Dialogue: Jamie Foxx

The actor takes his success to heart -- but never too seriously

Profile: Twenty-first century Foxx

It's not easy to get taken seriously as a dramatic actor once you've been stamped as a comic. But Jamie Foxx, who first took hold in the national consciousness with outsized, hilarious roles on the 1990s Fox sketch show "In Living Color," did more than that: He completed a neat sidestep into music, then slid almost naturally into winning an Oscar for his role in 2004's "Ray." "He's a fusion of popular culture, and all of his interests clarified into the star we've come to know," says critic Elvis Mitchell, host of KCRW-FM's "The Treatment." On the eve of receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Foxx talks to Rebecca Ascher-Walsh for The Hollywood Reporter about his mentors, motivation and the magic of what he calls "laying in the cut."

The Hollywood Reporter: How does it feel to be getting your own star?
Jamie Foxx: It's the most incredible thing. When your parents take you (to the Walk) when you're 10 or 11, you look at everyone's star and you don't ever think that you would be in that position, so to have that happen is amazing.

THR: Does it make you feel like you've "made it"?
Foxx: I don't look at it like that. I still pinch myself. These days, you never know -- it's here today and gone tomorrow. I think you just feel that it's going in the right direction. I was sitting and talking to Clint Eastwood one time, and he said he still gets nervous. It lets you know you never lose that feeling.

THR: Do you still get nervous performing?
Foxx: No. You want to do it well, and you never want to take it for granted, but hopefully by the time you get to that point you're so ready that the only anxiousness is to get going. If you're nervous, you're not prepared.

THR: What's your attitude when you're on set?
Foxx: Having a good time is paramount, because you get more done. If you come in and you're too heavy-handed, or I'm hiding behind my shades or speaking through my people ... it's hard to access someone like that, and then you're some weird pseudo-Hollywood type. It's all about having fun, or it's not making sense. Sometimes people stay in character, and they're out at a bar, and people are like, "What's going on? That dude is acting strange."

THR: What's been your career highlight so far?
Foxx: (1999's) "Any Given Sunday" was fun -- working with Oliver Stone, doing something new, just the whole experience. (Co-star) Al Pacino showed me this, that and the other. He'd be like (breaking into a pitch-perfect imitation of Pacino), "Ah, (Oliver's) not going to like that. You've got to really study when you go out there," and he'd bring me into his trailer, and we'd rehearse. As far as a career highlight playing a character, it would have to be playing Ray Charles and working with Taylor Hackford. That was such a magical time.

THR: Who are your professional mentors?
Foxx: It's bits and pieces. Of course, we always look at Eddie Murphy, being a comedian who does projects that are funny and provocative, and we look at Denzel Washington and Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. You kind of take (whatever) situation you're in and say, "What would Quincy Jones do? What would Denzel do?"

THR: Where does music fit into your life?
Foxx: Right now, it's just another challenge. We sold 2.7 million albums, which was a huge surprise and a humbling thing, so we want to be able to do it again and be honest and humble in doing good music. It's a great muscle to flex, being around young and old producers.

THR: Does being a musician help your acting?
Foxx: Of course. Music allows you to feel things and feel scenes. And you learn to feel the rhythm of a script, really.

THR: What do you think is your greatest strength as a performer?
Foxx: Paying attention. Observation, laying low at times, not overthinking everything. We call it "laying in the cut." If you just listen and observe, you get a lot for that.

THR: What would you like your legacy to be?
Foxx: A peaceful legacy. When people say my name, I'd love for them to smile. Professionally, it will hopefully (be) as a chameleon who was able to do all these different characters and have something provocative with each one that made you go, "Huh!"