October, 1980 • San Diego, California
Actor, singer, musician, producer
In today's Hollywood it is not enough for young celebrities to be merely actors or just recording artists. Teen stars like Lindsay Lohan (1986–) and Hilary Duff (1987–) have made the transition from television, to film, to music, becoming crossover stars and making millions of dollars. But there is one young entertainer that poses a quadruple threat: Nick Cannon, who is an actor, a comedian, a rapper/singer, and an executive producer. In fact, Cannon is considered by many to be the hottest young African American star on the horizon. Cannon got his big break in the late 1990s by becoming a regular on the Nickelodeon network, writing and starring in several programs, including the self-titled Nick Cannon Show. From Nickelodeon, Cannon appeared in such films as Drumline (2002), Love Don't Cost a Thing (2003), and The Underclassman (2005), which he co-wrote and produced. The multi-talented Cannon also found time to release his first album in 2003 and to hit the road on a comedy tour in 2004. Thomas Chau ofCinema Confidential News noted, "Nick Cannon is flying through his career with nothing but smoke and heat in his trail."
Minister's kid turns comedian
Although he lives in Hollywood spotlight, Nick Cannon remains a grounded young man, primarily because he had positive role models growing up. Nicholas Scott Cannon was born on October 8, 1980, in San Diego, California. He was raised by his paternal grandparents in California, but spent part of his childhood living in North Carolina with his father, who was a minister. "I was raised by my grandmother." Cannon told Wilson Morales of Blackfilm.com. "She instilled everything into me. She taught me right from wrong from day one."
" Never let anyone put you down about things you really aspire to do. People told me that I wasn't funny, or that I couldn't write, or that I wasn't a good musician. Just me being myself and motivating myself got me through those obstacles."
Cannon also credits his father for being a stable influence. As he commented to Morales, "My father instilled in me how to be a man." But growing up as the minister's son was a challenge for young Cannon. In elementary school and junior high school he was not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio or wear the clothes the popular kids wore. Cannon, however, was a born entertainer and found his own voice at a very early age. When he was just eight years old, he performed as a stand-up comic on his father's evangelical public access television show. That same year he recorded his first song at home on his boom box radio.
By high school Cannon was known as the class clown. He was the smallest boy in school (about five feet two inches) and he did not play sports, so the best way to get attention was to crack jokes. "I had the gift of gab," Cannon revealed to Julian Roman of Latino Review, "and was able to talk my way into popularity." When he was sixteen the young comedian decided to take his show on the road, and he began driving to Los Angeles on the weekends to perform at comedy clubs. Cannon eventually landed gigs at such famous venues as The Improv, The Laugh Factory, and The Comedy Club. He was so determined to make it that he even slept in his car during his overnight jaunts.
Nick on Nickelodeon
Before too long Cannon landed a manager who put him in touch with executives at the kids' television network Nickelodeon. In 1995 the teen became the warm-up act for the long-running Nickelodeon series All That, eventually becoming a series regular by 1998. Producers recognized that Cannon definitely had on-screen appeal, so he hopped from one Nick program to another. He was the co-host of the All That Music Festival and More Tour, as well as Snick House and TEENick in Concert. He also was tapped to write for Nickelodeon programs, including Kenan and Kell (1996) and Cousin Skeeter (1998). In 2002, the ever-popular Cannon was finally given his own self-titled television program, which he starred in, wrote for, and produced. He was barely twenty-one years old.
Although the show lasted only one year, Cannon was praised for his on-air antics, which included him traveling across America and "taking over" in a number of situations. For example, in one episode he "takes over" a California high school, disguising himself as a math teacher for a day. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Cannon comes across as an undeniably talented dude with charm to burn." His hectic schedule on television, however, did not stop the comic from performing stand-up, and he was making a lot of connections in the entertainment business. In particular, Cannon caught the eye of entertainer Will Smith (1968–), who would become his mentor.
Smith started out as a young rapper and then eventually moved to television and film. By the 2000s he was a superstar in all areas of show business. People frequently compare Cannon to Smith, which makes the young comedian more than happy. "Will has been such a positive force in my life," Cannon admitted in an Ebony interview. "He told me that I remind him of himself when he was younger. That's the most incredible compliment anyone could ever give me."
Smith gave Cannon his first film break, casting him in a small role in the hit movie Men in Black II (2002). Shortly after, Cannon broke out on his own by landing his first starring role in the 2002 movie Drumline. Cannon plays Devon Miles, a young drummer from Harlem, New York, who receives a scholarship to attend an African American college in Atlanta, Georgia. Miles is talented but headstrong, which leads to a rivalry between him and his conservative band director. The film received general praise from critics, and Cannon was singled out by many, including Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter, for his "assured feature debut."
