Biography

First discovered by audiences as a confident, fresh faced comic who was proficient at playing outrageous characters and sending up famous celebrities, actor Jamie Foxx cut his teeth on the small screen when he joined the popular television sketch comedy, “In Living Color” (Fox, 1990-94) after its first season. Not satisfied with being confined to strictly comedy, Foxx surprised many when he began displaying considerable talents both as a dramatic actor and as a classically trained musician. He offered glimmers of things to come with a strong performance in “Any Given Sunday” (1999), which allowed him to show off the gridiron prowess he developed as a star high school quarterback. While he continued to perform stand-up comedy in several cable specials, Foxx reached the top of his career with a defining and unforgettable performance as music legend Ray Charles in the biopic, “Ray” (2005), which earned Foxx the best notices of his career and an Academy Award. Foxx continued to surprise audiences with action movies like “The Kingdom” (2007) and dramas like “Just Mercy” (2019), all of which reminded people that Foxx would not be easily defined.

Jamie was born as Eric Marlon Bishop on December 13, 1967 in the small town of Terrell, Texas. Shortly after his birth, little Eric was adopted and raised by his mother’s adoptive parents, Esther Marie (Nelson) and Mark Talley, who took over parenting duties when his father (Darrell Bishop, later changed his name to Shahid Abdula following his conversion to Islam) and his mother, Louise Annette Talley Dixon separated.

Esther Talley had a profound impact on her adopted son, and in interviews Foxx credits her as being his inspiration. “My grandmother was 60 years old when she adopted me. She ran a nursery school and had a library in the house. She saw me reading early, saw I was smart and believed I was born to achieve truly special things,” he later said in an interview with Time magazine.

His natural talent for telling jokes was already in evidence as a third grader, when his teacher would use him as a reward: if the class behaved, Foxx would tell them jokes. Despite being a class clown, Foxx was a precocious child who learned classical piano from the time he was five, thanks to the prodding encouragement of his grandmother. By the time he was fifteen, Foxx was musical director and choir leader at Terrell’s New Hope Baptist Church.

He eventually attended Terrell High School, where he excelled at both music and athletics, playing quarterback on the football team and becoming the first player at the school to ever pass for 1,000 yards. After graduation, he received a music scholarship for U.S. International University in San Diego, CA, but left after two years to pursue a career as a stand-up comic. Discovering that it was easier for women to get stage time at open-mike nights, Bishop adopted the gender-neutral name of Jamie Foxx. “Eric Bishop is Clark Kent. Jamie Foxx is Superman, ” he said in an interview.

Over the next couple of years, Foxx appeared on stages at The Comedy Store and The Improv, as well as the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. In 1991, Foxx won the Oakland Comedy Competition, which turned out to be the same year he upped his profile after being cast on the hit sketch comedy show, “In Living Color.” Foxx appeared on the critically acclaimed show until 1994, when the series was cancelled, and became known not only for his impersonations, but for his wildly original and outrageous characters, especially one called Ugly Wanda.

While working on “In Living Color”, Foxx took his first steps into the feature world, making his debut in the Robin Williams comedy, “Toys” (1992). In 1994 he released his debut album, Peep This, which he also produced and composed. Peep This topped at number twelve on the Billboard charts.

Two years later he landed his own television sitcom, “The Jamie Foxx Show”, which lasted five seasons. The show, loosely based on Foxx’s own life, centered on Jamie King, an aspiring actor who moves from Texas to Los Angeles, only to get sidetracked by working at his family’s hotel. During its run, “The Jamie Foxx Show” was the highest-rated series on WB; in 1998 it also earned Foxx an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.

The series allowed Foxx to build an audience and hone his talents, leading to bigger feature roles. At first, he was cast in comedies pitched to urban audiences, including “Booty Call” (1997), opposite “In Living Color” cohort Tommy Davidson, and “The Players Club” (1998), a strip-club comedy from writer-director Ice Cube. Foxx first ventured into more dramatic territory when Oliver Stone cast him as a nervous third-string quarterback-turned-overnight sensation in “Any Given Sunday” (1999). Despite initial setbacks in acclimating to a dramatic part, Foxx settled into the role and delivered an impressive performance, particularly in scenes opposite Al Pacino. He managed to balance action and comedy with “Bait” and “Held Up” (2000). Returning to dramatic fare, he showed signs of things to come with a complex performance as Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown, the troubled ring man for Muhammad Ali (Will Smith) in director Michael Mann’s biopic, “Ali” (2001).

Foxx continued his triple-threat tour-de-force, excelling as the host of the MTV Movie Awards in 2001. He returned to his first love – stand-up – with his second HBO special, “Jamie Foxx: I Might Need Security” (2002). After serving as host and executive producer of “Jamie Foxx Presents Laffapalooza” (Showtime, 2003), a showcase of up-and-coming stand-up talent, as well as a commended turn in the otherwise forgettable comedy, “Breakin’ All the Rules” (2003), Foxx went on a fast and sudden career uptick that propelled him from popular comedian to award-worthy dramatic actor. Foxx made a substantial breakthrough with the telepic, “Redemption: The Stan ‘Tookie’ Williams Story” (FX, 2004), in which he delivered a widely praised performance as Williams, founder of the L.A. gang the Crips, who went from Death Row inmate to being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, though he was eventually executed for committing a 1979 murder. Foxx – who actively tried to prevent Williams’ execution – earned a Golden Globe nomination for best performance in a miniseries or television movie.

