Cedric the Entertainer Photograph by Catherine Ledner
Nancy Miller
February 13, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Things get a little hairy whenever Cedric the Entertainer has the floor, and today is no different. Sporting the gray-streaked coif he describes as ”Frederick Douglass meets Gary Coleman” and fiddling with clippers that will never graze a single head, he quiets the Chicago South Side barbershop (which is actually a soundstage on the outskirts of the city) to opine on a certain sex-scandal-prone R&B singer. ”R. Kelly said he was set up? Sure, R. Kelly was set up. He set up the camera!”

”Cut!” hollers director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, as Ice Cube, Eve, and the rest of the cast and crew continue to bust up. Apparently, ”Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” the sequel to 2002’s surprise hit ”Barbershop” (which grossed $76 million and won critical praise), isn’t messing with its winning formula. ”Business,” debuting at an impressive $25 million, is another raucous David and Goliath tale, only now Cube’s business is threatened by a glitzy salon chain opening across the street. It’s got the same leading cast, with the addition of Queen Latifah — and a new director in Sullivan (”How Stella Got Her Groove Back”), who replaced the original’s Tim Story. And of course, there’s an expanded role for Cedric as Eddie, the shop’s marble-mouthed éminence grise. ”We needed to broaden the story,” Cube says. ”With Cedric’s role, the plot’s a bit deeper.” The sequel flashes back to the late ’60s, when Eddie was a hustler who helped save the shop during the Chicago riots, suffering a broken heart in the process.

Not that he’s gone soft. Eddie’s still the rabble-rouser whose observations (Lee Malvo? ”The Jackie Robinson of crime!”) aren’t going to charm groups offended by his quips in the first film, such as ”Rosa Parks ain’t do nothin’ but sit her black ass down” and ”F— Jesse Jackson!” Jackson and Parks demanded apologies (which they got, from MGM execs) and called for a boycott of the film (which they didn’t get). Parks even skipped the NAACP awards that year because ”Barbershop” was nominated. Today, the 39-year-old actor dismisses the imbroglio. ”Eddie’s a character,” he says. ”It’s like being mad at Barney Rubble.”

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