Jamie Foxx Embodied Walter McMillian in 'Just Mercy' Through Physicality, Voice and Bryan Stevenson's Guidance

Jamie Foxx joined Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Adam Driver, Adam Sandler and Shia LaBeouf for the annual Actor Roundtable.

"The first thing that helped me was aesthetically, we are part of the same tribe in a sense," Jamie Foxx told the Actor Roundtable of embodying his real-life character in Just Mercy, Walter McMillian. "Our cheekbones, the diamond shaped head, that haircut that he had, I had that in the '80s as well. Aesthetically, we were ahead of the game."

"I didn't have a chance to see him actually alive," he said. McMillian died a decade after his release from death row imprisonment. "I had to sort of piece things together through what people were saying. And then talking to Bryan Stevenson." Michael B. Jordan portrays Stevenson, the real life attorney who worked with McMillian and wrote the book Just Mercy, in the film. "He goes and meets this guy on death row and finds out all these horrible things. [McMillian is] on death row without a trial. They say he killed a white woman in a city that he'd never been in. [Stevenson] couldn't believe that this existed." 

"He told me how Walter was. He felt like, 'since I'm in this situation, I might as well do everything I can to help.'"

Foxx sees his own role in helping as "talking about changing the perception, because the perception kills us. I don't want to go see somebody in jail, because I don't wanna get used to that. So many people are used to seeing their father, their brother, their mother in jail. The next thing you know, we start rapping about it. We should rap about being in jail because we don't have any other thing, this is all we see. It's a tough thing."

Foxx won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his leading role as Ray Charles in the biopic Ray. He was previously nominated for his supporting role in Michael Mann's thriller Collateral.

The full Actor Roundtable is set to air Jan. 19 on SundanceTV. Foxx appears on the roundtable panel along with Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy) and Adam Driver (Marriage Story). Follow all the Oscar-season roundtables at THR.com/Roundtables.