Jamie Foxx’s early career was defined by the kind of false starts that derailed many of his contemporaries in their attempts to ascend the Hollywood ladder. Not many Black comedic actors could’ve survived box-office bombs like Bait and Held Up. For most, a moderately successful sitcom like “The Jamie Foxx Show” would’ve been a professional peak (looking at you, Mark Curry). For Foxx, it’s all now little more than a footnote to a stellar Hollywood career. I met up with Foxx at the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo to talk about that career; and with protests looming in the background and his highly anticipated Annie remake on the horizon, the wisecracker from Terrell, Texas, was understandably thinking about race as it pertains to his career, success and the world around us.
“Keenan Ivory Wayans taught me a lot of s—” Foxx recalls, before relaying the best advice the eldest Wayans star gave him. “Whatever you do — as an African American entertainer, you’ve got to be the best at it. We don’t settle for mediocre. Being on ‘In Living Color’ gave me the DNA and the work ethic to get things done. When you talk about the struggles of Black Hollywood, there was always a struggle. They would always pick one. In the ’60s, there was Redd Foxx. Seventies, it was Richard Pryor. Eighties, it was just Eddie Murphy. [But in the] ’90s? ‘In Living Color,’ the Wayans [family], [Chris] Rock, the Kings of Comedy, Chris Tucker, Kevin Hart, [Dave] Chappelle — there [are] a lot of people on the comedy side really flourishing now. Things are opening up and I know Chris Rock did a great article about the struggles of it, but also the hope at the end of it; because if you look at Tyler Perry, he’s doing his own thing,” Foxx explains.
“Although it’s still a struggle, we’re headed in, I think, a great direction. If you look at the movies that are being made now … [and actors like] Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, these dudes are coming. Now it’s time for people like myself, who’ve been in it for a while, to make sure we turn around and make sure we support them and give them the opportunity to keep moving things along,” he says.
It’s not that Foxx hasn’t had his own career obstructions.