So what’s it like being young, gifted and brown? For Julito McCullum, a.k.a. Namond Brice, from HBO’s series “The Wire,” it’s all in a day’s work. Check his resume. He’s been on the big screen with Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne. He got to work with Spike Lee for the Jordan 20th anniversary commercials. McCullum is also part of a dance troupe that performs at Madison Square Garden during New York Knicks and Liberty games. Not bad for someone who’s barely old enough to drive.
But at sixteen, what might be most interesting about McCullum is the fact that he’s not letting this success and attention go to his head. He still lives in Brooklyn, and goes to public school. He hangs out on MySpace. As the son of Panamanian, Columbian, and African-American parents, he’s got deep family and community ties. This “regular kid” has his sights set on hip-hop as his next frontier, though. He’s already had a taste of the music limelight — winning it all on MTV’s hit show “Say What Karaoke.” So, seems like it’s only a matter of time before he grabs the interest of a major label…
BallerStatus.com: I think I’m like, the only person in America who doesn’t watch “The Wire.” It’s one of HBO’s top-rated series, but I stopped watching after the first season. Many people like it because they say it shows the realities of the drug game. Other people say it’s not good because it glorifies it. What do you think?
Julito McCullum: The thing about “The Wire” is we’re not glorifying anything. We’re just showing that this is the type of stuff that’s actually going on. Some kids do have to hustle. It’s like a reality show, really, because this world isn’t all peaches and cream.
BallerStatus.com: Your character on the show has a very atypical story. He’s a young kid in the drug game, who’s not really interested in hustling. It’s almost like he was born into it — the true definition of having no choice. How do you feel about playing Namond?
Julito McCullum: Yeah. His mom is like the bad stage mother of the drug dealing world. It’s crazy. But, I feel blessed to be able to play a character that’s from the hood, but still has an interesting story. You know, the relationship with his mother, with his friends… the way he thinks about things. It’s deeper than just a typical hoodlum.
BallerStatus.com: Did you have to do anything to research it, and help you get in character?
Julito McCullum: Well, we’re different, because he’s a real wild kid. But, I live in the hood already. I’m from Brooklyn, so I just had to, you know, go around and watch some of the so-called class clowns. Watch the real wild dudes for a little bit, and then bring some of that to the role.
BallerStatus.com: What part of BK are you from? What was it like growing up for you?
Julito McCullum: I’m from Canarsie, but we also lived in Flatbush. I have five brothers and two sisters, so it was like we had our own little basketball or football team. It was fun growing up in my house.
BallerStatus.com: And, you’re in high school right now, but you go to a specialized school. What’s it like being a student and an actor?
Julito McCullum: I go to the Secondary School for Journalism, but it’s easy, because everybody already knows me. They know I’m an actor, so it’s not really a big thing when they see me on “The Wire.” It only gets hard when I have to miss school to go to auditions, or shoot things, especially now that I’m doing much more.
BallerStatus.com: Do the girls chase you in the mall yet?
Julito McCullum: Well… in the mall… yeah, it tends to get a little crazy sometimes. But, you know, it comes with the territory.
BallerStatus.com: As your career continues to grow, how do you think you’ll handle the fact that random people will want to know all of your business?
Julito McCullum: I’m definitely prepared, because I know it’s one of the things that comes with this lifestyle. So I’m ready for it. And in Brooklyn, you have people in your business 24-7 anyway, so it’s nothing new.
BallerStatus.com: Are you tight with the other young actors from “The Wire?”
Julito McCullum: Definitely. Growing up shooting a show, it’s like we became family. We keep in touch. We’ve all got Sidekicks, so you know we always stay in contact.
BallerStatus.com: If you could play any character or do any kind of movie, what would it be?
Julito McCullum: I’ve always wanted to play in a basketball inspirational film, but with good acting. Like a “Coach Carter” movie, because I also play basketball. So yeah, I’d really want to do a role or a movie like that.
BallerStatus.com: Why do you want to make that move from the screen to music?
Julito McCullum: Well, I want to do both. I want to continue my acting career, but I want to rhyme because it’s really not that many young rappers out right now. The older dudes are taking the whole hip-hop thing to another level, and I think it would be hot for a young dude to do it also.
BallerStatus.com: You’re right about that. Most of the younger rappers have grown up, and it’s a really strange phase, because their content has to change, but not be outrageous. It’s like, it would be crazy to hear Bow Wow talk about slinging coke, because he’s Bow Wow. But at the same time, he can’t rap about chillin’ at the mall, or going to school anymore. What kinds of things do you rap about?
Julito McCullum: Pretty much whatever is going on in my life, you feel me? I like good music that makes you get up and have fun, so that’s the type of music that I want to put out there.
BallerStatus.com: Are there any producers that you want to work with?
Julito McCullum: Oh, first and foremost, I would like to work with Dre. Anything he touches turns to gold. Next would be Swizz Beatz, and then Pharrell. I’d really want to work with any producer that’s hot, and who could help me take it to that level.
BallerStatus.com: Do you feel like your acting background will make it easier for you to perform on stage as a rapper?
Julito McCullum: Of course. I mean, I also used to dance with this group for the New York Knicks during halftime. And, you know the Garden holds thousands of people, so being on display is nothing to me. I know how to rip a crowd.
BallerStatus.com: Did you always know you wanted to be in show business?
Julito McCullum: Yeah, always. When I was younger, I used to imitate people a lot, and my mother and I always said that acting isn’t too far from imitation … so it’s not something new. It’s was like, the next natural step.
BallerStatus.com: And… what about the MySpace question?
Julito McCullum: I’m actually on it right now. Even though I get like 500 messages a day, I check them all. It’s like, I look at these celebrity pages and I wonder if their assistants write their messages sometimes. It seems kind of suspect.
BallerStatus.com: Why? Do you have an assistant?
Julito McCullum: No, not at all. I’m still a regular kid, despite me being on TV. I don’t have a big office, or assistant, or anything like that.
BallerStatus.com: I think it’s cool that you want to be a regular kid. But things change very quickly. Can you tell me where you want to be a year from now? What do you think your life will be like?
Julito McCullum: Hopefully, if I get down with a good team, I’ll have an album getting ready to drop. And I definitely want to book a big movie — where I’m the star, so people can really see what I’m capable of as an actor. And another thing — the main thing — is that I want to move my mom out of the hood. That’s my New Year’s resolution. By the time we’re heading into ’08, my mother has got to be out of the hood.