Interview: Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx on acting, singing, comedy, and controversy
By BEN WESTHOFF  |  August 11, 2009

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Jamie Foxx gained fame as a comedian (and a master impressionist) on In Living Colour before parlaying his serious-acting chops into a Best Actor Oscar for the 2004 Ray Charles bio-pic Ray. He went on to sell millions of records as an R&B artist, most recently with last year's Intuition (J Records), which spawned the monster hit "Blame It." But it hasn't all been smooth sailing. In 2003, Foxx was arrested after a scuffle with police officers at a New Orleans casino. And this past April, he was roundly condemned for the raunchy tirade he delivered against Miley Cyrus on his satellite radio show. (He advised her to "make a sex tape and grow up.") We spoke about these issues, the Henry Louis Gates kerfuffle, and the star power of Ron Howard.

As someone who grew up in the racially segregated town of Terrell, Texas, what's your take on the Henry Louis Gates incident?
I completely understand both sides. He grew up in a time where there were black bathrooms and white bathrooms, blatant racism, and now he's being confronted with some of the images he's seen in his life, and so his knee-jerk reaction is, "It's because I'm black." I'm being very careful with my words with this, because I don't want to escalate anything. I think it's great that Barack Obama invited both of those guys to come to the White House, but I also think that we need more dialogue. When I was working in Philly for a movie [Law Abiding Citizen], I was asked if I would do something for the police officers there, because they were having a tough time with some issues. My suggestion was, "You should get the whitest police officer on your force and go into the blackest neighborhood and throw a picnic for the kids, so that the young African-American male can see that white police officer in a different light."

Do you see any similarities to the time you were thrown out of that New Orleans casino?
I don't think it's the same thing. [Laughs] I had my own issues at that time, because New Orleans will make you drink a little bit. Blame it on the alcohol.

Your show is a mixture of music and comedy. How do you combine those two in front of a big crowd?
I've been doing this for about 20 years, and finally the music is just as powerful as my jokes. Two years ago, when I went out, it was more joke-driven, about 35 to 40 minutes of comedy and then the music, because the music was just so-so. But now that we have songs like "Blame It" and "Just like Me," we come out and start hitting with the music, and then we sprinkle in comedy. We have guest stars, like [does Ray Charles impression], "Ay, yo, tell everybody, Ray Charles in town!", and the president of the United States [does a perfect Obama impression], "If there's any doubt that America is not the most incredible country in the world . . . " It's really like a variety show.

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