Go ahead. Nick Cannon dares you to bet against him. After all, he’s used to being the underdog. There were the naysayers who claimed that he would become another washed up child star after blowing up as a tween sensation on the long-running Nickelodeon staple All That and its successful spin-off The Nick Cannon Show. A year later, he went on to appear in the 2003 sleeper hit Drumline, a film that took in an impressive $56 million in the U.S. When those same detractors called his cinema triumph a fluke, he went back to his comedic television roots and produced MTV’s improvisational Wild ‘N Out, a hit show that ran for four years.
Even when it comes to Cannon’s private life, scrutiny surrounds him. Is his marriage to the nearly decade older legendary pop diva Mariah Carey a farce; a boy toy romp? Are they really expecting twins as the tabloid machine suggest? The 29-year-old Cannon, who in September of 2009 was named chairman of the popular cable network TeenNick, has a lot to say on a diverse range of questions. And his answers will undoubtedly surprise you.—Keith Murphy
VIBE: So I guess congratulations are in order. We heard the news that you and Mariah are expecting. Care to give VIBE an exclusive?
Nick Cannon: Here’s the thing. It would be news to me [Laughs]. I think the media just takes things and kind of runs with it in a premature manner. One day when it happens, it will definitely be a blessing. But with this one, the media has jumped the gun.
So you guys are definitely not expecting twins?
No, unless I get a phone call or something telling me otherwise [Laughs].
All the pregnancy news has kind of been propelled by Mariah recently dropping out of Tyler Perry’s upcoming film For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. What was her motive for leaving the production?
She definitely loves Tyler Perry and loves the movie. I think it was just a timing issue. I think the statement they put out there was it was best for her to step away from it right now due to a bunch of other projects she’s working on.
Late last year you were named Chairman of the cable network TeenNick. Are we talking about a 9-to-5 gig with your own corner office and sweet parking space?
It’s definitely a real day-to-day job. I’m actually on my way up there now. I’m running a development process and we are about to do a lot of interesting stuff that has never really been done before. I’ve actually built an online think-tank where I’m using ideas that we’re developing as well user-generated ideas—like different concepts for shows. And then I’m allowing everybody online to critique the ideas. It allows the audience to be part of the process of the shows. As the chairman, I want to involve young people in the making of television programming. I want to reveal what’s behind the velvet rope of what goes on during the creation of programming.
This is also my second year going into the award show that I created called the Halo Awards, which honors ordinary teens doing extraordinary things. Instead of giving the celebrities awards we have the celebrities giving the awards to the young people; we are coming up on the second year of that. And I also just created a show called The Nightlife, which is really a teen nightclub show, but it has the same vibe that American Bandstand and Soul Train did as well as a TRL-like taste-making destination feel. Right now, we have everybody from the New Boyz to Sean Kingston to Aaron Fresh performing. A bunch of young and hot up-and-coming people are going to be on the show.
You’re one of the last African-American former child stars that have been able to translate your success into your young adult years. Why do you think it’s so hard for those young Black Hollywood talents to get the chances you received?
It’s just tough out there, man. It’s so competitive and obviously this industry was not really designed for us. When it comes to young Black actors or entertainers, the industry usually gives us one shot and if we don’t succeed and knock it out of the park then they are on to the next one. There’s other cats of other races that kind of fit the mold of what has been in Hollywood for a long time, they’ll give them five or six times to fail. That’s the normal criteria, but when it’s one of us it’s something rare. We are not the safest bet usually; that’s why you have to think outside the box. You have to come from different angles. That’s why I never solely relied on my acting or my music. I was always behind-the-scenes.
Are you still interested in working in movies given your success with Drumline?
Absolutely. I do movies for the love. But frankly I don’t really need it, so I’m only going to do the stuff that really means a lot to me. There are a couple of projects coming up very soon that I’ve been attached to for a while. We are just putting them together. A lot of people don’t understand that when you develop a movie from scratch, it usually takes five years for it to actually come to fruition.
You have to have some of the thickest skin in the business. What do you think of when you hear some of the blogs and tabloids refer to you as Mr. Carey?