Next Gen 2015: 'Straight Outta Compton' Star Jason Mitchell Once Failed His 'Pitch Perfect' Audition
"People take me more seriously now," says the former oyster chef of his acting career following the hit N.W.A biopic. "Instead of just having an agent and a manager that believe in me, I have studios that believe in me."
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Mitchell's performance as N.W.A rapper Eazy-E in Universal's Straight Outta Compton catapulted him from unknown to rising star nearly overnight. A week after the $200 million grosser was released, he booked Legendary's Kong: Skull Island, now shooting in Hawaii. "People take me more seriously now," he says. "Instead of just having an agent and a manager that believe in me, I have studios that believe in me." Raised in New Orleans, Mitchell worked as a cook and an electrician to make ends meet. An acting class got him hooked, and after small roles in a few films that shot locally (Contraband, Broken City), he emerged from a national search to play the iconic rapper. He next appears in the comedy Keanu with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele and the crime drama Vincent-N-Roxxy.
The moment I knew I wanted to act: I didn’t really think it would really happen. I didn’t know how capable I was until the people around me in acting school would say I was good.
Industry role model: I would have to go either with Will Smith or Vincent D'Onofrio. Will has had a great career. He’s the kind of person I would like to be remembered as — an all-around good person and somebody who tries to bring it to every film.
Bad habit on set: I eat a lot. I’m a big sandwich dude. Turkey, mayonnaise, mustard, cheese, yes. I love craft services.
TV show I’m addicted to: The Following.
Actor or director I’m dying to work with: I’d love to work with Scorsese. And for an actor, I’m going back and forth between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. I think it would be interesting for them to be some sort of mentor in my life. They’re both so powerful, and I think they can bring something special to a scene. There’s something about the connection between a young guy and an older woman.
My worst audition: I auditioned for Pitch Perfect, and I had to sing. It was terrible.
My hidden talent: I’m very acrobatic. I can do backflips and all that crazy stuff.
If I weren't an actor: I would probably be in business for myself, cooking. I was an oyster chef before, so I started making my own recipe for charbroiled oysters. So I would probably be selling oysters.
Career goal: I’d love to work on Fast 8 since F. Gary Gray is directing it. That would be so cool. Other than that, I’d love to do a buddy cop movie.