Cannon followed up Drumline with Love Don't Cost a Thing (2003), a remake of the 1987 teen hit Can't Buy Me Love. Both movies have the same premise: an awkward teen plots to become the big man on campus by paying the most popular girl in school to hang out with him. As a result, he is transformed from nerd to super hunk. Cannon was drawn to the part because he was a big fan of the original movie. He also enjoyed the prospect of playing two roles in one: the bookish Alvin Johnson and the obnoxious Al, the popular version of Alvin. "I like doing characters," Cannon told Cinema Confidential News. "I got to be a super-duper nerd and then a cocky, crazy guy at the same time so it was cool."
Love received only lukewarm reviews, but Cannon was generally applauded for his charming and flexible performance. He also emerged from his two first films as a young heartthrob. The tiny Cannon had sprouted to a lanky six feet tall, and with his baby face and friendly grin he attracted a number of female
Cannon's Multitalented Costar: Christina Milian
Although in many interviews Nick Cannon claimed that he was "as single as a slice of American cheese," in 2005 rumors were confirmed that he did have a significant other in his life. The lucky lady was Christina Milian, his costar in Love Don't Cost a Thing, and a multitalented woman in her own right. Singer, actress, and songwriter Christina Milian was born Christina Flores on September 26, 1981, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the daughter of Cuban American parents. At the age of four Milian already knew she wanted to be a performer, and when she turned thirteen she moved with her family to Los Angeles to pursue a career.
Her first major role came in 1998 when she appeared as a regular on the Disney TV show Movie Surfers. Then came small roles on other television programs, including Charmed and Clueless, as well as parts in such films as A Bug's Life (1998) and American Pie (1999). In 2000, Milian branched out into music, singing vocals on the album Rule 3:36 by rapper Ja Rule (1976–). She also co-wrote a song called "Play" for Jennifer Lopez's 2001 album J.Lo. Both songs were hits on the pop charts and started a buzz for the young actress-singer.
In 2001 Milian's self-titled debut album was released. Several songs, including "AM to PM" and "When You Look at Me," ranked on the international charts. In the States Milian was perhaps best known for penning and singing the theme song to the Disney animated series Kim Possible. In 2004 she released her first U.S. album, titled It's About Time, which sparked the number-one hit "Dip It Low."
Meanwhile, Milian's film career was moving in fast forward. In 2002, while hosting MTV's Wannabes, she met music-video director Joseph Kahn, who was about to direct his first feature movie, Torque (2004). He suggested that Milian audition for the female lead, which she easily landed. At the same time, Milian was tapped to play opposite Nick Cannon in the teen hit Love Don't Cost a Thing (2003). Her performances led to role after role, making her one of the most sought-after young stars in Hollywood. In 2005, she appeared in the comedy Man of the House; she also costarred with John Travolta (1954–) in Be Cool, a sequel to the popular 1995 hit Get Shorty. In Cool, Milian played a feisty young singer named Linda Moon. She also cost-ars in the 2006 thriller Pulse.
fans. In addition, Hollywood executives saw him as a bankable star with major crossover appeal, meaning his movies were a hit with a variety of audiences. This meant that Cannon almost had his pick of film roles.
In 2004, Cannon costarred opposite Richard Gere (1949–) and Jennifer Lopez (1970–) in Shall We Dance, playing a bizarre private investigator. Then came a starring role in The Underclassman (2005), which cast Cannon as a police officer who goes undercover into an elite, private high school. The actor also wrote the first draft of the screenplay and served as executive producer. Two more films followed in 2005: the 1970s-themed Roll Bounce and the political thriller The Beltway, in which Cannon portrays a young Capitol Hill intern who uncovers a government plot. Cannon not only starred in Beltway, he again served as executive producer.
Part spiritual, part sizzle
While Cannon's film star was rising, he did not ignore his music career. The young musician, who plays drums, drum machine, synthesizer, and harmonica, wrote the theme song to his Nick television series and also contributed a song, "Shorty Put It to the Floor," to the soundtrack of Love Don't Cost a Thing. In December 2003 the ambitious Cannon released his first album, titled Nick Cannon, with Jive Records. Cannon penned all the lyrics, co-produced four tracks, and had the opportunity to work with seasoned music personalities, including the Neptunes, R. Kelly (c. 1968–), and Mary J. Blige (1971–).
Most of the tunes on the album are party jams, including "Feelin' Freaky," "Your Pops Don't Like Me," and "Gigolo," a particular favorite because of its sizzling video that appeared regularly on music channels. Cannon's favorite cut, however, was the romantic ballad, "My Rib," which reflects the spiritual nature of the young rapper. As Cannon told Wilson Morales, the album is "a reflection of every aspect from the spiritual side to the gigolo side." Cannon is also quick to comment on the fact that his music, although popular and fun, has relatively clean lyrics. "I try to make music that my grandmother could listen to," he admitted to Lynn Barker of TeenHollywood.com. "That's always like my gauge." This too is reminiscent of Will Smith, who throughout his career has avoided swearing in his rap lyrics.
Cannon made thousands of fans swoon in 2004 when he joined the Scream 3 tour, an annual summer concert event featuring hip-hop artists such as B2K and Marques Houston (1981–). And in 2005 he impressed audiences when he performed live at the Soul Train Music Awards.
