Andre Benjamin has dressed up as everything from a space alien to a slick pimp as a member of OutKast, but he’s never worn a turtle costume — until now. This Friday sees the opening of Battle In Seattle, a film about the protests surrounding the 1999 World Trade Organization summit. Benjamin plays Django, a lighthearted activist who just wants to protect his small green friends but finds himself in over his head once violence breaks out.
Though the protests were one of the centerpieces of the news cycle back in ’99, the incident was new to Benjamin. “I don’t know if I was out of the country or in the studio, but I missed it,” he explains. “The first time I heard about it was when I read the script and saw footage of what happened.” Benjamin admits that he’s not much of an activist himself. Despite the fact that he was named PETA’s “Sexiest Vegetarian” in 2004, he’s never actually done any work for the organization. “Besides, I’m not totally vegan. I still eat honey and wear leather. I’ve learned that I’m most powerful when I’m doing my art,” he says. “That lasts longer.”
In fact, among other projects, Benjamin says a new solo album is in the works. “It should be dropping by the end of this year or early next year. I’ve pretty much been working with myself,” he explains. “I’ve never really been that big on collaboration.” Benjamin wouldn’t reveal any other details, but he said he already had a goal and a direction for the album. “I have a concept, and all the soundscapes are already in my head, so I just have to figure out how to get there.”
He may not be big on collaboration, but he has found himself inspired by Woody Harrelson. Battle in Seattle, which opens Friday, represents the second film this year he’s done with the oft-stoned star (along with Semi-Pro), and the two have become close. “Woody’s a cool dude. He takes life real easy,” Benjamin says. “If I smoked, he would have definitely shared his stash.”