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May 01, 2014

Early to Rise: RZA

Acclaimed music producer and Wu-Tang Clan alum RZA is living as many dreams as he can — including a dream role as L.A. gang task force veteran Cassius Green in the new Fox drama Gang Related.

Jon Matsumoto
  • RZA


As one of the principals in the acclaimed hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, RZA (pronounced RIZ-a) knows well the nocturnal lifestyle of the popular music world.

Working very late into the night is the way he usually rolls as a musician, producer and songwriter.

But these days RZA is up at 5 a.m. and home at 7 p.m. due to his role in the new Fox drama Gang Related, about an elite Los Angeles gang task force. RZA portrays Cassius Green, a veteran of the force.

“It’s been healthy,” says the New York City native (born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) of his drastic change in work hours.

“My skin looks better. Music takes a big toll on you. You kind of live a vampire life. Now I’m able to come home and maybe help my son with his homework and ride with him to school on certain mornings. It’s been really cool for my family.”

Considering the anti-authoritarian spirit of Wu-Tang Clan masterworks like 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), it would have been difficult imagining RZA portraying a cop back in those days. Now RZA picks the brains of the law enforcement figures who serve as technical consultants for Gang Related.

“There’s a common denominator between the criminal and the cop,” he observes. “Both are out there hustling to provide for their family, and they want to go home safely to their family.

I relate to Cassius because he understands street life. even though he’s a cop, he has that cool gangster feel about him.”

RZA is similarly complex. A vegetarian and a chess aficionado, he has broadened his creative scope beyond music and acting.

For example, he directed, cowrote and starred (with Russell Crowe) in the 2012 martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists.

“I’ve got a lot of dreams,” he says, “and I’m going to try to live out as many as I can.”

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