Foxx next surprised audiences with an engrossing and sophisticated performance in Michael Mann’s thriller, “Collateral” (2004), in which he played a struggling Los Angeles cab driver who gets hired for the night by a hit man (Tom Cruise) hired to kill five people about to testify against a powerful drug trafficker. Foxx earned critical kudos yet again, as well as Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor. But Foxx saved his best for last in 2004, giving a transformational performance as legendary R&B singer, Ray Charles, in the big-screen biopic, “Ray.” Foxx’s explosive turn transcended mere impersonation – Foxx became Charles onscreen, often to the point of being indistinguishable from the real-life Charles. The role of a lifetime firmly established Foxx as one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation, while the resultant raves culminated in a series of well-deserved professional accolades and nominations. Foxx reached the zenith of his profession, earning a Golden Globe, SAG Award and an Oscar for Best Actor, as well as several others including wins at the BAFTA Awards and a multitude of critics’ awards.

The actor’s first follow-up to hit theaters following his Oscar triumph was the decidedly underwhelming action film, “Stealth” (2005), which cast him as a hotshot pilot of high-tech military planes. Fortunately for Foxx, the forgettable side trip was filmed before he won Oscar gold and was not a sign of things to come. One of his first post-Oscar jobs was “Jarhead” (2005), director Sam Mendes’ insightful psychological adaptation of former U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling memoir of his experiences during the 1990 Gulf War in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Foxx began pushing his musical career again. He appeared on Kanye West’s song “Gold Digger,” which held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for several weeks straight in 2005. Also, in December of that year, he released the R&B album Unpredictable, which emerged as a chart-topper and eventual Grammy nominee for Best R&B Album. Foxx became the fourth artist to have both won an Academy Award for an acting role and to have achieved a #1 album in the U.S, joining Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Barbra Streisand.

Refocusing his attention on acting, Foxx was again cast by director Michael Mann; this time to play Detective Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs in the remake of the 1980s television series “Miami Vice” (2006). He also starred as a record executive opposite Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé in “Dreamgirls” (2006), the musical loosely based on the ’60s pop group the Supremes. Foxx then featured prominently in “The Kingdom” (2007), a thriller about a terrorist attack on Americans in Saudi Arabia. In 2009 he portrayed Nathaniel Ayers in the drama “The Soloist”, with Robert Downey Jr., and starred alongside Gerard Butler in the thriller “Law Abiding Citizen.”

Meanwhile, Foxx launched The Foxxhole, a channel on Sirius Satellite Radio featuring talk-radio programs, stand-up comedy albums and music, as well as much of Foxx’s own material. Foxx’s own talk-radio variety program The Jamie Foxx Show airs Friday evenings on The Foxxhole with guests including musicians, actors and fellow comedians.

Foxx released his third album titled Intuition in 2008. “Blame It” is the most successful single from the album, peaking at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and has topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for 14 consecutive weeks making it the second longest-running number 1 song on the chart. Two year later, Jamie released his fourth studio album, Best Night of My Life, supported by singles like “Winner” featuring Justin Timberlake and T.I., and “Fall for Your Type” featuring Drake.

Returning to acting, Foxx appeared in the 2010 romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day”, with Jessica Biel and Jennifer Garner.  After cameos in “Due Date” (2010) and “I’m Not Here” (2010), Foxx voiced Nico in the animated movie “Rio” (2011), before playing con artist Dean “Motherf*cker” Jones in the R-rated comedy “Horrible Bosses” (2011), starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as three put-upon employees who plot the murder of their employers.

Foxx was next cast as the lead in Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti Western homage “Django Unchained” (2012), in which he was a revenge-minded slave who helps a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) track down two ruthless killers in exchange for freedom and a reunion with his long-lost wife (Kerry Washington). He followed this with the action thriller “White House Down” (2013), in which he played the President of the United States opposite Channing Tatum as a disgraced Secret Service agent battling terrorists who have taken over the presidential residence. After a reprise his roles in “Rio 2” and “Horrible Bosses 2” (2014), Foxx entered the world of superhero sequels with his villainous turn as Electro in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and took on the role of the Daddy Warbucks-like William Stacks for a remake of “Annie.”

Jamie released his fifth album Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses in 2015. The album debuted at number one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, scoring Foxx’s third chart-topper.

Beginning with its debut on May 25, 2017, Foxx is now the host and executive producer of the Fox game show “Beat Shazam”, along with his daughter Corinne as the show’s DJ. The game show was inspired by the popular music-centric app Shazam. The series pits contestants through multiple rounds of questions about popular songs for the chance to win $1 million prize.

His film credits from 2017 included “Sleepless”, in which he played an undercover police officer whose teenaged son is kidnapped by gangsters, and “Baby Driver”, an action comedy about bank robbers. Foxx then assumed the role of Little John in an action-packed retelling of “Robin Hood” (2018) and appeared as George Jefferson in live television special broadcast by ABC – “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons.” The live event re-created an original episode from both Emmy-winning Norman Lear comedies. The special averaged 10.4 million total viewers and a 1.7 demo rating, dominating the night in both measures while giving ABC its most watched season-ending Wednesday in 12 years.

The following year, he delivered a strong performance in “Just Mercy”, based on the story of an African-American pulpwood worker who was wrongfully convicted of the 1986 murder of a young white woman.

Next up for the actor is a leading voice role in the animated “Soul”.

Updated: 2020