Will.i.Am goes from hip to hippo for "Madagascar"

Thu Nov 6, 2008 12:18pm EST
 
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By Iain Blair

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As frontman and producer of the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, rapper Will.i.Am is already a big success.

But now he's bulked up his profile with a scene-stealing turn as the voice of Moto Moto, the amorous but romantically-challenged hippo in "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," the sequel to the $500 million grossing 2005 hit, which debuts in major U.S. cities on Friday.

Stylishly attired in a tweed jacket, hat and gold shoes, Will.i.Am talked to Reuters about the film and co-writing, with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, his first movie score which includes Moto Moto's love song "Big and Chunky."

Q: Is it true that you got this gig because of a sleepy phone message you left on Justin Timberlake's voicemail?

A: "Yeah, we were working on his album, and when he heard my message he called me back in a silly little voice, so we started doing all these voices. Then I bumped into Jeffrey Katzenberg at a Grammy party who asked me if I'd like to do the music for this, and Justin who was also there said to Jeffrey, 'Man, you've got to hear this dude do voices.' So they asked me in to read for some characters, and I got the gig, and I was so happy as I loved the first film so much."

Q: Why do you think kids and adults loved "Madagascar"?

A: "Because today's kids want to be older and today's adults want to be younger. And it's smack right in the middle for both of them."

Q: This was your first voice-over gig, and you were joining experienced stars such as Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Sacha Baron Cohen. Were you nervous?   Continued...

 
<p>will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas performs at the 4th annual Peapod Foundation benefit concert at the Avalon in Hollywood, California February 7, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>