Actor and Grammy-winning rapper Common stars as Vincent in the Baltimore-set drama, LUV. He’s also one of the independent’s film’s producers.

Common, following roles in TV’s Hell On Wheels and films such as The Odd Life of Timothy Green, New Year’s Eve, American Gangster and Smokin’ Aces, is LUV’s leading man. His character, a former convict who’s free following eight years of prison, has big dreams.

“Some people will see Vincent as a criminal,” Common said. “But other people will say, ‘Oh, man. This guy is trying to straighten his life out. He’s going through some of the same things that I’ve been through, or things that my family members have been through.’ ”

Chicago native Common knew people whose experiences were similar to Vincent’s.

“Being from the South Side of Chicago, you just relate to that,” he said. “And I used what I have experienced to let Vincent come to life.”

Common co-stars in LUV with 11-year-old actor Michael Rainey Jr. (playing Vincent’s nephew, Woody), as well as screen veterans Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Lonette McKee (Sparkle, The Cotton Club) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire).

The actor-rapper prepared for his LUVrole by spending time in Baltimore prior to the film’s production. That research allowed him to get a feel for the city and its people.

“That was part of the journey for me,” he said. “It’s a great city and it has some similarities to Chicago. The people are true-to-the-core, blue-collar people. They’re people with heart and soul. I really respect that city.”

Common, having appeared in several major-studio movies, found he likes the creative freedom that comes with making an independent project.

“You can try different things in that world,” he explained. “LUVis my first experience with that. And, for me, Vincent is a role with depth. He’s a human being I can show many sides of.”

With a new album set for release this year, Common continues to work at music, but he’s just as serious about acting.

“It’s a great part of my life,” he said. “I love putting my energy and spirit into the work that I do as an actor. And I want to build and grow, become a leading man in Hollywood.”

Common’s movie goals have been furthered by his acting studies and advice he’s gotten from award-winning co-stars such as Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

“They definitely give inspiration, advice, insight,” he said. “I was very appreciative of that. Just the fact that these people reached out like that, that’s an act of love right there. I felt blessed to be in their presence, to learn from the masters.”