Tommaso Boddi/WireImage/Getty Images
“I’m on my way to my nerd kingdom”
O’Shea Jackson Jr. wants to fix video game movies: “It’s my life’s work”
The 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' actor discusses his new Roku series, 'The Now,' mental health, and his dream video game projects.
Straight Outta Compton’s O’Shea Jackson Jr. is branching out.
After his big acting break playing his father, O’Shea Jackson Sr. (better known as Ice Cube), the 30-year-old actor is making a name of his own in screen acting with upcoming roles in Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, Universal Pictures’ 2022 film Cocaine Bear, and short-form dramedy The Now, currently streaming on the Roku Channel.
Created by the Farrelly brothers, The Now features Jackson as Coop, a police officer who helps his friend Ed (Dave Franco) after a personal tragedy puts his mental health in crisis. As interesting as Jackson’s character is, it’s clear acting isn’t his only passion.
When I mentioned his degree in screenwriting from the University of Southern California, Jackson lights up, reaching into his shirt to reveal a gold chain with a pendant in the shape of the PlayStation logo.
“I'm a big gamer. I want to be the guy that gets video game movies right,” Jackson tells Inverse. “I feel like [studios] use [fans] as a cash grab, like ‘Oh, of course, they're gonna go see it. They're fans of the game.’ But the people who make them aren't fans of the game.”
Jackson is dead-set on fixing the video game adaptation curse. “It's been my life's work since I was in college. I went to USC to write scripts for video games.”
And he’s getting closer to making his dream a reality. “I have a couple of meetings with PlayStation that I can't wait to talk to people about. I'm on my way to my nerd kingdom,” Jackson tells Inverse.
He’s got no shortage of ideas either. When I asked him what his dream project would be, he rattled off a laundry list: God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian. “I have the best idea for a Metroid game,” he says, a huge smile on his face.
Inverse also spoke to Jackson about his upcoming Star Wars role, the timeliness of his latest project, and playing a police officer despite his dad’s history.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
The Now is your first experience with short-form series. Did that affect your acting process?
It made my days shorter. I liked the people I got to work with. The Farrelly brothers are a pair that know what they want. Working with Jimmy [Tatro] and Dave [Franco], we are really good friends. We talk to each other at least twice a month to this day — we're talking to each other right now, actually!
[Director] Pete [Farrelly] is super approachable. He wants to talk about the character and open that up with you together, whether on or off set. It was a really nice time; plus, I love Vancouver.
Your character’s a police officer, which, considering your family legacy...
Hilarious, right? (laughs) It’s hilarious.
How did you approach your character?
How I think a cop would be! I knew that Coop was the rock of the crew. He seemed to be the guy that had his head on his shoulders the most. And so he had to be a little bit more serious, not too much drill sergeant because you are kicking it with your buddies. But at the same time, I have to be the shoulder to cry on. I have to be the foundation. It hurt Coop a little bit to find out that Ed was going through these things — these feelings that went under Coop's radar. It bothers him.
And, first of all, I knew being a cop, you're a bit of a jerk. You gotta be a little tough, even if it's with your buddies. It was funny putting on those heavy boots and that heavy belt. I was giving out fake tickets on set. I had a good time abusing power.
The Now is a comedy, but it deals with many mental health issues. Why do you think it's an important story to tell right now?
It's always important to speak on something as heavy as that. But with how things are now with the aftermath of the pandemic, many people are still in financial instability. Many people are still recovering, not only in the physical aspect but the mental aspect. I feel that us doing a project like this, speaking on such a heavy topic and ways to get out of it, is huge. We want to give people in the darkest times a little bit of light, something for them to laugh at.
What can you tell me about your Obi-Wan Kenobi character?
I'm not even sure! That's the thing! Nobody's talked to me, and all I keep reading are these horror stories about my man Tom Holland being too excited about Spider-Man and ruining things. I don't want to be that guy, so I've been real chill. I've been letting everybody know that it's an honor to be a part of Star Wars. Every Black kid can't just be Lando Calrissian or Mace Windu for Halloween every year.
“It was a nerd’s dream come true.”
Being a person of color in Star Wars, a Black man in space, is a rarity, and it's an honor to be a part of it. I love the people I got to work with, like the director Deborah Chow. Anytime they need me, they have me. I'm begging for reshoots so that I can go back. It was a nerd’s dream come true.
Now, I'm waiting for the trailer. Like everybody, I was a little pissed off that they didn't release the trailer. I'm over here, drooling and fiending. They gotta give us something.
Did you have to do any research for this project in specific? Did Lucasfilm assign you some books or comics?
They couldn't give me anything I didn't already know. I got seven lightsabers at the house right now. There was a point where I was talking lore with the director Deborah, and she just looked at me and went, ‘Wow, we picked the right guy.’ They have no idea what they’ve done. It was easy for me to blend in because I've been playing Star Wars my entire life.
Would you be willing to return to the franchise, either in this same character or another character? Do you have a dream Star Wars role?
They could use me for voiceover work. They could use me for any flashback sequences. They could make me into stuff. I don't care, whatever they need. They got my number.
So next time, Galaxy’s Edge needs a cast member at Disneyland...
I’m there waiting for them!
What’s it like working on Cocaine Bear? Is it as fun as it sounds?
Working on Cocaine Bear, I've heard phrases that I didn't think I would ever hear on a movie set. Things like ‘Yeah, we need more coke falling from the tree!’ or ‘There are not enough guts on the table!’ Just the craziest things. It was a surprisingly good time.
I got to kick it with Alden [Ehrenreich] and nerd out on Star Wars with him. I got to kick it with Han Solo right after doing Obi-Wan Kenobi! [Director] Elizabeth Banks, I love her to death. I've always been a fan, and working with her was great. Ray Liotta is a super cool dude, heavy shit talker; I'll tell you that.
Cocaine Bear is going to be my little dark horse that people aren't expecting from me.
You have a degree in screenwriting. Do you want to write for franchises in mind or do you prefer to work on your own IP?
I'm a big gamer. I want to be the guy that gets video game movies right. I feel like [studios] use [fans] as a cash grab, like ‘Oh, of course, they're gonna go see it. They're fans of the game.’ But the people who make them aren't fans of the game. So it's been my life's work since I was in college. I went to USC to write scripts for video games, and I just happen to act now.
I’ve got a couple of meetings with PlayStation that I can't wait to talk to people about. I'm on my way to my nerd kingdom.
What would be your dream video game adaptation project?
I'm really into God of War; I really love Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian. I have the best idea for a Metroid movie. If Disney is smart, they'll do Kingdom Hearts already. It's a gold mine out there, and people need to start recognizing it.
The Now is now streaming on The Roku Channel.