Jason Mitchell was working at a restaurant in New Orleans when he had the opportunity to audition for the role of Eazy-E in “Straight Outta Compton.” Now his blistering, star-making turn is earning the newcomer Oscar buzz.
How did you land the role of Eazy-E?
I had been day-playing in New Orleans for a while, but it was nothing big enough to change my life, or pay my bills even. But I read with Meagan Lewis, from New Orleans — she’s a huge casting director there. It took them (a few) weeks to call me back. And they were like, do you want to come in for a callback? Just fly to L.A.” I was like, “The way my bank account is set up, I don’t really know if I can afford to come there and still get the no.” So they call me back 30 minutes later. I’m at work on the line, cooking, and they’re like, “Gary would love to Skype it with you.” I’m there trying to hold my composure together, but I’m like, “I think I got this.” So I go the next day to do the Skype session with him, and it was an hour and 17 minutes. But I booked it, right there.
How much did you know about N.W.A and Eazy-E?
I’m actually a huge Bone Thugs-n-Harmony fan, and that was one of the groups that he created. A few of their hit songs had Eazy-E on there, and I was like, “Oh, who’s this guy?” So I did a little research. I wanted to know the essence of who he was, try to create an opinion from what all these different people were telling me.
What did you have in common?
We are both very small people with very huge personalities. Everybody sees Eazy-E, and (thinks) there’s got to be some sort of gimmick. But what you see is what you get. And he was a marketing genius who figured out how to take himself and sell that. He knew exactly what people wanted. He wasn’t afraid to say certain things, and I’m kind of the same way. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m just here to put a smile on people’s faces.
Prior to this role had you done any rapping or singing?
I’m a big fan. But being an actor, you can be a chameleon. You get to live many different lives. Being on stage with all those people chanting your name and singing along with the songs — it’s an incredible feeling. But I don’t think it’s for me.
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