The Cannon express
By the mid-2000s Nick Cannon was an unstoppable force. He had no less than three movies slated for release in 2006, including the horror film Monster House, a crime drama called Jump Shot, and a project costarring Lindsay Lohan tentatively titled Blind Date. Cannon also continued to sharpen his comedic chops. In late 2004 he embarked on a multi-city comedy tour sponsored by Milton Bradley to promote an updated version of its popular board game Twister. And in the summer of 2005 Cannon hosted his own program on MTV called Wild "n" Out, a game show that had new comedians competing in a variety of improvisational games.
Although only in his twenties, the multitalented Cannon had achieved a level of maturity beyond his years. Instead of partying and spending his money recklessly, he remained low-key, preferring to wear jeans and T-shirts and only the occasional bit of extravagant jewelry. Cannon also remains focused on his career. He is a self-described workaholic and go-getter; someone who is not about to sit still and wait for things to come his way. He told Latino Review, "Because there is a lack of roles in Hollywood for young black men, especially positive roles, different from gang banging shoot 'em up movies, you have to create your own." Considering Cannon heads two companies, a music label called Cannonball Entertainment, and In the Can—a television and film venture— he should have many opportunities to develop projects in the future.
Cannon may concentrate his energies on his entertainment career, but one day he hopes to take some seminary classes (classes in religious instruction), perhaps ultimately following in his father's ministerial footsteps. In the meantime, he works with his father for the Nick Cannon Youth Foundation, which hosts inspirational conventions for young men. Cannon's goal is to inspire other young people to reach for their dreams and to maintain a positive lifestyle. And, according to Jet magazine, "He has the looks, talent and intelligence to be a star for as long as he wants."
For More Information
Hughes, Zondra. "Hunk Attack: Nick Cannon." Ebony (April 2003): p. 54.
"Multi-talented Performer Nick Cannon is a Hit on TV, in Movies and on CD." Jet (January 12, 2004): p. 65.
"On the March: Drumline's Nick Cannon Could Be the Next Will Smith." People (January 20, 2003): p. 86.
Rechtshaffen, Michael. "Movie Review: Drumline'." Hollywood Reporter (December 9, 2002): p. 39.
Small, Jonathan. "Nick Cannon: Triple Threat." Teen People (June 1, 2004): p. 137.
Barker, Lynn. "Nick Cannon: Doin' It All." TeenHollywood.com (December 4, 2003). http://www.teenmusic.com/d.asp?r=54457&pg=1£ (accessed on August 22, 2005).
Chau, Thomas. "Interview: Nick Cannon of 'Love Don't Cost a Thing'." Cinema Confidential News (December 2, 2003). http://www.cinecon.com/news.php?id=0312021 (accessed on August 22, 2005).
Long, Colleen. "Just Call Nick Cannon a Renaissance Man." Yahoo! Music (December 12, 2003). http://music.yahoo.com/read/news/12174627 (accessed on August 22, 2005).
McGee, Tiffany. "Nick Cannon: All Grown Up." Vibe Magazine Online.http://www.vibe.com/news/online_exclusives/2003/08/nick_cannon_all_grown_up/ (accessed on August 22, 2005).
Morales, Wilson. "Love Don't Cost a Thing: An Interview with Nick Cannon." blackfilm.com (December 2003). http://www.blackfilm.com/20031205/features/nickcannon.shtml (accessed on August 22, 2005).
Murray, Rebecca. "How Do You Spell Overachiever: N-I-C-K-C-AN-N-O-N." About: Hollywood Movies.http://romanticmovies.about.com/od/irobot/a/robotnc070704.htm (accessed on August 22, 2005).
"Nick Cannon: New Triple Threat." AccessHollywood-Movies (August 4, 2004). http://www.accesshollywood.com/movies/3616620/detail.html (accessed on August 22, 2005).
Roman, Julian. "An Interview with Nick Cannon." Latino Review.http://www.latinoreview.com/films_2003/wb/lovedontcostathing/nick-interview.html (accessed on August 22, 2005).
"Cannon, Nick." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/cannon-nick
"Cannon, Nick." UXL Newsmakers. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/cannon-nick
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Cannon, Nick 1980–
Cannon, Nick 1980–
Career: Actor, producer, and singer. Da Bomb Squad (rap duo), founder; Mr. Renaissance, Los Angeles, CA, principal; signed with Jive, 2001; signed with a deal with Motown to launch own imprint, Can I Ball Records, 2005.
Awards, Honors: Blimp Award nomination, favorite television actor, 2001, for All That; Blimp Award, favorite television actor, 2002, Blimp Award nomination, favorite television actor, both for The Nick CannonShow; Teen Choice Award nominations, choice movie breakout star—male and choice movie actor—drama/ action adventure, MTV Movie Award nomination, breakthrough male performance and best kiss (with Zoe Saldana), Black Reel Award nomination, best breakthrough performance—viewer's choice, 2003, all forDrumline; Teen Choice Award nominations (with Christina Milian), choice movie chemistry and choice movie liplock, Teen Choice Award nomination, choice movie liar, 2004, all for Love Don't Cost a Thing;Black Reel Award nomination (with others), best ensemble, 2006, for Roll Bounce; Teen Choice Award nominations, television–choice personality, 2006, 2007, both for Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out; Hollywood Film Award (with others), ensemble of the year, Hollywood Film Festival, 2006, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, 2007, both for Bobby; Chopard Trophy, male revelation, Cannes Film Festival, 2007.
