Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx
"When I put the shades on, it all kind of came together," Foxx says of getting down the nuances of Ray Charles.
Jim Smeal/BEImages

updated 01/16/2005 at 11:30 PM EST

originally published 10/28/2004 06:00AM

Even before Ray premiered, Jamie Foxx was hearing the O word: Oscar. That's some serious praise for a comedian turned actor who got his big break on the '90s sketch show In Living Color. Foxx, 36, who also starred in Collateral this year and took home a Golden Globe, recently talked about taking on the Ray Charles biopic, getting sized up by the late musician himself and enjoying his "Cinderella time."

What was it like to actually meet Ray?
He was like, "Oh, let me check your fingers out. Oh, you got strong fingers. Oh yeah." So he was playing one piano and I'm playing the other. He said, "If you can sing the blues, Jamie, you can do anything." And we'd be singing the blues back and forth. Then he said, "How about this?" And he goes into Thelonius Monk, and it's like the equivalent to riding a mechanical bull if you've had something to drink and you just fly all the way out to the bar.

That must've been pressure.
I hit a wrong note and he said, "Now why the hell would you do that?" He was very serious, he wasn't laughing. I was just like, "I just didn't know." And he said, "The notes are right underneath your fingers and you just have to take time out to find them, young man." So I used that as a metaphor through the whole movie. It's that our life is notes underneath our fingers and we just have to figure out which notes we want to play to leave our music.

Was that a light-bulb moment, a time when everything clicked?
Oh yeah, it was after I got the Thelonius Monk riff, and he was like, "There it is. That's what I'm talking about."

You've mainly been known for comedy. How'd you convince Hollywood to give you this role?
You know what, I've never really factored Hollywood into anything. I'm a black actor, and so I can't really worry about what Hollywood thinks. ... You've got to blaze, in a sense, your own trail and then pull it toward you. It's like hip-hop. It's like how hip-hop pulled everything. It's like, man, Fortune 500 companies are calling Puffy going, "What do we do? How do we sell this product?"

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