Kam Goes Solo with Jamie

Kam Williams | 4/29/2009, 11:27 a.m.

Texas native Jamie Foxx was born Eric Marlon Bishop on Dec. 13, 1967. The versatile actor/comedian/singer/musician/writer/producer/director got his start in showbiz in 1989 when he went on stage tried his hand at standup. He made his big screen debut in €Toys€ in 1992, followed by appearances in €Booty Call€ and €The Players Club.€ He received critical acclaim for his work and in €Any Given Sunday€ and as Bundini Brown in €Ali,€ breakout roles which inexorably led to 2004 when he delivered a trio of powerful performances in €Ray,€ €Collateral€ and €Redemption.€

Foxx talks about his new movie, €The Soloist,€ a true story in which he plays Nathaniel Ayers, a Juilliard-trained child prodigy, who ended up homeless after developing schizophrenia. In the film, Ayers is befriended by Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.), an L.A. Times reporter who hears him playing the violin in the park.

KW: Did you get to meet Nathaniel Ayers on the streets in preparing to portray him?
: Yes I did. As a matter of fact, I snuck downtown with a little bit of a disguise and a security cat, and I just hung out right next to Nathaniel. He had no idea that I was watching him. I got a chance to see him speak to the world, and get excited, and be happy, and sad, and play his music. And I saw him preach. Watching that I was able to gather a lot of great information about who this guy was that I was about to play, without hearing anybody€s opinion of him, but just from my firsthand look at him. Later, I was formally introduced to him, and he was on his best behavior. He smiled because he gets it that they were going to do a movie about his life.

KW: How did you prepare for the role after that?
It was a matter of putting him together. Losing the weight€ getting the hair right€ getting the makeup right€ and going to that place that I have feared going to for a long time, that is, losing your mind.

KW: What made you afraid of that?
As a child I always feared losing my mind. There was a guy in my neighborhood who always walked up and down the street talking to himself. And then, when I was 18, I had a horrible experience when somebody slipped something into my drink. It was a college prank that really went bad, and I hallucinated for 11 months. The doctors said that sometimes people go and they never come back. I was lucky enough to get back, but the way I recovered was by playing music all the time, because I was in a music school. Isn€t it interesting that Nathaniel Anthony Ayers had a similar situation?

KW: Very. The film€s director, Joe Wright, told me that you filmed on location on Skid Row and hired a lot of the homeless as extras. What was that like?
It was interesting. I arrived with my bravado, being an urban kid from the country, and thinking that there were people there out to get you. They were mostly people who were really just trying to survive and to hold onto the little bit of human dignity they had left. I met actors down there, lawyers, and people who had been released too early from mental institutions that had turned their backs on them. I learned a lot of lessons, so when I look at them now, I don€t think of them in the same way that I used to. I have to thank Joe Wright for that.