Chess club kid, Whatever It Takes, Columbia, 2000.
MIB autopsy agent, Men in Black II (also known as MIB 2 and MIIB), Columbia, 2002.
Devon Miles, Drumline, Fox 2000, 2002.
Alvin Johnson, Love Don't Cost a Thing (also known as Love Don't Co$t a Thing), Warner Bros., 2003.
Voice of Louis, Garfield (also known as Garfield: The Movie), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2004.
Scott, Shall We Dance (also known as Shall We Dance?), Miramax, 2004.
Himself, The Making of "Love Don't Cost a Thing" (documentary short), Warner Bros., 2004.
The Beltway, 2005.
Tracy "Tre" Stokes, Underclassman, Miramax, 2005.
Bernard, Roll Bounce, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2005.
Godfrey Snow, Even Money, Yari Film Group Releasing, 2006.
Voice of Officer Lister, Monster House (animated; also known as Neighbourhood Crimes & Peepers), Columbia, 2006.
Dwayne, Bobby, Weinstein Company, 2006.
Voice of Brer Rabbit, The Adventures of Brer Rabbit (animated), Universal Studios, 2006.
Reggie, Weapons,After Dark Films, 2007.
T. J. Harper, Goal II: Living the Dream,Genius Products, 2007.
Mike, American Son, 2008.
Mico, Ball Don't Lie, 2008.
Paul Brodie, The Killing Room, Momentum, 2008.
Salazar, Day of the Dead, First Look International, 2008.
Yes We Can, 2008.
Himself, Every Monday Matters (documentary short), Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2008.
Film Executive Producer:
The Beltway, 2005.
Television Appearances; Series:
Host, Mission: Makeover, 1998.
Various, All That, Nickelodeon, 1998–2000.
Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out, MTV, 2006–2007.
Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz, MTV, 2007.
Television Appearances; Specials:
The Universal Story, 1995.
The Making of "Jimmy Neutron," 2002.
Judge, The 2002 Miss Teen USA Pageant, CBS, 2002.
Presenter, The Teen Choice Awards 2002, Fox, 2002.
The 2003 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2003.
The 3rd Annual BET Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2003.
Presenter, The 31st Annual American Music Awards, ABC, 2003.
Presenter, Nickelodeon's 16th Annual Kids' Choice Awards, Nickelodeon, 2003.
Host, MTV Presents Teen People Magazine's 25 Hottest Stars Under 25, MTV, 2003.
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards '04, Nickelodeon, 2004.
VH1 Big in 05, VH1, 2005.
American Express Jam Sessions, 2005.
Host, The 19th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, The WB, 2005.
MTV Spring Break: Cancun 2005, MTV, 2005.
BET Awards 2005, Black Entertainment Television, 2005.
The Teen Choice Awards 2005, Fox, 2005.
Boost Mobile RockCorps Concert, MTV, 2005.
The Third Annual Vibe Awards on UPN, UPN, 2005.
New Year's Eve Live!, Fox, 2005.
MTV's New Year of Music, MTV, 2005.
BET Awards 2006, Black Entertainment Television, 2006.
MTV New Year of Music: New Years Eve 2006, 2006.
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards '06, Nickelodeon, 2006.
Boost Mobile Rockcorps, 2006.
Host, The Teen Choice Awards 2007, Fox, 2007.
The 4th Annual VH1 Hip–Hop Honors, VH1, 2007.
The BRICK Awards, The CW, 2007.
Also appeared as presenter, The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
"Scrubs," Sports Theater with Shaquille O'Neal, Nickelodeon, 1996.
Garland, "Big Is Beautiful," The Parkers, UPN, 2000.
Alex, "Quinceanero," Taina, Nickelodeon, 2001.
LaTanya, "Pappy Don't Preach," Taina, Nickelodeon, 2002.
Hollywood Squares (also known as H2 and H2: Hollywood Squares), syndicated, 2002.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2002.
Total Request Live (also known as TRL and Total Request with Carson Daly), MTV, 2003.
Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2003, 2006.
The Sharon Osbourne Show (also known as Sharon), syndicated, 2003.
Tinseltown TV, International Channel, 2004.
Chappelle's Show, Comedy Central, 2004.
Cribs, MTV, 2004.
Ellen: The Ellen DeGenres Show, syndicated, 2004, 2005.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2004, 2005, 2006.
"Dub Super Series, Razor Summer Party, and ASR San Diego," Poorman's Bikini Beach, 2005.
"10th Anniversary Reunion Special," All That, Nickel-odeon, 2005.
Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2005.
106 & Park Top 10 Live (also known as 106 & Park), Black Entertainment Television, 2005.
