Brianne Tracy
October 20, 2017 11:00 AM

Jay Pharoah didn’t have to look far to find the inspiration to play his Jamie Foxx-based character on his new show White Famous.

The comedian, who is returning to the small screen after departing Saturday Night Live in 2016, stars in the half-hour comedy on Showtime about a rising African-American comedian, Floyd Mooney, who is worried about losing his authentic self as be becomes mainstream popular, or “white famous.”

“When I read the script, I just related to the story immediately,” Pharoah, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I’m familiar with, you know, the underground, urban comic who is getting put in front of mainstream America. I just connected with it.”

Michael Desmond/Showtime

Led by executive producers Foxx, Tom Kapinos (Californication) and Tim Story (Barbershop), the show is loosely based on Foxx’s early experiences in Hollywood. When it came to researching for the role, Pharoah says it was all about “hanging out with Foxx and television folks that know him.”

“Jamie’s whole thing is ‘Have fun’ — that’s just the type of guy he is,” he continues. “That’s kind of how I researched it and then I related to the story already so it wasn’t hard to know where to go.”

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But there’s one thing Pharoah wants to make clear — he’s not trying to do an impression of Foxx on this show like the ones he famously did on SNL. 

“I’m not going to get an Emmy off of my imitation skills with Mr. Foxx like when he did Ray and he got an Oscar — it’s different,” Pharoah says with a laugh. “You just draw based on the idea and play.”

As to what his favorite part about playing Mooney is, Pharoah says letting audiences see that “he has a heart and that he’s really trying to do what’s best for his family, his friends and everybody.”

White Famous airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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