Actor, rapper has more in store

— Nick Cannon fancies himself a Renaissance Man.

He helped produce his self-titled hip-hop album, which came out Tuesday. He stars in the new movie "Love Don't Cost a Thing." He's written screenplays and TV pilots. He's been executive producer of his own TV show on the network Nickelodeon. He started his own record label. He's thinking of taking seminary classes.

And he's 23.

"I can't paint though, but maybe I can learn," quipped Cannon, a tall, lanky guy with a baby face.

In "Love Don't Cost a Thing," a remake of 1987's "Can't Buy Me Love," Cannon plays a dorky guy who schemes to become popular by paying the most popular girl in school to hang out with him.

Writer-director Troy Beyer said she chose Cannon for the part because of his innate charm. "Whether he's the cool guy or the geeky guy he still has this undercurrent of charisma," she said.

Cannon started doing standup comedy as a child, performing at his father's church in North Carolina. His mother lives in San Diego, and at age 16 he headed up to Hollywood to perform at The Improv.

He met his manager at the club, along with mentor Will Smith, and has been writing, producing and acting ever since. Smith helped him get his first big movie, "Drumline."

Constant work doesn't leave much room for a social life, but Cannon wouldn't have it any other way.

"My work is my social life. I still go to clubs, but I go to promote my album," he said during an interview with The Associated Press. "I get to travel all around to act, I'm loving it."

His breakneck schedule has a few drawbacks.

"I'm like a nomad, I feel like I love mostly in hotels, and I'm as single as a slice of cheese," he said.

Cannon takes his success in stride, and makes it seem remarkably easy. He's friendly, relaxed and humble. He even pauses to say grace before sitting down to breakfast.

"I'm not worried about people thinking I'm too nice or too arrogant," he said. "I want people to think of me as Nick Cannon, I mean, come on, I was on Nickelodeon, I can't really be a thug."

Shelly Sumpter, vice president for talent at Nickelodeon, worked with Cannon for about six years on "All That" and "The Nick Cannon Show." She said the network gave him freedom to write and produce because of his clear talent.

"He's a hard worker, and he's engaging and witty off his feet," Sumpter said. "He will continue to evolve as a man."

Nickelodeon partnered with Jive Records for Cannon's album. He worked with producers The Neptunes, and collaborated with R. Kelly, B2K and Mary J. Blige. The single "Gigolo" recently hit the airwaves.

He prefers to focus on his career instead of college. "I am very spiritual, though, and would love to take some seminary courses. You know, make my family proud," he said.

But he can't choose between acting or music.

"That's like saying 'Which child do you like more?' They are both special."


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