LOS ANGELES – While filming “Power Book II: Ghost,” Clifford “Method Man” Smith sometimes camped out in Mary J. Blige’s dedicated break area during their downtime to briefly warm up near her heater on a chilly New York set.
Unlike most, Smith can randomly crash Blige’s space simply because of their decadeslong friendship. The music icons’ strong bond helped both during the filming of the Starz hit spinoff series, where both have integral roles.
“Some of my favorite days on set is when me and Mary get to work together,” said Smith. Smith and Blige won a Grammy in 1995 for the classic single “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By,” which served as a remix for the Wu-Tang Clan rapper’s “All I Need” from his debut solo album “Tical.”
Over the years, both have hit the stage together several times, including their recent performance in 2022 at Blige’s Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit in Atlanta.
Blige and Smith tried to make their set experience enjoyable and supportive — especially before filming their serious scenes.
“We leaned on each other a lot,” said Blige, who portrays the character of Monet Stewart Tejada — a leader of her family’s illegal drug organization on the show, which airs Fridays on Starz. Smith plays the role of the slick-talking defense attorney Davis Maclean.
“This was a chance to work with my friend,” she continued. “We joke, we laugh and just have a good time on set as friends. It’s always beautiful seeing Meth.”
Smith said he and Blige mesh well together professionally. Last year, both won NAACP Image awards for their acting roles on “Power Book II.”
“People like seeing us together. We’re like peanut butter and jelly,” Smith said. “We can’t be Batman and Robin, because then somebody’s got to be the sidekick. Mary ain’t no sidekick, and I definitely ain’t no damn sidekick.”
“She’s so spot on. When it comes to improv, she’s on it. To have my first Grammy win with her … epic,” he added. “But to win my first acting award with her was even bigger, in my opinion.”
Blige, a nine-time Grammy winner, said working with Smith over the years has been an “amazing” experience. The singer, known as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” said the transition into their roles on “Power Book” was seamless after years of focusing on improving their acting craft.
“We’ve been doing this for a longtime,” said Blige, who received an Oscar nomination in 2018 for her supporting role in the Netflix film “Mudbound.” She’s starred in a number of other projects, including “The Umbrella Academy,” “Body Cam” and “Respect.”
For once in Smith’s acting career, he’s starting to see more people recognize him for his role in “Power Book II” than his rap persona.
“If you look at the tweets maybe two or three years ago, they were calling me ‘Method Man.’ He’s so cringe. They were saying ‘Why is Method Man playing a lawyer?’” said Smith, who got his acting start in the mid-’90s. He’s starred in films like “Belly,” “How High,” “The Cobbler” and “Trainwreck.” He’s also appeared on some popular television shows such as “The Wire,” “Luke Cage” and “Godfather of Harlem.”
“There are some people that still can’t peel away the layers of Method Man in order to see the character. It’s so rewarding to have people calling you ‘Davis’ in the street and people referring you to cases — real cases — to get some of their favorite rappers out of jail,” he said. “There are some fans who are keeping me in the ‘Method Man’ box, so I’m going to kick my way out.”
Blige said their previous acting endeavors helped prepare them for “Power.”
“We transitioned slowly, slowly, slowly into acting, but never leaving music behind,” Blige said. “We’re going where we fit in. We fit in with this ‘Power’ universe.”
Season 3 of “Power Book” is almost halfway done: Blige’s Monet has sought revenge after the death of her son, and is willing to pay a hefty price to avenge her firstborn and keep the rest of her children — and the business — in line. She works closely with Smith’s character to solve her son’s murder while keeping the authorities off her trail.
“She’s super ruthless but more so strategizing her next move to build an empire to get out of the game,” Blige said about her character. “She’s in a vulnerable state. She can’t help but to cry or just lay around the around the house. She doesn’t like being weak. She doesn’t like people seeing her like that. So, everybody is getting cursed out or killed.”
Smith applauded Blige for taking on the role as Monet. He also said he’s proud of those from the hip-hop community who, like him and Blige, have made their way into TV and film.
“I love working with her,” he said of Blige. “There isn’t many that can hang with that queen. But it’s good to see people like you on screen. And I don’t mean Black people. I mean people from your background. There’s a reason why Larry the Cable Guy was one of the biggest comedians in the world. There were a lot of people out there just like him.”
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