Weekends at the DL, Comedy Central, 2005.
Mad TV, Fox, 2005.
"Fabulous Friday," The Tyra Banks Show, UPN, 2005.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, CBS, 2005, 2006, 2007.
Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC, 2005, 2006, 2007.
"I Can Do That," The Tyra Banks Show, UPN, 2006.
"Tyra's Favorite Moments," The Tyra Banks Show, UPN, 2006.
"Nick Cannon's Spring Break Dim Piece Search," Celebrity Undercover (also known as MTV's "Celebrity Undercover"), 2006.
"The Girl with Two Bad Takes," America's Next Top Model (also known as ANTM, Top Model, and America's Next Top Model with Tyra Banks), UPN, 2006.
The Andy Milonakis Show, MTV, 2006.
In the Mix (also known as In the Cutz), Urban America, 2006.
"Nick Cannon," Fuse Celebrity Playlist, Fuse, 2006.
Live with Regis and Kelly, syndicated, 2006, 2007.
Star Camp, 2007.
Rags to Riches, VH1, 2007.
Entertainment Tonight (also known as E.T.), syndicated, 2007, 2008.
Television Work; Series:
Creator and executive producer, The Nick Cannon Show, Nickelodeon, 2002.
Creator and executive producer, Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out, MTV, 2005.
Creator, executive producer, and consultant, Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz, MTV, 2007.
Executive producer, Star Camp, 2007.
Television Work; Episodic:
Sketch director and director, Nick Cannon: Presents Wild 'N Out, MTV, 2005.
Director, Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz, MTV, 2007.
Nick Cannon, Nick Records, 2003.
Stages, Universal, 2006.
"Disco Inferno," 50 Cent: The Massacre—Special Edition, Universal, 2005.
Underclassman, Miramax, 2005.
"Mo' Skeeter Blues," Cousin Skeeter, Nickelodeon, 1998.
"Who Loves Who–ooh?," Kenan & Kel, Nickelodeon, 1998.
Television Original Music; Episodic:
The Nick Cannon Show, Nickelodeon, 2002.
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 47, Thomson Gale, 2005.
Newsmakers, Issue 4, Thomson Gale, 2006.
Ebony, April, 2003, p. 54.
Jet, January 12, 2004, p. 65; May 26, 2008, p. 38.
Teen People, June 1, 2004, p. 137.
USA Today, July 28, 2005, p. 3D.
"Cannon, Nick 1980–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cannon-nick-1980
"Cannon, Nick 1980–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cannon-nick-1980
Modern Language Association
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Actor, writer, musician
A promising young actor who has demonstrated box-office appeal to both black and white audiences, Nick Cannon has been called the Tom Cruise of his generation. In addition to performing, he has also written and produced material for television and film and has written and recorded an album. Attractive, charming, and a self-described workaholic, Cannon "has the looks, talent and intelligence to be a star for as long as he wants," according to Jet.
Started as Stand-up Comic
Born on October 17, 1980, in San Diego, California, Cannon was raised there by his mother and his paternal grandmother. He also spent time with his father in North Carolina. A natural performer, he auditioned for the television program It's Showtime at the Apollo when he was 11 years old. Soon afterward he made his first appearance as a stand-up comic on his father's religion program on public access television. "People probably though I was cute more than they thought my jokes were funny," he recalled to Los Angeles Times writer Soren Baker.
During his teens Cannon lived in California with his mother. Though he was attracted to show business, his mother insisted that he finish high school before trying to launch his entertainment career. He graduated from Monte Vista High School in 1998, and began to appear in comedy clubs in Los Angeles. An agent discovered him there and got him a job with the Nickelodeon television channel, where he appeared as a warm-up act on the hit series All That. Cannon was such a success that Nickelodeon gave him his own comedy show in 2002. The comic wrote material and served as executive producer for The Nick Cannon Show, and also wrote for such programs as Keenan & Kel and Cousin Skeeter.
Cannon's stand-up appearances had also caught the eye of actor and producer Will Smith, who got the young performer a small role in the hit movie Men in Black II. Smith also produced a TV pilot starring Cannon for the WB network.
Earned Acclaim as Actor
Soon after, Cannon landed his first starring role in the film Drumline. Cannon played Devon Miles, a drummer from Harlem who receives a scholarship to the fictitious Atlanta A&T University, a historically black university with a marching band that needs some new energy. Devon is a bright talent, but resists the authority of the band director and provokes a fierce competition with the team's lead drummer. He also develops a romantic interest in the head cheerleader. "Obviously, he's kicked off the team," wrote Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe, "and obviously, he'll be redeemed in time for the Classic."
Despite Drumline 's predictable plot, critics enjoyed the film, particularly because of its focus on African-American college life—a subject rarely seen in contemporary cinema. Critics also appreciated Cannon's performance. New York Times writer A.O. Scott called him an "engaging lead actor," and Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times noted that the filmmakers were "smart in picking its lively, likable cast, starting with Nick Cannon."
