In 2017, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah filmed for a week in Chicago, and I played hooky for two days in a row, waited hours outside in line each day, and scored great tickets for both tapings. I even lucked out with a front row seat on one of the days!

And I got even luckier still: the guest for the first show was none other than Common — hometown hero, rapper, actor, writer and activist. My daughter was in pre-k at the time, and her teacher had a poster of Common on their classroom door (it was for the “READ” campaign, which many celebrities took part in). Needless to say, that teacher was very jealous that I got to see one of her favorite celebs with my own eyes. On the show he talked about his efforts to fight racial injustice and his song “Stand Up for Something” from the movie Marshall.

And now today Common is celebrating the last year of his 40s. And what a decade it’s been for him, especially on the acting front.

In 2013 he played an FBI agent trying to bust the bank-heisting magician crew of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco in Now You See Me. The following year he portrayed civil rights leader James Bevel in Selma, and the year after that he won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for co-writing Selma’s featured song, “Glory.”

After that came a whirlwind of higher-profile supporting and voice roles in everything from the heartbreaking The Hate U Give, to the charming animated film Smallfoot, to the action and crime thrillers The Informer, Hunter Killer and The Kitchen (where he starred alongside his now-girlfriend, fellow multi-hyphenate extraordinaire Tiffany Haddish).

In his most recent role from last year, Common is opposite Jessica Chastain in Ava, which is both at the Box and available through Redbox On Demand. Ava (Chastain) is an assassin battling many demons, and Common plays Michael, her old flame … who’s now involved with her sister. Remaining in Ava’s vicinity puts Michael in grave danger because of the nature of her work. (Duh!) But will she be able to protect him if and when he’s used as a pawn?

Coming up next for Common are two more movies! The first is a comedy, El Tonto, directed by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day, who will also play “The Fool” — the film’s main character who’s a simple (and entirely mute) man who accidentally becomes a huge celebrity. This one has already filmed and is currently in post-production, but it’s unclear when it may be released (due to COVID… like everything else).

And then he’ll also be working on Alice, a thriller starring Keke Palmer that recounts the true story of a slave who escapes from her owners … only to be shocked at what is waiting for her in the world outside of her plantation.

Here’s wishing Common a wonderful 49th birthday!

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