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'Unpredictable' Actor and Musician Jamie Foxx

ED GORDON, host:

In 2005, Jamie Foxx walked away with the Academy Award for best actor for his performance in the movie "Ray." Critics raved about the 37-year-old actor's portrayal of Ray Charles, how he embodied the spirit, movements and mannerisms of the musical icon.

(Soundbite of "Ray")

Mr. JAMIE FOXX: (As Ray Charles) You know what? Don't think that I don't appreciate everything you guys have done here, Jerry. I mean, I've very proud of the work that we've done here together. Atlantic has done pretty good money-wise on my records, haven't they?

Mr. RICHARD SCHIFF: (As Jerry Wexler) Yes, we've done very well, Ray.

Mr. FOXX: (As Ray Charles) Yeah, and you were the ones that taught me that making a record is a business and find the best business deal that you can. Now 75 cents of every dollar and honoring my own masters is a pretty damn good deal. Can you match it?

GORDON: Foxx is a throwback to the days of the multitalented entertainer. The Texas native is an established stand-up comic, pianist and vocalist. Today Foxx is highlighting his musical side. He releases a new CD called "Unpredictable."

Here's what's interesting about the CD for me: It really captures who I think you are.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: There seems to me to be two Jamie Foxxes.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: There is Eric Bishop...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GORDON: ...your given name.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: And that is that Southern gentleman. Then there's Jamie Foxx...

Mr. FOXX: Right.

GORDON: ...the Hollywood celebrity.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GORDON: Is that fair?

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, I think it's very...

GORDON: And do you think they're both on this...

Mr. FOXX: I think it's very fair and there is that celebrity `Let's go have a wild, fun ride.' And then there are those moments like on this record where it really is Eric Bishop, or when I talk about, you know, my daughter, "Heaven Will Never Be The Same," and the last track on the record, which is "I Wish You Were Here," which I dedicated to my grandmother. So...

GORDON: Now one of the things that you and I have talked about over the years in terms of what you want to do musically, is the idea that you want people to take Jamie Foxx the musician seriously as well...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

GORDON: ...which doesn't always happen...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...when people enter the door musically through other--particularly comedians.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you know what? I think I got lucky. You know, I tried this music thing at one point and it wasn't the right thing--you know, it was about timing. And musicians that are in the industry already know about me and the music thing, but they were, like, `Foxx, let us help you make that transition and not just a fad or something that's going to be here today, gone this afternoon.'

GORDON: Come back to the music in just a moment, but I want to talk a little bit about something that has brought you to the news...

Mr. FOXX: Yes.

GORDON: ...over the course of the last month or so, and that's the involvement with the Stanley "Tookie" Williams case.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: I'm curious. Many people know that you played him in "Redemption."

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: But I'm sure there were people whispering in your ear, saying, `Jamie, right now is not the time for you to be political'...

Mr. FOXX: Right.

GORDON: ...`with all this on the horizon'...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GORDON: ...`for you.'

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: What made you decide to stick with it?

Mr. FOXX: OK. Here's the thing: The minute that you shake somebody's hand like Stanley "Tookie" Williams, you have to know that you're going to be connected with him. It was one of those situations where I could not leave this man out there like that. I couldn't just walk away from it and just say, `Hey, man, I ain't got nothing to do with this, 'cause I'm trying to sell a album or I'm trying to get'--it's bigger than that.

GORDON: Even though you fought for his life...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...did you always believe that he would ultimately be killed by the state?

Mr. FOXX: I believed that it was a very dicey situation anyway, and then that was one of the things that I talked to my manager Marcus about. I said, `You know that we're in this for the long haul, but the beauty of him is--is that I talked to him at 11:15, and they killed him at 12:20, and I was completely torn up about it, and they--you know, he said, `Keep your head up.' He said, `I knew this was coming.' He said, `I knew that eventually this would happen,' he said, `but I feel like--that we did do something great, we did do something special.' And he said, `I really do think that those kids'--and anybody that's ever read his book or anybody that's heard how he speaks, you know, enriched, inspired. So it happened, it was sad, but now that it has happened, I mean, I think it really does reinforce, you know, the peace of this man and, you know, how he wants things to be.

