LOS ANGELES—Wayne Brady admits that he's "incredibly" tired of requests to quote the "Chappelle's Show" sketch in which he plays himself as a foul-mouthed, violent pimp who terrorizes prostitutes, cops and Dave Chappelle himself.
"I think it's a wonderful compliment," he says in an interview to promote the film "Crossover." "I'm glad people love the sketch, but that's what it was, a sketch. So if my hip factor rose in certain quadrants, good for them."
While the world gleefully embraced the entertainer's homicidal lampoon of his normally wholesome image, Brady is more than ready to move on and show what else he can do. The comedian, singer, dancer, writer and producer takes a dramatic turn in "Crossover," which opens nationwide on Friday, Sept. 1. In it, he plays Vaughn, a former sports agent who now earns the big bucks overseeing Detroit's underground streetball matches.
"I loved being able to play a guy who was pretty much selfish, a little amoral and driven just for himself," says Brady. "I thought it'd be a nice departure from some of the other things I've done."
Vaughn sees dollar signs when he spots Cruise (Wesley Jonathan) play during a late-night match and promises that he can usher the young man into the coveted NBA. Cruise, however, is only intent on using his basketball skills to maintain his med school scholarship so he can one day realize his dream of becoming a doctor. Despite Vaughn's disregard for other people's wishes, Brady doesn't see Vaughn as a true bad guy.
"He's not a villain at all," insists the actor. "He's a businessman who sees an opportunity and tries to manipulate it as best he can. And along the way, he screws up this other guy's life, but none of it is evilly intentioned. I've run into a lot of people who they're very much business first, and just like Vaughn, they're not out to hurt you, but by the same token, you probably shouldn't be in their way when they're trying to get stuff done."
In fact, Vaughn is so focused on his shady career path, he doesn't have time for personal relationships. This singlemindedness is symbolized by the NBA championship ring he wears on the ring finger of his left hand.
"Yes, that was a choice that I actually made," says Brady. "He isn't married, but he's married to his job. His job at one point was a sports agent, and he made a decision to leave that job and come out to Detroit when he felt he wasn't a big enough fish. That sort of wrecked his life and his relationship with his girlfriend played by Kristen Wilson. So that's pretty much a reminder to himself that business comes first."
The actor was also excited to take part in a film that would shine a light on streetball. The film features real-life streetballers Philip "Hot Sauce" Champion, Marvin "High Riser" Collins, Jason "The Professional" Martin and Renaldo "Violator" Johnson, among others.
"In terms of the actual teams, I was a fan of the And 1 Mixtape Tour well before I started doing the movie," Brady explains. "I watched the past couple of years on ESPN, so I knew a lot of the players by name already. It was even better than when I was watching it at home because sometimes you think maybe they doctored it during the game. Maybe during the footage, the camera shot made it look like he jumped as high as he did and he was as fast as he was. And watching it live? No camera tricks. These guys are the real deal."
And while the film touches on how ambition, power and money can corrupt a person, Brady feels the story's meaning is more basic than that. "The message in this film really is about following what you want to follow instead of what the crowd wants you to follow."
Brady credits his grandmother who raised him for his grounded attitude about pursuing his own path -- whether it's deemed cool or or not.
"Just for the record, I never thought of myself as un-hip. I think 'hip' and 'edgy' are buzzwords for idiots," he says. "That's [the language] people use to make something hip. I would much prefer that if you think something is smart.
"I think that Sarah Silverman is brilliant. And you can describe her as hip and edgy if you wanted to, but when it boils down to it, she's a smart comedienne. Chris Rock, you can say that's he's hip, but he's smart. Dave Chappelle: smart. I have a specialized type of comedy that not anyone can do either, so just because I don't drop the F-bomb every 15 minutes and I'm not on 'Def Comedy Jam,' I never thought little of what I can do. I'm still doing me."