When O’Shea Jackson, Jr. showed up in 2015’s Straight Outa Compton playing his father Ice Cube, it was a pretty impressive debut for the young actor. Like most of his co-stars from that movie, Jackson would go onto do other movies, including Aubrey Plaza’s comedy Ingrid Goes West, in which he plays her love interest Dan Pinto, a wannabe filmmaker obsessed with Batman.
Jackson has been given another chance to do comedy with Seth Rogen’s new rom-com Long Shot, in which Jackson plays Lance the affable and well-to-do friend of Rogen’s political blogger Fred Flarsky. In fact, it’s Lance who first invites his friend to the party where he’ll meet Charlize Theron’s Charlotte Field, the country’s Vice President who is about to start her own campaign. Turns out the two of them have a connection from their past, and Charlotte ends up hiring Fred to help write her speeches. One thing leads to another and… well, it is a romantic comedy.
Granted, Jackson’s role is fairly small, but he does have some great bits with Rogen.
When The Beat spoke with Jackson a few weeks back, he even told us a story about how his character in Ingrid Goes West ended up being such a big Batman fan. Oh, and we spoke to Jackson on the day that Lucasfilm unleashed the new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer, something Jackson was pretty excited about.
THE BEAT: I was talking with Jonathan Levine earlier. Sorry that you have to do interviews the day the new Star Wars trailer is released.
O’Shea Jackson, Jr.: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I was looking on Twitter at that just a second ago.
THE BEAT: It’s the only thing anyone’s talking about is Star Wars today.
Jackson: Yeah, dude. The Rise of Skywalker. How could you not love it with that title? This movie’s gonna be crazy!
THE BEAT: I saw Long Shot at CinemaCon. I don’t know if you’ve been there with any of your other movies or not, but it played really well. I loved your role in Ingrid Goes West, and I like that you’re still doing comedy. Are you looking to do more comedy? What kind of got you involved with this?
Jackson: After Straight Outta Compton, there was this idea that I was a one trick pony, that I could only play my father, so every role that I picked after that was just to showcase my range. Went Ingrid Goes West after Compton, and those are worlds apart. Those characters are night and day. Then after that it was Den of Thieves to go into the action route. Now we’ve got Long Shot back into comedy. We’ve got Godzilla coming out. It’s just to show people my range as an actor and that I’m here to stay, and I’m here to make some noise.
THE BEAT: I heard you in the background earlier talking a little bit about writing, but I assume you started acting right out of college. Had you been wanting to act the whole time, or were you doing other things and the acting just came about?
Jackson: Yeah. I was going to USC for screenwriting. I never wanted to be in the light. I wanted to be able to make money, but still be able to go to Six Flags without being overly-crowded. In the middle of my second year of college my dad tells me they’re taking this NWA movie serious. In my mind I’m thinking, “That’s great, Dad. I’m happy for you.” And then he’s like, “No, in a perfect world I would want you to play me.” So that kind of started the process because I couldn’t see anybody cementing my family’s legacy unless it was me. I wanted to make sure I gave that my all. Gary Gray helped me get a coach by the name of Aaron Speizer, and it was a two-year audition process to get there. It was years of prep to get me to where I am, and now I’m just trying to show what I can do and make this acting thing work. So far, I’ve been doing a good job of it.
THE BEAT: How did the role of Lance come up? You’re playing Seth Rogen’s wealthier, better looking, more cultured friend. How did this script come your way? Did Seth come after you after seeing you in something else?
Jackson: You know, I don’t know … My agents, they’re pretty good at what they do, and they tell me there’s this role in a Seth Rogen film. They know I love Seth. I talked to them about working with him. It was one of my aspirations. And when you hear Charlize is in it. And Charlize, she can do anything. You know? She’s like royalty, so you know you want to be a part of a picture like that. The auditioning process I went through, it was cool. I just wanted to show that I was a professional and that I could handle myself in that environment, that I wasn’t just a dramatic actor. And I just wanted to prove that I could hold my own with a titan like Seth.
THE BEAT: When I was speaking to Jonathan, he was saying that not all actors are used to the way he and Seth work. They’ve done three movies together. They have a screenplay they spend a lot of time on, but then they will go off it. Right? Was it a strange experience to be in that world where the script you’ve learned could basically re-written on the day of shooting?
Jackson: No, not necessarily for me. I really liked it. It forces you to stay on your toes. It forces you to go into your bag a little bit and show your skills. I wanted to make sure that I showed them that whatever they threw at me, I was ready to go. I have a mambamentality. When the cameras are off, I’m smiling, I’m Magic Johnson, you know? Everybody likes to be around. But when it’s on, when it’s time to go, I’m Kobe Bryant, and I just wanted to further show them that if they ever needed me, if they ever needed to put the Shea signal in the sky, that I’m here and I’m ready to work.
THE BEAT: You said you went to the school for screenwriting. Are you writing comedy type stuff as well? Are you thinking in that vein?
Jackson: You know, I always thought that the easiest … I don’t want to use the word “easy,” but for me, the easier route with writing was always the dramatic because not everybody laughs at the same thing, but everybody knows drama. Everybody knows the struggle that life presents. Everybody’s trying to look for a way out of it when life hits them hard, so I’ve always leaned towards writing dramatic. But you know, the more work that I get with comedy and working with people who have been doing this like Aubrey Plaza and Seth, you know, it’s opening my mind to all types of genre. So I definitely … And making some powerful friends that I will be calling when I need them to be in one of my comedies.
THE BEAT: Also at CinemaCon, besides showing Long Shot, they showed a scene from Godzilla with Ghidorah. What was it like making one of those movies where you have so much stuff being done later using CG? Is that a very strange thing to be doing?
