The Notorious Naturi Naughton
Who is the real Naturi Naughton? In 2002, the East Orange, New Jersey, native was known simply as the chick who got bounced from female pop group 3LW. Three years later, Naturi's notoriety shifted from music drama to Broadway theater after joining the cast of Hairspray. This January, though, the 24-year-old will surely drop the jaws of her faithful, having transformed from Hairspray's 14-year-old Little Inez to potty-mouthed rap icon Lil' Kim for the cinematic tribute to B.I.G., Notorious.
The chocolate bunny couldn't have found a more out-of-reach role to ignite her motion-picture career. As a child, Naturi was a choirgirl with a sheltered home life; as a teen, Kimberly Jones was a call girl whose home life included shelters. "We're totally different,â€ says Ms. Naughton. "What we do have in common is that we both love attention, and onstage we really turn into a different person.â€ KING is dying to know whether Naturi, at the essence of her multiple-character personality, is more hard-core or Lady Marmalade. Thus begins our quest for her naked truth.
There was talk about more established actresses, like Meagan Good and Drew Sidora, being up for the Lil' Kim role, but you were named Queen Bitchâ€”no offense. Was the casting process rigorous?
I came into the first audition andâ€“â€“â€“I'm not even going to lieâ€“â€“I was struggling. I did all right with the scenes, but I don't come from the world of hip-hop. I never rapped in my entire life, so this was a whole new thing. The casting directors believed in me, so I had to go home and learn "All About the Benjaminsâ€ and "Get Money.â€
Rapping in the shower andâ€¦whoops, thinking out loud there. Sorry, go on.
I wasn't playingâ€“â€“I started doing research on past Kim interviews and started hangin' out in Brooklyn, around where Biggie was from on St. James, talking to Lil' Cease a lot. I know a lot of people don't expect Naturi to be able to play Lil' Kim because of my background, but I earned it.
Which of Kim's characteristics were you most focused on nailing?
Her fearlessness. She wasn't afraid to say or do whatever she wanted. It was something I had to tap into because I'm more reserved. I was really nervous about playing something so different from people's perception of me. Now I look back and love the fact that I played somebody so risky. I just opened up and was like, "I'm going to rhyme and say this just as nasty as you said it.â€
And in the trailer it looks like you're doing the nasty with Gravyâ€¦we mean, Jamal Woolard [who plays Biggie].
Y'all got to wait to see that. We definitely had chemistry and some great moments. I loved working with Jamal. [Big and Kim had] an interesting relationship, and once people go out and see [Notorious], they'll get to see its ups and downs.
Ups and downs, huh? Now you're just teasing. Actually, we're more curious about whether you had any love scenes with Derek Luke [who plays Diddy].
Wait, you didn't know Kim andâ€¦
Look at you! Trying to dig! Hey, I don't know anything about that!