The Iris Interview: O’Shea Jackson Jr talks Straight Outta Compton, Oscars, career goals & more

O’Shea Jackson Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps alright. His dad, better known as Ice Cube, hit the acting scene hard in 1991 (the year O’Shea Jr was born) with Boyz n the Hood, an in-depth drama about South Central L.A that remains one of the most highly praised films about African-American youth ever made. Now, his son has his own acclaimed acting debut propelling him into the spotlight, portraying his father in Straight Outta Compton, a music biopic about the most controversial hip hop group of the 80’s and 90’s, N.W.A. O’Shea Jr’s performance was met with high praise, as was the film, which went on to break box office records, steaming to the top to become the number one high grossing music biopic of all time.

One of 2015’s most essential and talked about films, Straight Outta Compton is now finally available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and HD, so we here at The Iris thought now is a better time as any to catch up with O’Shea Jr and reflect on the massive success of the film, what it was like on set, how he feels about the controversial Oscars snub, his career goals, and more. Check out the full transcript below.

First off, a massage congratulations on the film and thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.

Yes of course man, thank you. We couldn’t be happier with Straight Outta Compton and now everybody gets to own it themselves. It’s a great day.

There has been a huge amount of commercial and critical acclaim, just like when your father’s acting debut was released. What has it been like for you watching the film grow and smash it at the box office?

It’s been crazy. When you’re in the trenches, you can only hope that people appreciate the hard work that you and your cast members put in. We know the hard days, we know the struggles that we had to go through and how we came out of them as a team to make Straight Outta Compton a masterpiece in our eyes. And then for everyone to accept it, and for everyone to see it and to really embrace it…you couldn’t ask for anything more.

It’s still making headlines now, although the topic has veered towards the Oscar snub. What’s your perspective on the whole Oscar situation and what do you say to those planning to boycott the ceremony?

Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, just like you or I. The Academy members choose who they want to reward and so you know, I can’t really speak on anyone else’s take on it, but those are the facts.

I guess it’s a form of another people’s choice award, the fact that people are so outspoken about Straight Outta Compton being snubbed from most categories. That must bring a certain consolation that people are being so outspoken about it?

Yeah exactly, that’s who it’s for, the people. It was the people who made it the number one biopic of all time. It was the people who made Gary [F. Gary Gray] the top selling black Director of all time, and that was just for them.

Thinking back to when you were filming. You were in the unique position being the only cast member portraying his father during such a critical time of his career. To my knowledge, you’re the first actor ever to play their father in that capacity. How did this help you?

It helped me by giving me the fire I needed in my audition process. I had to audition for over two years, and when you’ve never acted before and you’re working on something for two years it can be a little draining, but the fact that it was my father and the fact that the film had to do with my family’s history, I couldn’t let it slip away, I couldn’t let it go to anyone else. Once I got the part, it’s like there was no one that was going to take this film as seriously as I did. There was nobody who will give it everything that they have, whatever they need to do for this film, more than me. The guys knew my passion behind Straight Outta Compton, and my cast mates were behind me the entire time. It was a beautiful experience and I’m celebrating today the release of the DVD of the film, it’s great.

The people can own your work now, and it’s such a massive acting debut. Did you ever expect it to reach this level?

I thought I was going to be on the other side of the camera really. I went to the University of Southern California for screenwriting. That was the only thing that really gave me confidence to even try for Straight Outta Compton, my screenwriting background. It’s a surprise but it’s something…like I’ve been bit by the bug a little bit, and I just only want to get better…I’m going to hit this cinema thing from both sides. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t use my talents for acting and screenwriting.

Speaking about your plans for the future. Your father followed his success with Boyz n the Hood with Trespass and Higher Learning before really nailing the comedy side with Friday. In terms of acting, what are you plans for the immediate future and what kind of genres would you like to play?

I eventually, one day would like to venture into comedy because, I mean, we all like to laugh more than we like to do anything else really. It’s definitely on my horizon, but for now I would prefer to do dramatic roles at this time. Really try to get my chops in as an actor…for everyone to see me as a serious actor before I can show that side of me.