Jackson: It definitely was weird. It’s weird running from stuff that’s not there. I don’t know if you’ve ever pretended that there was a monster around you, but it’s difficult. It definitely was the biggest set that I’ve ever been on. There were so many practical effects there that you’re not really worried about the monsters. That’s out of my pay grade. It was just all about making sure that when you’re on set you give it your all and what happens in post happens in post. And I knew … It’s Godzilla. You know it’s gonna be right. You’ve just got to make sure when you get your screen time that you shine because we all know who the people are there to see, and that’s Godzilla. That’s G-man.
THE BEAT: Have you been able to see any of the finished stuff yet? Have you seen some of the stuff they showed already, when you’re doing dubbing or whatever?
Jackson: For Godzilla? I’ve seen Godzilla twice. I love it. I’m so excited about this movie. My man Mike Dougherty did such a great job, and to be able to have something like Long Shot and how I feel passionate about this film and just the reviews that people have been giving it, to be able to back that up with Godzilla at the end of the month? I’m truly blessed in the position that I’m in.
THE BEAT: May is kind of your month, isn’t it? You’re beginning it and ending it with a movie.
Jackson: Yeah, it’s called “O’Shea May,” so I’m just gonna trademark that for the year, and I’m gonna just take it.
THE BEAT: Cool. You made a reference to basketball earlier, and I believe you’re doing Space Jam 2as well? I know a lot of people are excited for that. It’s been a long time. Can you say anything about who you’re playing or anything about that?
Jackson: Look, I don’t know where this came from but I’m not involved in Space Jam 2 in the slightest. If you know somebody, tell them to call me, but yeah, I have nothing to do with Space Jam 2. But if LeBron James or if the Lakers needs me, he knows where to find me.
THE BEAT: Do you have a good game? If you had to get on court with any of those guys, would you be able to hold your own to them?
Jackson: I mean, I’d probably lose, but I’m not gonna let them know that.
THE BEAT: And what about the sequel to Den of Thieves? Is there any more word on whether that might happen pretty soon?
Jackson: I’m definitely down to do Den of Thieves 2. Christian Gudegast, that’s my guy. You know? He knows my number. He knows that I’m just waiting, and whatever he needs me to do, I’m down for it. But you know, whatever he needs from Donnie Wilson he knows he can get. If the people want it, I don’t see why it shouldn’t happen.
THE BEAT: As far as doing more comedy, are you going to keep bouncing back and forth between different genres? What are you thinking? Or you can write for yourself as well.
Jackson: Yeah, I definitely am writing some things. I definitely have a comedy in the works. I have other projects that I’ve been using my writing towards that I want to get off the ground, but yeah, I’m down for whatever. My whole point in my career is to show people what I can do. I’m here to make a name for myself and to take my family’s name into new heights as far as acting goes. And whatever that ensues, I’m always down for a good role. And if the role is good, why not? If the film is good, why not? You should want to be a part of just anything in cinema really.
THE BEAT: When you were a kid were you able to spend a lot of time on your dad’s sets and see him working? Or was that always a separate thing where you went to school, he did movies, and then came back?
Jackson: I was always on sets. From as far as I can remember, I was always in trailers, going on golf carts around sets. Like I’ve always been in that environment. I think that’s why I sort of get an itch nowadays. I love to be on set. I love to be there. Even for call times I’ll show up an hour early sometimes. I just love the environment of filmmaking, so that’s how I know that even if it’s not acting, even if I’m developing the screenplay for a film or directing or producing, just the environment of being on set is … What’s the word? It’s nirvana for me. It’s just the perfect place is being on a movie set.
THE BEAT: Has your father thought at all about doing another movie his life post-NWA and if he makes that, would you play him again?
Jackson: Oh, if he ever does, he better not cast another [actor] … If my dad wants to do a movie about his life and he casts somebody else, I’ll just get my Mom on it and I’ll make sure I get that role.
THE BEAT: You’ll do a competing Ice Cube biopic.
Jackson: Exactly. I’ll do my own. I’ll give it to Netflix or something and do my own.
THE BEAT: O’Shea, it’s great to talk to you. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you do next. I loved Ingrid Goes West, and I actually have friends who are very much like your character in that movie, believe it or not. I actually have friends who are such die-hard Batman fans, they think they’re Batman.
Jackson: Dude, honestly that’s how I got that role. Just a quick story for you. I had ran into Aubrey at this awards show. We both were presenting, but I didn’t get a chance to go over and talk to her. I ended up tweeting about how upset I was that I didn’t get to talk to her, and she hits me on DM and she’s like, “Yo, I got this film. I need you to be the love interest,” yada, yada, ya. So I’m like, “Alright, let’s set up a meeting, and you know, send over the script and all of that.” She gives me her number, and I text her, “Hey, it’s Batman,” and then she goes, “Ah great.” And I’m like, “Alright, that’s weird.” We have the meeting and she’s like, “So, how’d you like the script?” and I’m like, “You never sent it.” She was like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “If you sent the script, tell me my email.” And she never sent it, so she was like, “Why did you tell me that you were Batman?” and I go, “Because I’m Batman. That’s just me. That’s just how I am.” From there, she let me know the actual story and that my character is obsessed with Batman, and I knew I was born to play Dan Pinto.
THE BEAT: That’s a great story. To go from missing her at the show to being asked to be her love interest in a movie with just one tweet. That’s got to be one of the better things that can be credited to Twitter.
Jackson: One of the highlights of my life.
Long Shot is now playing nationwide.