The Toronto-based reggae-pop star, best known for his 1993 debut single, "Informer," which was a No. 1 U.S. hit, and whose three albums have sold seven millions copies worldwide, starts shooting today (Oct. 28) in Philadelphia. The first half of the film was shot in New York, chronicling the main character Elijah's (Q-Tip) early years.
Directed by Darnell Martin (I Like It Like That), Snow plays McIntyre, a prison guard described by Snow as a rebel, mad at the system, doing what needs to be done to support his family.
"I'm a guard that used to work as a construction worker and now all the jobs are getting taken by inmates who are working for less money, so I'm working as a prison guard. I'm head of these inmates that go out and do construction," explains Snow, who turns 30 on Saturday.
Snow, who has a criminal record for assault and served time in jail, jokes that he will prepare for the role by "reminiscing."
He recounts how he recently ran into his former prison guard from his 1989 incarceration at Toronto's East Detention Centre. "I went, 'Oh, I should hang around with you for a couple of months, just to see how you guys act.'"
While Snow claims to have acted "all my life," his first role was in Tight: The Motion Picture, a Canadian independent production shot in Vancouver last summer, slated for a spring release. "I was the head of this crack house," Snow muses. "I gotta be the head of something. I'm a leader not a follower."
Snow was recommended for the part of McIntyre by MC/producer Kwajo Boetang from Toronto hip hop group Ghetto Concept, who was friends with one of the casting directors, according to Snow's manager Paula Danylevich.
"They had been trying to cast this part for two months and they couldn't find the right person," she says. "Kwajo knew Snow was coming to New York to do some record company meetings, and told his friend. They phoned me to see if he would audition."
At his reading, which took place September 16 at the production office, Snow was told "on the spot" that he got the part. With the paperwork now done, he will spent the next month in Philadelphia shooting the film. Asked if he's memorized his 15 to 20 pages of dialogue yet and he says, "A little bit. I'm going to wing it."
Snow also reveals that he will sing in the movie, said to be a dark musical without any dancing typical of the genre. The song, still untitled, is a collaboration with Q-Tip.
"The song had to be relevant to the movie and scene specific," says Danylevich. "He's just singing about his circumstances, about how he used to be construction worker. Q-Tip did the beats and then couriered them to us, as he was already on set for the movie. And then Snow wrote the lyrics. He just finished recording the song at the Hit Factory in New York (last) weekend."
Meanwhile, Danylevich is securing a new worldwide recording contract for Snow, whose new material is more pop-oriented. His fourth album, Cooler Conditions, recorded at his own Deep South studio with Informer co-writer/producer MC Shan, has been out in Japan since August, through a licensing agreement with Tokyo-based Victor Entertainment/JVC.
Nashville-based Grammy winner Glenn Rosenstein (Bif Naked, Ziggy Marley) was also brought in to co-produce the album because of his "strong pop sensibilities," and Danylevich has been using Cooler Conditions as a "high-priced demo" to shop to labels in the U.S. A deal is very close, she says.
Snow will likely only use a few tracks from Cooler Conditions and do additional recording for his North American album, due out next fall, the same time as A Prison Song hits movie theatres.