Via Forbes: Jamie Foxx is an actor first and foremost by decoration alone. In 2005, he landed the Academy Award for Best Actor in Ray while also earning a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turn opposite Tom Cruise in Collateral. But in an eclectic and enduring career where he’s been hugely successful at everything he’s tried, Foxx has incessantly burned to do more.
From a dedicated rap hustle to a comedy channel on satellite radio and then some, the 50-year-old renaissance man always seems to have something cooking on the side. Lately he’s pivoted into hosting mode on the Fox musical game show Beat Shazam, whose second season kicks-off on May 29. Building on his reclaimed aptitude to anchor a show, Foxx now additionally serves as the host of a new eight-episode digital series entitled Off Script.
Created and produced by the well-known French vodka brand Grey Goose, the series launches today and can be streamed on Thrillist, Now This, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo! Entertainment and The Huffington Post. From inside a custom-built luxury trailer, Foxx interviews and riffs with some of the biggest names in Hollywood–all of whom the actor considers friends and inspirations. (Episodes featuring Chadwick Boseman, Denzel Washington, Sarah Silverman, Melissa McCarthy, Vince Vaughn, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Renner and Benecio Del Toro will all appear in the coming weeks.)
The series’ six-to-eight minute episodes are pithy, yet meaty; with exchanges kept loose and informal, but not lacking in substance and insight about film and its influence on their lives. With Grey Goose taking on a true production role amid the age’s widening umbrella of so-called “branded entertainment,” Off Script signifies a more hands-on project for the label than the Iconoclasts series they partnered to create and maintain with the Sundance Channel from 2005-2012.
“Iconoclasts was really about two creators, two visionaries having a conversation about their creative process and their passion, and you will absolutely see a thread between Iconoclasts and Off Script–with more focus on film,” said Grey Goose chief marketing officer Yann Marois. “[But] for me what’s important about Off Script, it really is about the brand producing compelling content and sparking meaningful conversations and really celebrating iconic moments in film. With Jamie at the helm, we think he’s one of the best embodiments of what Grey Goose stands for.”
I spoke with Foxx at a special Off Script preview screening and cocktail party he hosted on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, Calif.
Russ Espinoza: What motivated you to double-down on hosting duties at this stage in your career?
Jamie Foxx: The great part about our business now is that you can do everything. I think what I want to do is be able to own narratives. I want to host and interview some of the great actors and actresses that I look up to, and be able to dictate that because I know there’s things they want to say. [With] Beat Shazam, it’s almost like having my own talk show; but then there’s the game show. So five years ago, I was like, ‘Please let me get this show,” because everybody’s gonna do TV and movies. If you look at The Rock–television, movies. Kevin Hart—television, movies. Everybody has a television show, and that’s where I come from, so I was like, ‘Any way I can get back to TV, in any form, is great.’ And I own it. I dictate it, you know what I mean? So it’s a fun thing to do. Would I host something that I didn’t have control over? I don’t think I would.
Espinoza: How would you describe your hosting style in this series? Will it be anything like how you were on satellite radio?
Foxx: My hosting style [is] to be able to take whoever my guest is and feature them, allow them to flourish: whatever story they want to do, whatever character or whatever, and then decorate around them; giving them the opportunity to get an answer out that they may not have [given] on any other talk show. So the main thing is to make ‘em feel comfortable and allow people to see something or hear about something that they may not have ever heard.
Espinoza: You’ve been very famous for a long time now and have appeared on many different talks shows. So who have been some of your all-time favorite hosts to be interviewed by?
Foxx: I don’t know if you would say the host, per se, because all the hosts have been great, but the audiences are different. Jay Leno’s audience, for example—Midwest, the heart of America–you craft your joke so that even if that person in the audience may not know you, may not have seen your movie, or your standup or your song, but you wanna do a joke for them. David Letterman—the smartest audience. David Letterman’s audience was gifted in knowing when the punch line was, knowing the setup… they were really in-tune and the theater was amazing. It was amazing to do Letterman, which you think would be daunting because Letterman is Letterman. But if you were going great, he would just let you go. I wanted to, whenever I did Letterman, make him take a break—because he works. Like, when I come, I wanted Letterman to have ten minutes of, ‘I’m gonna sit back and let Jamie Foxx do his thing.’
And then Ellen, another just great audience, great fun. It’s daytime, so it’s almost like, if you think clothing, it’s a pastel, you know what I mean? She’s amazing… And then there’s Jimmy Kimmel: That’s like Playboy After Dark; that’s a little looser, the audience is amazing; the band is great, and Jimmy Kimmel has one of the most giving personas. He can play the straight-man to your funny. So doing all of those shows, man, you just learn so much on how to do anything.
Espinoza: You’ve done a range of different things very successfully in showbiz: movies, rapping, television, standup, satellite radio and so on. But what drew you back into hosting and experimenting with this format specifically?
Foxx: I think because it leads to so many different things: [We’re] gonna start off with Off Scriptand then we have several things that are gonna build on that. Off Script is the first thing; then we have another thing called On My Balcony where it’s Off Script on steroids, where there’s music, where there’s performances, where there’s partying, where there’s fun. And so it’s more of the relationship with Grey Goose and Bacardi and what we’re gonna do content-wise—and I get a chance to control it. When you’re able to control your narrative, to control your content, it’s a wonderful thing.
Espinoza: You’ve got one guest to focus on for each of your eight episodes. Why did you choose these eight in particular?
Foxx: I mean, Sarah Silverman is an absolute gladiator in comedy—knowing we’re gonna get something fun and deep with her. Melissa McCarthy, you cannot say that she’s not the queen of comedy right now, her and Tiffany Haddish; and her and Tiffany Haddish are about to work together. So I just love the fact that these are people that I actually love and I follow them. Gabrielle Union: That’s my homey… she’s one of the most incredibly talented women on the planet—women or men. And then when you look at Vince Vaughn: That’s my guy; I see Vince out, there’s always a connection, there’s always something that I feel beyond just being an actor, he gives you something that you can’t put your finger on that’s wonderful. And then Chadwick Boseman, I feel like that’s my little brother. Watching him sit at my pool before Black Panther came out and he’s like, ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen.’ I’m like, ‘I know what’s gonna happen. It’s about to get crazy.’ So all these guys I have a connection with, and I think everybody will see that. And our thing was just making sure that we connected it so it feels cool and fly and fresh.
Espinoza: Anyone could IMDb this, but I wanna hear it from you: What’s your next film that’s coming out?
Foxx: Robin Hood will be out Thanksgiving. It’s really dope—produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.Taron Egerton, who’s the young Robin Hood, it’s amazing. It’s an original story and it’s tight.
Click here for Off Script episodes and additional information on the series.