GORDON: Throughout your life and your career, you have had people to adopt you to a great degree...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...to make sure that you stayed on track.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: Will Smith...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...Keenan...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...when you were with "In Living Color," Keenan Ivory Wayans.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Uh-huh.

GORDON: Now, it seems, that Oprah has adopted you.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Oprah's my babe. That's my girl.

GORDON: I know she is.

Mr. FOXX: For me and Oprah, you know, we getting after it. Aha, just kidding.

GORDON: Keep it going, boy.

Mr. FOXX: No, I'm just kidding.

GORDON: Keep it going.

Mr. FOXX: Just kidding. Just kidding. But you know what? Oprah was--during the Oscar period, she basically reached out and said, `Cause I don't want you to make a mistake.' And I was asked something like, `You know, what's the significance?' And she said, `Well, come to Quincy's house for a party for Sidney Poitier,' and when I opened that door, there were all of these actors, mostly black, but all of these actors from back in the day, and they were looking at me with the suits and it seemed like--with nothing but their dignity, and they looked me in the eye, like, `You are where we would all like to be, and we're here to let you know that it is important that you walk all the way and achieve it and achieve it in a way that we can all be proud.' And she was, like, `You know, 20 years from now, let's not look back on this day and not be proud of the things that you've done and said in this situation.' So hats off to her, and like I've always said, when Oprah says it, it is done.

GORDON: Yeah. "Heaven" and "Wish You Were Here," finally...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...two most personal songs...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, yeah.

GORDON: ...on the CD, one dedicated to your daughter, and one dedicated to the woman who really...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...has been--you and I have had many private conversations about her...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Yeah, man. Yeah.

GORDON: ...most impactful in your life, and that's your grandmother.

Mr. FOXX: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

GORDON: Talk to me about both songs.

Mr. FOXX: Well, I'll tell you, the "Heaven Will Never Be The Same" was because I didn't know if my daughter was going to be, you know, born with complications or things like that. And the way it came to me was that there was a angel in heaven watching the plight of this couple try to have a kid, and it was God's favorite little angel, and one day, God calls a roll call, and she doesn't answer. And what she had done was she snuck down to Earth to bless this couple with a child, and that child is, in a sense, my daughter. And so that's why I wrote the tune from--I wrote it from that spirit.

(Soundbite of "Heaven Will Never Be The Same")

Mr. FOXX: (Singing) Tell me, have you heard the story that took place not long ago, 'bout an angel up in heaven? They say she up and ran away from home.

With the "I Wish You Were Here," it's simply--you know, here's woman who put, you know, her whole life into my life. You know, my grandmother lived with me. That's how close we were. She was 83. When I was doing "In Living Color," she was living with me. We hung out. And so we were so close and so tight so that--this pinnacle that we reached, and she's not there. And I wasn't the guy that was into all the old--somebody's looking over your--you know. To have her pass last year, October 23rd, and just miss all of these great things visually that she could see, an appropriate song was "I Wish You Were Here." It's one of those for the ages.

(Soundbite of "I Wish You Were Here")

Mr. FOXX: (Singing) By the time you get this letter, might be doing better. It's kind of hard trying to survive in all this crazy weather. Everybody wants my number. Everybody's calling my name. But in the midst of all of this, I can still hear you say, `Son, walk upright and straighten your tie. You don't want one of them good jobs to pass you by, no. Don't act no fool, I'm watching you.'

GORDON: Well, Jamie Foxx...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: ...the CD is "Unpredictable."

Mr. FOXX: Yeah.

GORDON: It's in stores, as they say, now, and if you want to have some fun and some lovin'...

Mr. FOXX: Yeah, man.

GORDON: ...pick it up.

Mr. FOXX: That's a good stocking stuffer right there. Go get that album, and I tell you, about New Year's, you might have a newborn on the way.

GORDON: All right, my friend. Always good to talk to you.

Mr. FOXX: All right, man.

(Soundbite of "I Wish You Were Here")

Mr. FOXX: (Singing) I wish you were here.

GORDON: Jamie Foxx's new CD, "Unpredictable," is in stores now.

(Soundbite of "I Wish You Were Here")

Mr. FOXX: (Singing) I wish you were here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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