Straight Outta Compton's O'Shea Jackson Jr. on Lack of Diversity at Oscars: 'We Just Gotta Get Back to the Drawing Boards'
The breakout star from Straight Outta Compton tells PEOPLE that with non-white actors shut out of the nominations, “We just gotta get back to the drawing boards.”
The conversation over the lack of diversity is being addressed for the second year in a row, with the reemergence of last year’s hashtag “OscarsSoWhite” on social media and news of Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee refusing to attend this year’s awards ceremony.
Conjuring up a sport analogy for the situation, Jackson Jr. jokingly pointed out that white NBA star “Steve Nash won the MVP award back-to-back years.”
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has said she’s “disappointed” by the diversity issue, and released an official statement, saying, “This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.”
While Straight Outta Compton‘s screenwriters (all of whom are white) were nominated for a Best Writing Oscar, none of the film’s mostly African American cast got a nod.
The young ensemble were, however, nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast, an award Jackson Jr. says is especially meaningful to the tight-knit group.
“When we got the SAG award it really hit us that we’d made something special,” he explained. “I talked to Corey [Hawkins], I talked to Jason [Mitchell], we’re all stoked about it.”
Asked how he thinks the gang of relative newcomers managed to beat out the star-studded casts of film’s like Steve Jobs, Joy and The Hateful Eight, Jackson Jr. says it all comes down to the friendships on set.
“No disrespect to the other sets, but we knew from the get go that we needed to work together and build this brotherhood so we could seem like life long friends within a couple months,” he explained.
Jackson Jr. played his dad, Ice Cube, in the biopic, and was tasked with reenacting the close relationships Cube shared with his N.W.A. cofounders, Dr. Dre (Hawkins), Eazy E (Mitchell) and MC Ren (Aldous Hodge).
“Corey, Jason, Aldous and I, we were constantly on each other, and I love those guys for that because lord knows I was nervous every day throughout shooting,” Jackson Jr. adds, joking, “It’s your first film, and if you get it wrong you’ll never work in this town again.”
But perhaps even more gratifying than the awards and monstrous box office numbers was making his dad proud. “I’m just happy for him,” he says of Ice Cube. “He watched that trailer like every day when we got it. It’s a dream come true for any son to make his father that proud.”
Having a movie star dad has also made his emergence in Hollywood easier to navigate. Using another sports analogy, Jackson Jr. jokes, “Kobe’s dad was in the league, Steph Curry’s dad was in the league. It’s just a different mentality with him around.”
Straight Outta Compton is available on Blu-Ray/DVD now.