Next Gen 2015: 'Straight Outta Compton' Star Jason Mitchell Once Failed His 'Pitch Perfect' Audition

Jason Mitchell - H 2015
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Jason Mitchell - H 2015

"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.