Drumline proved Cannon's potential as an actor, but also proved his crossover appeal. The film, which grossed $13 million in its opening weekend and totaled more than $55 million domestically, drew an audience that was about 60 percent black and 40 percent non-black. According to Baker in the Los Angeles Times, the film was part of a "seismic shift in the way young black men are portrayed in cinema" and "helped show that young black men could carry a drama that focused on driven college kids rather than gangs and guns."
Cannon again played a wholesome character in his next film, Love Don't Cost a Thing. He portrayed Alvin Johnson, a gifted student from a supportive family, who pays a popular girl to let him date her so that he can gain friends and status at his high school. Reviewers admired Cannon's ability to show how Alvin changes from an awkward and earnest young man to an obnoxious showoff once he becomes popular. The actor, wrote Baker in the Los Angeles Times, "brings a good deal of charm to both Johnson incarnations, making it hard to dislike the guy who abandons his lifelong friends, disobeys his supportive mother and even turns on [the girl] once his popularity swells." Cannon explained to Baker that he enjoyed finding depth in this character: "I always try to figure out, even if he's a bad character or a jerk: What can you love about this character? If you can find that good, innocent side within that character, then that's where the money is."
Added Music to His Career
Cannon, who plays drums, drum machine, synthesizer, and harmonica, has also incorporated his music into his many of his creative ventures. He composed the theme song to his self-titled TV series, and also wrote "Shorty Put It to the Floor" for Love Don't Cost a Thing. In 2003 he released his first compact disc, Nick Cannon. Singles from the album, including "You Pops Don't Like Me" and "Feelin'Freaky," received considerable airplay on music cable channels, as did the hit song and video "Gigolo." That summer, Cannon was part of the popular "Scream 3" tour.
Easily bored by routine, Cannon told New York Times writer Linda Lee that "If I stay in one place too long or do one thing too long, my bones ache." Though he enjoyed partying in his teens, he now prefers sharper focus on his work. "I can't go out anymore," he explained. "Now I'm a workaholic." With roles in several upcoming films, including Shall We Dance? and Roll Bounce, Cannon shows no signs of slowing his performing pace.
In addition to his music and acting, Cannon is branching out into film producing and screenwriting. He executive-produced and wrote the treatment for The Underclassman, an action-comedy in which he also starred. He also served as executive producer for The Beltway, a political thriller that provided him a change of pace from his usual comedic roles. He is working on his first screenplay and has begun work on a memoir.
With the help of his father, a motivational speaker, Cannon has created the Nick Cannon Youth Foundation, which hosts inspirational conventions for young men. The actor hopes to inspire young people to aim for creative success while maintaining a positive life. "I'm taking my career into my own hands," he told Ebony. "I have a focus and a vision [now] that nobody can bring to pass but me."
Whatever It Takes, Columbia Tri-Star, 2000.
Men in Black II, Columbia Tri-Star, 2002.
Drumline, 20th Century Fox, 2002.
Love Don't Cost a Thing, Alcon Entertainment, 2003.
Shall We Dance?, Miramax, 2004.
The Underclassman, Miramax, 2005.
Roll Bounce, Fox Searchlight/Fox 2000, 2005.
The Beltway, Miramax. 2005.
All That, Nickelodeon, 1998-2000.
The Nick Cannon Show, Nickelodeon, 2002.
Nick Cannon, Jive Records, 2003.
At a Glance …
Born on October 17, 1980, in San Diego, CA.
Career: Actor; Nick Cannon Youth Foundation, founder and director.
Addresses: Agent —c/o Miramax, 375 Greenwich St., New York, NY 10013.
Boston Globe, December 13, 2002, p. E7; December 12, 2003, p. E5.
Ebony, February 2004, p. 22.
Jet, January 12, 2004, p. 65.
Los Angeles Times, January 19, 2002, p. F30; December 13, 2002, p. E12; December 16, 2002, p. E1; December 11, 2003, p. E20.
New York Times, December 13, 2002; December 22, 2002; December 12, 2003.
"Nick Cannon," Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com (September 8, 2004).
"Cannon, Nick." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cannon-nick
"Cannon, Nick." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cannon-nick
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American Psychological Association
Born Nicholas Scott Cannon, October 8, 1980, in San Diego, CA; son of James Cannon (a televangelist) and Beth Gardner (an accountant).
Addresses: Agent—Endeavor Agency, 9601 Wilshire Blvd., 10th Fl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Began career as a stand-up comic in the Los Angeles area, and as a warm-up performer for the Nickelodeon cable channel's studio audiences; appeared on the Nickelodeon show All That, 1998-2000; series writer for the Nickelodeon shows Kenan … Kel and Cousin Skeeter ; series creator, performer, and writer for The Nick Cannon Show, Nickelodeon, 2002-03; star and sketch director for Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out, MTV, 2005—. Film appearances include: Whatever It Takes, 2000; Men in Black II, 2002; Drumline, 2002; Love Don't Cost a Thing, 2003; Garfield (voice), 2004; Roll Bounce, 2005; Under-classmen, 2005; Weapons, 2006; Bobby, 2006. Released debut album, Nick Cannon, on Jive Records, 2003.
