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T.I., March 29, 2006

In the new movie "ATL," T.I. plays a teen in an impoverished section of Atlanta who faces multiple challenges -- chief among them trying to keep his younger brother from falling prey to the lure of drug dealing. In real life, the Atlanta native was just such a kid who turned to drug dealing as a way to make easy cash. But T.I., who went to jail for his misdeeds, managed to turn his life around by rhyming about his hustling days instead of reliving them. Now the self-proclaimed "King of the South" is among rap's elite, and with his film debut in "ATL," he's only expanding his empire.

Your character, Rashad, grows up quickly because of certain situations that have occurred in his life. Can you personally relate?

"Absolutely, but our methods and approaches to handling things are totally different. (I'm) much more ... standoffish and hot headed, more intense (than Rashad). Not so dead set on doing the right thing more so than the right now thing; at that age anyway."

Rashad discourages his younger brother from selling drugs, but you've rapped a lot about your past as a drug dealer. Do you regret your past life?

"I regret my lack of options. I regret being painted into a corner and having that be the only instrument to get me from point A to point B. I regret that but if I was put in the position again and that's all I had to do I don't know what else to do. That's instant. Some things you may not have done in this situation (but) if put in this situation you would be forced to."

This movie is also about the roller-skating scene. Were you a roller skater before this film?

"Minimally. Not much."

How much training did you have to go through?

"It was rigorous training. We had long days. Long, long, long days. Long weeks for training, and falling, and getting up, and falling again."

So, how many times did you fall during training?

"I probably fell the least amount of time than anyone else, but I think even I fell about a dozen or more times."

Did you get hurt?

"Ha, ha. Not for long."

Having grown up in Atlanta, is skating really a way of life there?

"It's your introduction to the night life in the city. Before you get to the strip club, you've got to go through the skating rinks. Adults do go, but not so much as the teenagers."

As a father, did you take this role because your children will be able to watch the film?

"xNot so much. It's a good thing that it is that type of a movie that your kids can see and what not, but that's not what attracted to me necessarily. If it was an R-rated film I would still be just as eager to do it."

How nervous were you to do the love scenes?

"I wasn't nervous at all. I applied the same amount of efforts to the love scenes as I did to the skating and the acting and everything else."

It wasn't awkward having the cast members and crew watching you?

"I perform in front of one or one million."

There are so many rap acts from Atlanta on the charts these days. What is it about the city that breeds such talent?

"I don't think it is about the city. It is about the people. There are a lot of talented people there. People are motivated when they see somebody else doing something. People see me doing something so all of the guys from my walk of life feel like if he can do it, I can do it. That just keeps spreading and spreading and spreading."

Your new album, King, just arrived in stores this week. Has your sound changed?

"I had a real strong sense of if it ain't broke don't fix it going into this album. I really just figured out the things people liked about me and found different ways to give it to them."

What do you ultimately hope to accomplish in your career?

"I hope to continue to create the opportunities for myself and the people around me. I am going to be in acting. I'm going to be in real estate. I am going to be in the restaurant business. I am going to be in fashion. I am going to be in music. I'm going to be doing a lot of things. I am looking into film development right this second. I am trying to become more of an entity as a producer of films (than) just as an actor and star in films."

Did you help the cast members with their southern accents?

"Yeah. Especially the girls. Evan (Ross, who plays his brother) and the girls were equally as bad. They didn't understand because of their lack of knowledge of the culture. The longer they were there, the easier it became. I took them to different hoods and let them hang with different people. In the skating rinks they were surrounded by people who are from the city so it was very easy. Once you understand something and learn about something, it's easier to portray it."

-- The Associated Press

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