‘Whirlwind of rap’ got Chicago comedian Chris Redd into ‘Popstar’
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Another potential big-screen star has emerged from Second City. And this one is ready to rap, act and laugh his way to the top.
Chris Redd, 31, plays an up-and-coming, crazed rapper in the mock-umentary “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” now in theaters.
Besides star Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts, the film also features Maya Rudolph, Sarah Silverman, Mariah Carey and fellow Second City alumnus Tim Meadows, who provided inspiration for Redd on set.
“I would go up to set even when I wasn’t shooting, just to hang around,” Redd says. “It was that cool.”
Born in St. Louis, Redd moved to Naperville when he was 8 and fell in love with Chicago. He says he spent his adolescent years hanging with city gangs to “try to be down” but soon realized he wasn’t “hood enough.” So he chased his dream of becoming a rap star, a career he viewed as “inevitable,” before shifting to stand-up and improvisational comedy.
“Rap helped me find my swagger,” Redd says. “It also helped me get rid of my stutter. Comedy helped me open up and be vulnerable with people and actually listen when people talk.”
At Second City, Redd performed with a touring company while serving as an understudy for the mainstage show. In 2014, he co-wrote “The Art of Falling,” a collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago that’s now in a revival at the Harris Theater ending Sunday.
During his audition for the “Popstar” rapper role “Hunter the Hungry,” Redd says he turned on some wi-fi speakers he brought and rapped for 20 minutes to a beat, much of it freestyle.
“I blacked out in a whirlwind of rap,” Redd says, laughing. “It was just a really fun audition.”
In one of Redd’s favorite scenes to shoot, Hunter opens a show for famed singer Connor4Real, played by Samberg, shouting, “I’m never getting off this stage!”
Redd left Chicago for Los Angeles five months ago after a conversation with “Popstar” producer Judd Apatow, who advised this was the time to make the move so many budding actors have made.
“I don’t like it as much as Chicago, but it’s growing on me,” Redd says of the L.A. lifestyle. “I bought a boat for the first time in my life, so I’m biased now.”
Redd most recently appeared in Chicago earlier this month at the second annual NBCUniversal Second City Break Out Comedy Festival, a night of music, stand-up, improv and sketch comedy featuring emerging talent.
He’s previously had minor roles on two television shows made in Chicago — “Empire” and “Chicago P.D.” He will appear in “Fat Camp,” an indie film that’s planned for release next year, and has been cast in the second season of Apatow’s “Love” series on Netflix, also set for release in 2017. Redd also recently filmed a “Comedy Bang! Bang!” episode for the IFC cable channel.
Redd says he still plans to focus on stand-up comedy as his primary career goal.
“For me, stand-up is going to be forever, and everything is to make sure that I build an audience for my stand-up as I continue to grow and cultivate that talent,” he says. “I’m just going to do that until people say, ‘Stop!’ ”