There was a bit of Friday leaking through on Straight Outta Compton. I think there were two references to the movie…

I couldn’t resist! There’s a little phenomenon going around with the whole ‘Bye Felicia’ thing. I felt that a lot of people didn’t know that came from Friday. I don’t think people knew the original beginnings of that saying, and it was starting to become a little social media phenomenon. I saw an opportunity, me and Gary kind of looked at each other and I was like “Dude, this is a perfect Bye Felicia moment”. We spazzed out, by ourselves and nobody knew what we were talking about. That’s the whole scene, I mean you can’t avoid that. If you don’t take that time to [kick] that cinematic goal in that moment then are just cheating yourself and the audience.

Last year was such a huge year for mainstream cinema, and for N.W.A’s biopic to come and be near the top of that list is such an impressive feat, but aside from Straight Outta Compton, what were some of your favourite films of last year?

Of last year, definitely I was a fan of Jurassic World man, I had a good time. Nostalgia for sure. That was a fun movie for me. When did Guardians [of the Galaxy] come out?

I think that was 2014.

Damn, well shout out to Guardians anyway! Of course, Fast & Furious, you gotta go there. I’ve been a fan of the series and fan of The Rock for a long time. But I’m going to go with Jurassic World. I still haven’t seen Star Wars though.

It’s alright. It’s decent.

[Laughs]

When you were down here for the Sydney premiere of the film I asked you about your music career and you told me that you’re not going by [the stage name] Oh, My Goodness anymore, you’re going by O’Shea. As far as music goes, what’s your plan for the future?

Well if I do music, certain types of songs might get these movie execs to kind of try and typecast me into certain types of roles. I couldn’t risk that. So my new way to stay connected with my music roots and to be able to flex that creativity is, me and my older brother Daryl, who is also an associate producer on Straight Outta Compton…me and him are collaborating and making a producing team, and we’re going to make the music behind the words. And you know, possibly get an album out of [various] artists rapping or singing over our beats.

I guess you’re in that good position where you can rap and you can also act. Ice Cube had such a huge connection with that, I think he’s made some of the best hip hop tracks for movies like “Higher” and “How to Survive”…

Oh man, that’s a phenomenon that I don’t…it’s one thing to have the number one movie, but try having the number one movie and the number one album at the same time. Tell me you’re not…poppin’ [Laughs].

It seems like fate, man. Weren’t you born when Death Certificate came out?

Yeah, I’m ’91 so I’m around that whole…actually in Straight Outta Compton I give myself a shout out, I don’t think anybody’s ever done that! In the office scene I say, “I gotta baby on the way”…I’m definitely that baby [Laughs].

If you had to do a scene like Ice Cube at the hospital welcoming his son to the world would that have been too awkward for you?

Oh man, by far [Laughs]. It was already awkward in the scenes where I was watching TV with my wife…I’ve got my mom and dad on the set looking and it was like just like, “Wow, it’s a little uncomfortable now,”. Other than though, it was just a cool experience but yeah, we couldn’t have a scene like that. [Laughs]

Wrapping up, N.W.A is being inducted into the hall of fame this year, do you think the announcement last year was a coincidence or had something to do with the success of Straight Outta Compton?

What we did with Straight Outta Compton is we refreshed everyone’s mind. A lot of the time, like an athlete who is about to retire, people might forget what they saw, they may forget the phenomenon of that athlete, and they may begin to think less of them on their way out but still acknowledge that they are great. What Straight Outta Compton was able to do was to put eyes on exactly what N.W.A did and show them as people, and so you felt a greater connection. I mean, it put the album back up on the charts, it did such monumental things for the group. My man Dre‘s up for Rap Album of the Year at the Grammys, and it’s just a beautiful thing to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acknowledge the heroes that they are.

Straight Outta Compton is now available on HD, Blu-Ray, and DVD from all good retailers and online. You can check our film review HERE.

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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