I picture Jamie Foxx’s soul thirty-eight years ago floating around in the spirit world preparing for his ordained time here on Earth. An angel is pointing out the lines souls can wait in to get what they need to do good work as human beings.
Foxx is paying extra close attention as the angel explains, “This line is for exceptional musical prowess; that one is the comedic creativity line; to your left
is the queue for vocal talent, and the lines for courage and humility are right next to each other on the other side of kindness and loyalty. Oh, and don’t forget the one for acting skills—it’s way down there near intelligence and athletic ability. The angel tells Foxx he only has time to stand in four or five of the lengthy queues before leaving for Earth, but he pretends he doesn’t understand the directions and cuts to the front of every one of the lines quite a few times.
Farfetched? Of course. But what other explanation can there be for one man being so d#@ned blessed in so many areas?
For those of us who have been paying attention to Foxx’s career over the years, the fact that the man can play the piano, sing his heart out, and act his behind off is not breaking news. Okay, maybe we didn’t know he had Ray in him, but we watched in awe as he showed what he could do in Redemption, a role that earned him a 2005 Independent Spirit Award nomination for best actor. Then there was Collateral, the blockbuster film co-starring Tom Cruise that earned Foxx the Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. And, last year when he crooned alongside Kanye West on that “Slow Jamz” hit, we all suspected that we might only be scratching the surface of all that this talented brother has to offer.
The lingering question on everyone’s mind, now that the Oscar dust has settled and Foxx has officially joined that exclusive alliance of Academy Award winners, is: What could possibly be next?
I recently asked Foxx that question, and he answered in his characteristically humble way, referring to himself and his soaring career in the third person and refusing to use the word “I” to boast about future goals:
“When you do something and it changes the culture—that’s what we have to do as black folks. When ‘In Living Color’ came along it changed the culture. Denzel and Sidney Poitier, they changed the culture. So, this is one of those opportunities where we see the culture changing.”
Foxx is a little teary-eyed when he adds, “Sidney Poitier said to me, ‘What I’m going to give you is responsibility,’ and to have things like that told to you—it means more than awards. It means more than all of this. It means you have been given a torch to carry.”
The torch of artistic responsibility is one Foxx can definitely handle. In recent years he has been patiently biding his time—rejecting offers that didn’t feel right. “There are a lot of things we could’ve swung at and it would’ve come out bad,” Foxx explains, referring to the decisions he and his management team made to wait for projects that would further his career goals. “Luckily we were able to do like a great baseball player and wait on our pitch; and the pitch was Collateral. The pitch was Ray Charles. The pitch was a record with Kanye West. So when you get a chance to get the right things thrown at you, you stay ready. You know you’re not only here to do the right things, but now people are going to accept it.”
Foxx used another sports metaphor to compare his artistic responsibility to his experience as a high school sophomore playing football on a varsity championship team. “We lost the big game. I saw the seniors crying, and I was like, ‘What are they crying about?’ ‘cause I had more games to play. But my junior and my senior year we never got that far. I call that ‘younging it away.’ We can’t young this away. If we young it away and do not respect those people who laid the path for us, maybe something goes awry and it doesn’t happen the way we want it to happen. That’s why it’s so important to be respectful and let [the elders] know that you’re going to do the right thing.”
Asked what the right thing is, Foxx replied, “You can do whatever you want as long as it’s real, it’s respectful and it’s good. You can never be mediocre. Whatever you do, it has to be great.”