Nick Cannon emerged as a rising, multitalented performer when he was barely out of his teens. A talented stand-up comic, he was writing for Nickelodeon kids' shows at a time when his peers were finishing their high school credits, and went on to star in the surprisingly well-received marching-band movie, Drumline, in 2002. In 2005 he began hosting his own hip-hop improv comedy series for MTV, which he followed by releasing his second album, Stages. He told journalist Aidin Vaziri of the San Francisco Chronicle that he needed a bit of help keeping track of appointment-heavy weeks. "I've got four different schedules that I work off of, " he admitted. "It can be a little hectic sometimes."
Born in San Diego, California, on October 8, 1980, Cannon was raised partly by his grandmother while his mother, Beth Gardner, finished her education and established her career as an accountant. He also spent time with his father, James, who was an assistant pastor of a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and hosted his own television ministry. An energetic child, Cannon was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in elementary school, but both his parents and his grandmother encouraged his obvious love of performing in front of others as an outlet for his liveliness. Reflecting back on his childhood and other relatives in an interview with Philadelphia Daily News writer Gary Thompson, he believes his ADD was inherited, but was grateful he realized that "if you learn how to channel it, it can work for you."
Cannon's first exposure before an audience came thanks to the cable public-access show his father hosted in Charlotte. He wrote some jokes for it, and his father gave him a regular stand-up slot. At the age of 15, he was picked to appear on the long-running dance show Soul Train to compete on its Scramble Board. By that point he was already performing in Southern California comedy clubs, and went on to work as a pre-show comic who warmed up the young audiences for the Nickelodeon cable network shows. He admitted to nearly being way-laid by clothes, cars, and the popularity race during his first years at Monte Vista High School in San Diego, but once he had his first taste of professional success he realized he needed to keep focused on his studies. "Suddenly, it wasn't about being popular or what other people thought, " he told Boston Herald writer Stephen Schaefer.
Cannon graduated a year ahead of schedule, and landed writing gigs for such Nickelodeon fare as Kenan … Kel and Cousin Skeeter. He also appeared on another Nickelodeon show, All That, between 1998 and 2000. His film debut came as the chess-club kid in a 2000 teen comedy, Whatever It Takes. But Cannon was determined to break into Hollywood's upper echelons, and concocted a scheme to pitch a movie idea to actor/comedian Eddie Murphy by pretending he was a television reporter. He made it into the room, but his ruse was quickly discovered. "His people tried to shoo me away, " Cannon recalled in a People interview, "but Eddie wanted to play. He gave me a high-five when I left."
Cannon had better luck in finding a high-profile show-business connection when he met actor, rapper, and producer Will Smith, who bought him a drum machine and gave him a small part in Men In Black II as the autopsy agent. Cannon also wrote and appeared in his own show on Nickelodeon, The Nick Cannon Show, which ran for two seasons beginning in 2002. His first genuine break, however, came when he was cast in the lead for Drumline, the sleeper hit of the 2002 holiday-movie season. Reportedly based on the real-life experiences of music producer-songwriter Dallas Austin—also the film's executive producer— Drumline featured Cannon as Devon Miles, a hotshot New York City musical prodigy who wins a scholarship to a prestigious Atlanta college. He joins the school's marching band, but chafes at the tough, military-style discipline under the leadership of the respected band director, Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones). Devon's arrogance covers some flaws, including his inability to read music, and the coming-of-age story follows him on that journey of self-discovery.
Drumline pulled in impressive box-office numbers, and scored well with critics, too. Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman declared that the film "does more than capture the excitement of marching bands; it gets their clockwork beauty as well." Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert lauded it as "a movie that celebrates black success instead of romanticizing gangsta defeatism. Nick Cannon plays Devon as a fine balance between a showoff and a kid who wants to earn admiration." Ebert also commended the film's writers for avoiding "all the tired old cliches in which the Harlem kid is somehow badder and blacker than the others, provoking confrontations."
Despite his impressive rise, Cannon claimed that he received no star treatment from his family. "My grandmother don't care about none of this stuff, " he told a reporter for the E! Online website in 2003. "I went home yesterday, and I had to take out the trash, I had to mow the lawn." His next project was a remake of a 1987 movie, Can't Buy Me Love. Re-fashioned as Love Don't Cost a Thing and starring Cannon as a nerdy high schooler who pays a girl to hang out with him, the 2003 movie was the No. 5 box-office draw for its December opening weekend.
Love Don't Cost a Thing featured Cannon as the goofy Alvin Johnson, an automotive whiz and high-school nobody, who hatches a plan to boost his profile by bartering with one of his most popular classmates, cheerleader Paris Morgan (Christina Milian), to fix the family SUV that she smashed. In exchange, she must pretend to be his girlfriend for two weeks. "Gawky and guileless, Cannon makes a good case for Alvin's social awkwardness, " noted Carla Meyer in the San Francisco Chronicle. Citing its Eighties-era predecessor, Meyer also noted that "the biggest difference in this version is the leads are African American. Otherwise, it's your basic rich-girl-transforms-nerd story, made relatively fresh by lanky … Cannon." Robert Koehler, writing in Daily Variety, singled the movie out for its portrayal of modern life, commenting that what he found "intriguing" was "the prickly interaction between barely middle-class blacks like Alvin and the ultra-upscale blacks like Paris. This kind of commingling is rare in American movies, as is the depiction of a casually integrated Los Angeles student body that is past racial issues."
