As an Oscar winning actor and a Grammy winning singer, Jamie Foxx is willing to take on new challenges with his two passions: acting and singing. His latest foray, Rio (in theaters April 15), has him working both.
In Rio, cerulean- colored macaw, Blu (voiced by Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg) and his human companion, Linda (Leslie Mann), are invited to Rio de Janeiro so Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a bird scientist in the exotic city, can mate the domesticated and last remaining male, Blu, with the last remaining female, Jewel (voiced by Oscar host Anne Hathaway).
When Blu and Jewel are given some private time to get to know each other, they are kidnapped by poachers looking to score money for a pair of rare birds.
Once Blu and Jewel escape the poachers, they make the long trek back to Linda and Tulio with the help of their new friends: Rafael (George Lopez), Luiz (Tracy Morgan), Pedro (will.i.am) and Nico (Foxx). As Nico, a Tweety bird hybrid with swagger, Foxx gets to speak and sing.
“That’s me, man,” Foxx said in an interview in Miami Beach about the similarities between himself and his character. “Nico’s all about love and romance and having a good time and looking at life as [a] glass half-full. You can catch me in a club one night like, in Miami, getting my Nico on.”
He also “got his Nico on” by singing a couple of tracks for Rio. One of those tracks is the hit song, Hot Wings, which Foxx recorded with will.i.am. Foxx and will even performed the collaboration for a live audience on the March 31 episode of American Idol.
“I wanted to do music back in the day, but I was doing comedy. It wasn’t until I met Kanye (West) that I started doing music. Now, anytime I get a chance to hang with these guys, I just consider it a privilege,” said Fox about his collaboration with will.i.am.
When asked if he would consider working with the Black Eyed Peas rapper/super producer, he said: “If we ever do something again, it would be cool. If not, I understand. His schedule is so busy.”
Now that Foxx has been introduced to the animation world’s cushiness of showing up to work dressed comfortably, being able to leave at a decent hour and spend time with his family, he’s ready to tackle another animated film.
“I sold a project to Fox called Welcome to the Jungle; which is another animation,” he said about one of the reasons he decided to do Rio. “So, I wanted to jump into Rio and learn as much as I can. It was brilliant to be able to see how (the animators) took your voice and put it on screen.”
But, it wasn’t all animation and music during this discussion. Foxx was quite zen about his Oscar win a few years ago and what it means for the minority actors in Hollywood, especially blacks.
“I had to learn something about the Oscars. When I was nominated for Ray, I was just joking it away, having a good time,” said the actor who makes frequent trips to Miami’s party scene. “Oprah Winfrey took me to Quincy Jones’ house and Quincy Jones introduced me to Sidney Poitier. Sidney said, ‘You have to take this seriously, because there’s a lot of people who really are going to be validated by your performance and how you carry yourself’.”
Foxx went on to say: “We have to, as minorities, feel good about ourselves and not worry about the validation. You want to be validated. But, that’s not the end all to end all. And, when it comes to the Oscars, it’s a rare thing. There’s a lot of people that are white that never get a chance to be nominated and have been acting for years.”
Knowing that there’s an Oscar-size weight on his shoulders since his win in 2005, Foxx tries not to take himself too seriously. He’s just glad to be a part of a growing number of minority Oscar winners, which includes Jennifer Hudson and Monique.
Just as Nico has an optimistic and loving personality, Foxx seems to bring that same emotion to his own life. His mantra for his career and all minority actors: “We just have to keep pushing.”
Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com
Photo: Jamie Foxx