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Jamie Foxx on drama, directing, and daughters

It’s one of the biggest honors in show business — an Academy Award. But rather than show off the 2005 Oscar he won for his lead role in “Ray,” Jamie Foxx makes sure his statue lives in another house completely. Same goes for the Grammy he garnered in 2010 for his tune “Blame It,” a collaboration with rapper T-Pain.

“Awards are great, but if you just rest on your awards, then I think you’re selling yourself short,” Foxx tells omg! from Yahoo!. “It’s like sometimes when people win Oscars, you never hear from them again because they say, ‘OK. I’ve reached the mountaintop.’ But you’ve got another whole 30 or 40 years of your career to go, or at least your life to go. I never kept a Grammy at my house, never kept an Oscar at my house. They’re at my manager’s house, because I said I don’t want to get caught up in that.”

Even the possibility of getting caught up in Oscar-winning never dawned on the Texas native who worked as a piano player as a teenager and then moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1980s to become, he says, “the next Lionel Richie.” Ironically, his default foray into comedy and, subsequently, acting began as a way to save a little money.

“I first got to L.A. in 1986 and in order for you to make a demo at that time, you almost had to … spend the amount of money that they make albums for now and so it just really wasn’t conducive to a person who is living in a hotel on Hollywood Boulevard,” he recalls. “But I was always able to tell jokes, and I had done stand-up a little bit before. So I went down to The Comedy Store … and the next thing you know, I caught the comedy wave at the right time.”

After joining the cast of the sketch comedy series “In Living Color” in 1991 (on the then- rather-new Fox network) and spending a couple of seasons with a recurring role on the TV comedy “Roc,” he ended up with his very own sitcom, “The Jamie Foxx Show,” and, in between, acted in a few comedic films. But it was the Oliver Stone-directed football drama “Any Given Sunday,” Foxx shares, that was the game changer (no pun intended) career-wise.

“Oliver Stone took a chance on me, because I was a TV actor. I remember him telling me, ‘You’re so terrible as a movie actor, because you’re so loud,'” he recalls. “I got a chance to be in that movie, and the only reason I think I survived is because I knew a lot more about football than I did acting. And that came in handy. But that’s when it changed for me — everybody else was doing the great comedies and I couldn’t get it right. I sounded like Eddie Murphy. I sounded like Martin Lawrence. But when I kept it more to dramatic roles, that ended up being the thing that I became most successful at.”

From that point on, Foxx started landing some big dramatic parts — and even bigger critical claim — in “Ali,” “Collateral,” and of course the 2004 biopic “Ray,” the film that won him an Oscar for his portrayal of legendary musician Ray Charles.

Now, Foxx is trying his hand at directing, too. Along with fellow celebs like Eva Longoria and fashion designer Georgina Chapman, he’s participating in the Canon-sponsored Project Imaginat10n and will direct a short film inspired by consumer-submitted photographs based on 10 different themes. And he’ll get a little help from a director who’s already proven himself at the craft a few dozen times over: Ron Howard.

“I jumped at the chance, because I want to get into directing,” explains Foxx. “I’ve been directing a few little things here and there, but I thought the process would be great and also give me a chance to reconnect with Ron Howard,” who, fans may remember, made a memorable cameo in the video for “Blame It.” Though Foxx had previously directed many episodes of “The Jamie Foxx Show” and a couple of yet-to-be-released short films, he says those were more for warm-up.

“I was working on ‘How do I become cinematic?’ And what I mean by that is that sometimes you’ll see a director who’s working with a good movie. It may have a great story, but it may not look cinematic. So I’ve been practicing [to make this short film] sort of like a throwback. You know when you were young, and you would go to the movies, you’d see a Steven Spielberg [film] or you’d see that movie that really transports in some way? That’s sort of been my journey. How do I pick that camera up and be part of that group, part of those directors?”

Foxx says he plans to take full advantage of the Canon project and Howard’s tutelage. “I don’t want it to just be, ‘Here’s my 10-minute short.’ I want it to be a 10-minute cinematic jewel. I want people to marvel at this.” He starts shooting in February and all of the celeb-directed flicks will be shown later at a special film festival.

Prior to that, Foxx will be in front of the camera in December’s much-anticipated Quentin Tarantino Western-style drama “Django Unchained,” in which he plays another intense role — a freed slave who becomes a bounty hunter. Everything he’s getting the chance to do now is, of course, a long way from his youth in Texas, where Foxx says he often faced racism, an obstacle that shaped who he is today. “Unfortunately and fortunately, it made me look at things racially. Like everything I know, there is some type of race component to it, so that’s a bit of a bad thing,” he confesses.

But, Foxx isn’t afraid to make that mindset part of the humor he’s famous for either, breaking into a bit during the interview. “I even use it in my jokes, like I will go to a production and they have food laid out at craft service, and if the food was like Ritz crackers and tofu, I’ll say ‘Ain’t that something? Didn’t they know there was some black people coming here?’ But if I came in that same place, and they had chicken and watermelon, I’d be like, ‘Ain’t this something? This is all a black man can eat?'”

Foxx’s racial view of the world has also given him insight into certain current events, he says, like the firestorm around the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida black teen, by his white neighbor. “I understand what that’s about. There’s that huge racial component in the South that’s still gonna take a little bit of living to get it out.”

The actor has plenty of insight into parenting too, as the father of two daughters, including a his eldest, 18-year-old Corinne. And he’s got two approaches in his dad arsenal. “There’s the ‘I’m gonna talk to you like father stuff,'” he explains, “Like ‘When I was a kid, I walked to school,’ and ‘What’s all this music that you’re listening to?’ and ‘You’re throwing your life away.'”

And after he’s said all that, Foxx shares, he takes the “homey” approach. “Like with my oldest daughter, I say, ‘Hey, if you’re going to drink, pour your own drink, no drugs. When it comes to physical activity or things like that, make sure you protect yourself physically and emotionally.’ Talk to them as real as you can, because right now that’s what kids need. And even though you do all that, you’re still gonna be on their nerves. I’m still goofy,” Foxx admits. “You learn that it’s all still the same parenting process, regardless if you’re a celebrity or if you’re just a person who’s working nine to five. The main thing is staying really, really close to them and making them understand that you’ve been through things and you can help them, but don’t try to live your life for them.”

Movies, TV, music, directing, parenting. Foxx seems to have tackled it all … except for one thing: marriage. Might he ever take the plunge? “I don’t think so,” he insists. “I look at all of my friends that have been married and they get divorced and … it just doesn’t seem like it works.”

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