O’Shea Jackson Jr. had a heck of a debut as an actor, playing his father, Ice Cube, in Straight Outta Compton. But the road to portraying his dad was a lot longer and more complicated than you might think. Jackson was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about getting the job, getting a key moment in American history right, and how, exactly, “Bye, Felicia!” wound up in the movie.
I know you’ve done some music in the past; how much did your musical work inform your work on the movie?
My music work is the only reason why my father thought I could do it. I started performing on stage with my father when I was 18. He felt from there that I was the right man for the job. And there was a two-year audition process to prove it.
When you’ve never been in a movie and you’re auditioning to play your dad, you should get a heads up. It was pretty nerve-wracking. It was pretty nauseating, waiting to hear back. At the end of it, we do a chemistry test. I get there and there’s two other Cubes there and three Dres. I immediately let the other Cubes know I was O’Shea Jakson Jr. [Laughs.]
How do you portray the process of making music on film and getting it right?
That was some of my easiest moments. The acting part, that was new to me. But rapping my dad’s songs, I’ve been doing that forever. It was really the fun part of the movie for me. And the guys knew that, that I had the stage experience. They let me quarterback a couple of those performances. It’s something my dad and I will always cherish. When we performed at Skateland, they were like, “We have to perform in front of 500 people!” and I just said “500 people? Easy!”
F. Gary Gray, your director, was actually there for some of what goes on in the movie. Did you ever hear something about how so-and-so was more like this?
Me and my father would speak every day before I went to set. He’d Skype in, let me know what he was thinking at the time. Gary knew that I had that tool. He let me spread my wings on that film. The circle is complete in a way, with my dad giving him his first film, and now he’s directing this.