Cannon had said in interviews that he turned down many film roles after the success of Drumline, and was determined to keep writing his own material and even produce his own projects when possible. "As a young African-American man, there aren't too many quality scripts out there, " he told Schaefer in the Boston Herald article. "There are scripts where you can be drug dealers or [there are] hood movies or degrading comedies, but I'd rather do some quality things that are catered to me." Cannon was also busy with other projects, most notably his music career. After a few months of delay, his self-titled debut CD was released the same month as Love Don't Cost a Thing, and featured an impressive roster of guests, including Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly. The tracks were divided between a shady alter-ego character he called Fillmore Slim ("Gigolo" and "Feelin' Freaky") and more wholesome R…B crooner fare. Reviewing it for Billboard, Rashaun Hall found a middle ground in the themes with the track "Get Crunk Shorty, " which Hall termed "the perfect balance of crunk and old-school hip-hop."
The success of Drumline helped Cannon score a deal with the Miramax film studio, which paid him $1.5 million for one of his movie ideas, which he then finessed with two other screenwriters and executive-produced. Filming began once he finished his commitment to other projects, including the voice of Louis the Mouse in Garfield in 2004 and an appearance as Bernard in the 2005 roller-skating comedy Roll Bounce. That next major project, which he wrote and produced, was Underclassmen. It was the number-three box-office draw for the September 4, 2005, weekend that it opened, but critics were merciless. Cannon played a new member of the Los Angeles police force, a rookie whose brash, impulsive nature keeps bringing him trouble until he convinces his bosses to give him an undercover assignment: his youthful appearance lets him pass as a new student in an elite private high school to crack a murder investigation there. The film critic for the New York Times, A. O. Scott, conceded that Cannon "has a loose, quick-talking charm … but in this picture he tries on a series of secondhand movie star identities, trying so hard to be the next Will Smith or Eddie Murphy that his own personality all but dissolves."
Cannon finished his second LP, Stages, just before Underclassmen was released. Its breakout single proved to be the track "Can I Live?" in which an unborn child asks its mother to rethink her decision to terminate the pregnancy. Cannon based it on his own story, as he told many journalists once the song was adopted as an unofficial anthem by pro-life groups. "My mother was pregnant with me at 17 years old, " he explained to Thompson, the Philadelphia Daily News writer. "A lot of people were telling her she wasn't married, she was still in high school, so she should probably get an abortion. But she said that like a voice spoke to her, and said she should have this child. I used to say to her, that was my voice! I was talking to you!"
The video for "Can I Live?" featured former Fresh Prince of Bel Air cast member Tatyana Ali as his mother, and became one of the top-requested clips on BET and MTV. Anti-abortion groups promoted it as a positive artistic expression of their moral message. Yet Cannon refused to take a side in the debate, saying only that he was opposed to abortion as a method of birth control. "It's a tough choice for a woman to make, and people who have all these opinions about it should put themselves in her shoes, " he told Elon D. Johnson in Essence.
By mid-2005 Cannon was also hosting his own improv-comedy series for MTV, Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out, for which he also served as executive producer and sketch director. The show was arranged in contest format, with competing teams led by such guest stars as rappers Kanye West and Method Man. The improvisational challenges were largely the pranksterish Cannon's ideas, and he reveled in exposing the big names. "When somebody's really good at improv, that's entertaining, " he told Entertainment Weekly 's Dan Snierson, "but it's not as much fun."
Nick Cannon, Jive Records, 2003.
Stages, Motown/Can I Ball, 2006.
Billboard, December 20, 2003, p. 62.
Boston Herald, December 9, 2003, p. 39.
Chicago Sun-Times, December 13, 2002.
Daily Variety, December 12, 2002, p. 14; Dec 12, 2003, p. 6; April 30, 2004, p. 4.
Ebony, February 2004, p. 22.
Entertainment Weekly, January 3, 2003, p. 47; June 27, 2003, p. 53; June 10, 2005, p. 65.
Essence, October 2005, p. 90.
New York Times, December 22, 2002, p. ST4; September 2, 2005.
People, January 20, 2003, p. 86.
Philadelphia Daily News, September 1, 2005.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4, 2005.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2003; December 28, 2003, p. 44.
Variety, September 5, 2005, p. 32.
"Nick Cannon, " E! Online, http://www.eonline. com/Features/Features/Sizzlin2003/Guys/ index.html (May 10, 2006).
"Cannon, Nick." Newsmakers 2006 Cumulation. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/culture-magazines/cannon-nick
"Cannon, Nick." Newsmakers 2006 Cumulation. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/culture-magazines/cannon-nick