And you also worked with Linda Perry?
I did work with Linda Perry, which was crazy—it’s rare that I collaborate with people, because I feel too vulnerable collaborating with people—
From the standpoint that you want it to be your vision, your—
Vulnerable from the standpoint that I’m opening my soul right there. That’s why I tend to not collaborate so much. But this time, after I realized that I was damn near on the verge of my first breakdown, and I realized I needed to get the hell out of town and clear my head, I went to Egypt.
Oh, word. How was it?
It was such a miraculous experience for me. I looked at the Great Pyramids and I almost broke down. It showed me so much about myself and the way that we can build anything from nothing, and it can be something that lasts thousands of years. I crawled to the top of the pyramid and I just sang at the top of my lungs right there. People walking in acted like I was crazy; I didn’t care, it was just so poignant for me. And when I came home, I wanted to abandon all that stuff about me feeling too vulnerable to collaborate with people. Forget that.
Looking into what’s been going on with you recently, there’s just not much on the gossip tip. Which is disappointing on one hand, but admirable on the other. How do you avoid all that?
I got the script, I read 30 pages, and I threw it in the trash.
If I’m in L.A. and I go to Mr. Chow’s, yeah, I’m gonna have my picture taken and it’s gonna be somewhere. But if I’m in L.A. and I go to this spot on the corner of wherever the hell, that nobody even knows about, I’m gonna have a wonderful dinner, and I’ma go home, and I’m chillin’. It’s a bunch of choices of where you want to be.
You’re sitting here telling me that you felt like you were on the verge of a breakdown, but anybody hears “Alicia Keys on the verge of a breakdown” and it becomes this big deal. Somehow, you just take care of your business and it slides under the radar.
What kind of life is that to have to be running around and hiding here and there? I’m fortunate not to have that, and I want to keep my lifestyle.
Let’s talk about acting, and your role as assassin Georgia Sykes in Smokin’ Aces. How did that part come about?
Joe [Carnahan], the director, came to my show in Cali and he was like, “Listen, I got this part, and it’s perfect for you. It’s not no soft-ass part, and it’s not some girlfriend, either. It’s someone with substance.” Then he was like, “And she’s an assassin.” I was like, “OK! That’s interesting.” I got the script, I read 30 pages, and I threw it in the trash.
I was like, “There’s like every stereotype ever in there. And what’s this gay shit, too?” So maybe two weeks later, my agent called me and said, “Read it all the way through, you’ll be feeling it.” So I dug it out and I read it. And the more I read, the more that I got it. I was like, “Wow, there’s nothing people will expect from me less than this.” And that’s what I wanted when it came to film. I don’t want to be the singing, piano-playing “girl role.” I want to be something that’s not who I am.