Jamie Foxx uses celebrity power to mentor new talent
The Netflix film Project Power stars Jamie Foxx as Art and Dominique Fishback as Robin. The tandem's mentor-student relationship in the action film extends off screen.
Photos courtesy of Netflix
Jamie Foxx uses celebrity power to mentor new talent
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Hollywood A-lister Jamie Foxx topbills Netflix’s upcoming superhero-themed film Project Power. It’s not your typical superhero fare though, given the premise: What if superpowers aren’t really unique or elusive, but accessible or unlockable with the help of a “magic pill”? The catch is, you don’t know what your special gift is until you take this pill, and only then will you also know if this “power” within you can work for you or against you — to a disastrous end.

As the story unfolds in New Orleans, Jamie plays a former US marine and father who’s out for revenge, and he crosses paths with the tandem of a local cop (Joseph Gorden-Levitt) and a young pill dealer and aspiring rapper (Dominique Fishback). The unlikely “triumvirate” will join forces to track down the power-hungry people behind the creation and production of the DNA-based superpower pill called Power.

According to the production notes, the Oscar-winning actor/musician was the first person the filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Nerve, Catfish) approached for the script. “Jamie made me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed in a professional setting. He’s an amazing entertainer on every level, but especially as an actor. He brought so much humanity to this role. You just can’t help but root for him on his journey,” Joost said in a statement.

Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost with Jamie

Jamie particularly shares a number of scenes with rising star Dominique (whose past works include the dramas Show Me A Hero and The Deuce, and the 2018 film The Hate U Give), and according to the latter, their teacher-student relationship on screen also translated off set.

Dominique recalled in the production notes, “Jamie was the life of the party. He was the hype man, but he became MY hype man during scenes as well, making me feel like I was more than enough. I remember filming a scene with him and saying, ‘I’m acting with Jamie Foxx right now. This is surreal to me.’ He said, ‘Nah, nah, I’m acting with YOU.’”

Ahead of Project Power’s release on the streaming service on Aug. 14, The STAR and other reporters from Southeast Asia had a virtual Q&A with Jamie and Dominique, getting more than a glimpse into what the latter had said about the 52-year-old actor.

The film tackles the effects of power, but there was also a different kind of power obviously at work off screen. Jamie isn’t shy to wield his celebrity power to discover, mentor and give up-and-comers in the entertainment industry the boost that they need. (Case in point: As widely reported before, he let a then down-and-out Ed Sheeran stay in his home before the British singer-songwriter achieved stellar status in the music business). Here’s why:

Your character said something very powerful in the film about how power stays, goes to the people who already have it… what does this say about the film and what do you want people to take from that line?

Jamie in one of the 'explosive' scenes from the film

“Well, you know, when we did this film two years ago, I guess you could call it foreshadowing if you look at the world today and the challenges that we are met with. People struggle. Human struggle. It’s amazing that we’re in 2020, and there’s even a question of what a person looks like, what a person feels, how a person acts. I always say this, if you’re on this earth that means you’re supposed to be here. So respect that and respect everybody.

“So, the power is in the people and at a certain point, the people are gonna have to push all these old people and the old way of thinking out, you know, because it’s too much, all these old… get the f*ck out because there’s somebody young and she looks good and she’s talented and her name is Dominique Fishback. And I vote for her to bring all the love, all talent. That’s what we need, we need Fishback. That’s what we need. And once you honor that love, man, and get that power to the people, it’ll never steer you wrong. So, those words that we wrote three years ago or two-and-a-half years ago, those words will continue to remain truthful until the end of us.”

The film reminds of the movie Collateral (for which Jamie got nominated Best Supporting Actor at the 2005 Oscars — the same year he won Best Actor for the biopic Ray). The screenwriter, Mattson Tomlin, also mentioned it as his all-time favorite. Does this Project Power remind you of Collateral, your old film?

“Yes, I think when you look at just the aesthetics of how it looks, that opening scene of the city, how the city sort of... New Orleans is different from L.A. but that city is definitely a character and if you look at Collateral, Los Angeles, the city, was the character, so New Orleans comes through it.

“If you look at those buildings as we were walking through when I was trying to find Machine Gun Kelly, the ‘fire man’ in the building, the scene had a sort of eerie (feeling) because New Orleans has, you know, a little bit of that, too. So, when we go into that building, it definitely has that, and in the night scenes and things like that. So, I’m glad you felt that way because this movie with Henry (Joost) and Ariel (Schulman), how they shot it, it just feels like the cameras happened to be there and to catch all of this great, magical stuff going on.”

Your character Art mentors Dominique’s Robin in the film. (Off screen) you’re responsible for bringing in the young rapper Chika to do the rap song, performed by Robin, in Project Power. Are you finding yourself in a mentoring mode now?

“I’ve always been. I mean, if you think about the young Nick Cannon who used to sleep on my couch when he was 13. Anthony Hamilton, Ed Sheeran used to sleep on my couch for six weeks. Drake. The first time he did his performance in L.A. or America, I brought him there...

“So, when it comes to Dominique and I see her incredible talents, it reminds me of these incredible people that I have already met and sort of just said, ‘Hey, I just want to make sure you’re steered in the right direction.’ So, when it comes to that, it was two things going on — me mentoring Dominique’s character Robin in the movie, but also having a mentorship for Dominique herself, for her own life, and that’s what it’s all about. And while you mentor, you learn.

“Dominique has this incredible talent that she can find emotions just like that. There were moments where she had to be emotional in the scene and cry, you know, and some people, some actors, they’ll go off, you know, wait a minute, go to a mountain and come back, and you know, have tablets and the hair went gray, I mean all kinds of stuff. But she would be right on the set and go into it, and that’s when I hit my sister. I said, ‘Listen, this young lady has an immense amount of talent.’ And you know, I learn from that. That’s what you get out of mentoring. And you get a chance to be re-energized and I mean, I’m energized.”

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