Reggae Music News

Q&A: ‘Straight Outta Compton’ star O’Shea Jackson Jr. on lack of Oscar diversity

By David Friend


O'Shea Jackson Jr.

TORONTO _ “Straight Outta Compton” star O’Shea Jackson Jr. has been thinking a lot about the lack of racial diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations.

Not only was the N.W.A. biopic (in which he plays his real-life father Ice Cube) shut out of most categories, but all of the best actor nominees were white, sparking a fury on social media that pushed the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to trending status.

In advance of the DVD/Blu-ray release of “Straight Outta Compton” on Tuesday, Jackson talked to The Canadian Press about his reaction to the Oscar snubs and his personal goal of one day writing his own award-winning film.

CP: “Straight Outta Compton” had solid reviews and was the highest grossing music biopic in history. But it still only got one Oscar nomination in a screenwriter category. Are you frustrated that the film couldn’t break into the awards race in a bigger way?

Jackson: We went into this film knowing we were underdogs and everyone expected us to make a 2 1/2 hour music video. But we had messages that we needed to get through and we knew the importance of this film, not only with fans of N.W.A., but how it relates to the times.

When you can make a film which speaks to the people in such a way, and can relate to current events while being a biopic about the past, that’s when it really touches the people.

CP: Your father Ice Cube was doing publicity for “Ride Along 2” and responded to reporter’s question about “Compton” scoring only one nomination. He said he didn’t see it as an Oscar film but “Creed” was considered an Oscar film and so was “Concussion.” Don’t you wonder why none of these films with black leads made the list?

Jackson: At the end of the day, if it’s really about your contributions to film, then I personally feel that the No. 1 biopic of all time (“Straight Outta Compton”) or at least the No. 1-selling black director of all time (the film’s director F. Gary Gray) would get some sort of acknowledgment.

But original screenplay just shows how beautiful our story was, so we hope to win that, for sure…. I’m happy for the screenplay (nomination), of course, but I’m not going to (ignore) that the two screenwriters on our film are white. Like that’s the one award (nomination) we’re getting. (But) I don’t want to make it an issue about that.

CP: Are you working on other projects?

Jackson: I went to the University of Southern California for screenwriting _ which is my first love. I thought I was going to be (behind the camera) but “Straight Outta Compton” was just a major opportunity that I had to seize. Now I’m bit by the acting bug, but I still love to write, so there’s no reason for me not to continue with that talent. I’m definitely looking for inspiration, I’m definitely inspired by recent events to write something pretty nice.

CP: When you say recent events, what are you talking about?

Jackson: The Oscars, man! (laughing) If our accomplishments thus far have not displayed enough talent to be acknowledged by the Academy, then let us go back to the drawing board and let’s cook up something nice. It’s not strictly to win an Oscar because every movie that is made to win _ like “This is an Oscar Movie” _ it never wins.

I tweeted my man Michael B. Jordan (lead actor in “Creed”) and my man Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E in “Compton”) and said I don’t know about them, but I’m ready to take over the world. It just has to be something special. And we have our stories, we’ve just got to find it, and I know those two are as motivated as I am.

CP: Playing your own father is a rare opportunity for an actor. You spent two years repeatedly auditioning for the role to prove you were the right actor. Did your family ever discuss the risks of being pigeonholed by playing your dad?

Jackson: No, we never even looked at it that way. We were like: I’ve got to get it; there was no other option. We couldn’t risk somebody depicting my father in a way that wouldn’t be him, and there’s no way anyone can tell me anything about my father. It was a family mission.

_ This interview has been edited and condensed

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