De’Angelo [Wilson] and obviously Proof, who I portrayed. Curtis Hanson directed the movie, and he passed as well. So we’ve had some tragedies, but with all those tragedies, I think we made a classic movie. We made something that was a diamond in the rough. Something that I don’t think people even expected. They didn’t know what it was gonna be. To me, I like to call it the Rocky of the hip hop world. The whole first part is just about the story, and then he fights at the end. In Rocky, you see him punching the meat, doing this and that, losing his relationship with Adrian, and doing the whole thing. And then at the end is the crescendo. That’s what I felt like 8 Mile was. It was a wonderful experience. I mean, it was cold as hell being in Detroit during the wintertime, that’s for sure. But it was a great experience, and I really, really enjoyed it. It was very impactful.”
Mekhi admitted that he initially turned down the role of Future. “One, I was due to start ER, and it was right after 9/11 and they wanted me to travel to Detroit and do this,” Mekhi explained. “I didn’t want to get on a plane. But they had me read the script, and I really loved it. They flew me to Detroit, and I hung out with Eminem for a few days. I was like, I really like this dude.” ER was gracious enough to say, okay, you go do that movie, and your job will be here waiting for you. I was excited about playing a doctor. I had never played a doctor. Man, I’m so glad I was a part of it, to get my name mentioned in the song that won an Oscar was amazing. It was just a great experience.”
The Love, Victor star is currently partnering with Nutri-Grain to give away 1 million bars to teachers across America. He explained why this partnership means so much to him. “Part of the Nutri-Grain slogan is, we got your back,” Mekhi said. “Teachers, as you know, they’ve had their students’ back. My mother recently passed last year, but she was certainly very much well-revered in our community. Because not only was she a schoolteacher, but she was also a dancer and a choreographer. She choreographed all the school plays and taught kids for free very selflessly in the community how to dance and things like that, get them off the streets, and not have bad situations. So that’s like the ‘got your back’ slogan. She had those kids’ backs. I’ve seen teachers that were very influential throughout my school experience, who had my back, who gave me a strong solid foundation. Not only just for academics but for social aspects and just being able to be social, being able to articulate yourself, being able to be an asset to whatever it is that you’re part of. That’s what I love about the Nutri-Grain brand. That’s why I’m definitely excited about partnering with them for the 1 million bars that they’re giving away to help students get that morning energy. You need energy to learn, and you can’t learn when you’re hungry. This whole COVID thing has really affected a lot of low income, middle-class families people who depended upon the school being open to give the kids breakfasts and give the kids lunch as the parents went to work. So not only are the kids out of the breakfast and lunch that they normally have, a lot of parents got laid off at the same time. So with this initiative, I think Nutri-Grain is doing a wonderful thing. We got your back. We’re never going to let you just go hungry, so I just loved that aspect about it.”
The actor noted that teachers “spend money out of their own pockets for supplies, snacks, whatever the kids need. You don’t become a teacher to become rich. You become a teacher to really make a difference. A lot of teachers are underpaid, but yet they do it anyway.” He loves that Nutri-Grain is creating awareness about how much teachers do. “We wouldn’t be where we are without teachers,” Mekhi added. Through Oct. 16, current K-12 teachers nationwide can sign up to receive a “Got Your Back” bin filled with Nutri-Grain bars via Kellogg’s Family Rewards.