Anthony Mackie’s Shakespearean training helped him tackle iconic 8 Mile rap battle

Celebrating Black Art: Superheroes

Black heroes have historically been underrepresented on screen, but recent decades have seen more black characters saving the world too.

When facing Eminem in a rap battle, you may have to go deep into your bag of tricks. The star of the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie told Sean Evans on the latest episode of Hot Ones that he went 16th-century English poesy deep when prepping to play the privileged rapper Clarence “Papa Doc” in 8 Mile. Papa Doc famously loses to Eminem’s B-Rabbit in an embarrassing fashion during the climax of the hit drama.

“I find myself very lucky to have studied Shakespeare,” Mackie says. “The idea of approaching a rapper from the perspective of an actor, you’re really just speaking in poems. I always said, one of the greatest rappers ever lived was Shakespeare.”

Mackie was doing the interview to promote his new Netflix movie Outside the Wire. During the conversation, which also covered topics like Mackie’s fishing adventures on the set of Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War, Mackie was asked the importance of going to drama school compared to other vocations where going off to school may not be necessary.

Universal Pictures

Mackie graduated from the Juilliard School’s Drama Division in 2001. Mackie holds both a movie and stage acting career, having appeared in productions such as Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Fences.

“If I didn’t have my training, I wouldn’t be able to play Tupac, Martin Luther King, Papa Doc, Falcon,” he says. “The training is just something that gives you an extra layer to stand on.”

Mackie played the iconic ’90s rapper Tupac Shakur in the 2009 film Notorious. He also stepped into Martin Luther King Jr.’s shoes for the 2016 HBO film All the Way.

Evans puts Mackie’s Shakespearean training to the test when he asks him to cite a soliloquy or an aside that can describe burning his face off for the sake of the hot wings interview.

“Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law. My services are bound. Wherefore should I. Stand in the plague of custom…I can’t,” Mackie says, laughing off the fact that he was getting choked up by the hot sauce before he could finish citing Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Earlier in the interview, Mackie also shows off his carpentry knowledge when Evans asks about his HGTV obsession. Mackie is a huge HGTV fan, and says it would be “fun as hell” to have a show that combines his love for home improvement, cooking, and wellness. Something like “HGTV, ESPN and Food Network” all wrapped into one, he says. To prove he isn’t all talk, Mackie says during the COVID-19 quarantine he built an outdoor kitchen in his backyard. He even has begun to be interested in the use of epoxy to spruce up your furniture building.

“I want to figure out how to do a poxy countertops. You can put lights under them. It could be some real pimp s—,” he says.

Related content: