On film, Jamie Foxx has hit all the right notes. But before his Oscar-winning performance in “Ray,” before taking vengeance in “Django Unchained,” and before his recent role as the first African-American star of a Pixar movie, in “Soul,” it was the small screen that captured his heart.
“I was a TV fanatic,” Foxx told “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Michelle Miller. “I grew up watching Dick Van Dyke. I grew up watching Fred G. Sanford on ‘Sanford and Son,’ ‘The Jeffersons.’ There’s nothin’ like TV where you can cook it, serve it, they eat it, come back, cook it again.”
And Foxx is serving it up one more time. Nearly three decades after he became famous on the TV series “In Living Color” and “The Jamie Foxx Show,” he has returned to his comedy roots, this time on a new Netflix series, “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!” Foxx plays the hip-yet-dorky dad to teenage Sasha, a role modeled after his relationship with his eldest daughter, Corinne, an executive producer on the series.
The world caught a glimpse of her when Foxx took her to the Academy Awards in 2005. But Corinne says by the time she was a teen, having a famous dad came with some tradeoffs.
“He’s very charismatic and he’s, you know, an entertainer,” said Corinne. “And that’s great when he’s an actor. But when he’s a dad, that’s the last thing a teenage daughter wants her dad to be, which is over-the-top and drawing attention to himself.”
“Wait a minute!” Jamie interjected.
“You are kinda more over-the-top! And so, we had all these hilarious stories, and we thought, ‘Why not make these episodes of a TV show?'”
Miller asked Jamie, “How much of it is true? ‘Cause your dad on the show is kinda corny.”
“Yeah, well, you know what? I think that’s the thing. I think all dads think they the dopest,” he replied. “But your kids be like, ‘Eh, this corny dude, like, here, man!'”
Take the time Corinne began cheerleading in high school: “Now, once she started the cheerleading squad, we started our cheerleading squad for her. So, we would show up at the games with a picture of her on our T-shirts. We wanted to just show her that we love her. And even though it was embarrassing for her at the time, it’s what I call ‘good embarrassing.'”
And Jamie got plenty of that from his grandparents, especially his grandmother, Estelle. They adopted him when he was seven months old.
“All I knew was them as parents,” he said, “and they were there 100%. She had my back in every way. So it was like, she’s the one who made sure I got the piano, and she said, ‘This is gonna take you all over the world.’ And, you know, she was right. I ended up going to college on a classical piano scholarship, and ended up pursuing my dreams.”
Miller asked, “What would you say is the most important thing your grandmother taught you?”
“She just taught me to get out there, and don’t, like, don’t limit yourself,” he replied.
And it was in his hometown of Terrell, Texas, that Foxx took that advice and tried comedy: “I would watch Johnny Carson – ‘It was so hot today.’ ‘How hot was…’ – all those different jokes, I would take ’em and just tell ’em in school. That was, like, you know, my shtick.”
And it stuck. While studying music in San Diego, he began to hit the comedy clubs. Soon, TV beckoned. When Foxx joined “In Living Color,” a ratings powerhouse in the ’90s, he found it daunting.
“Were you intimidated when you came on board?” asked Miller.
“Oh, most definitely,” he said. “To be the funniest person everywhere I went, and to go on the show and be the eighth funniest person? I was the eighth funniest person! I would watch these dudes work and I said, ‘Ooh-we, I can’t do that yet!'”
As he and veteran actor David Alan Grier recall, it was groundbreaking – a Black sketch comedy show, told from an African-American point of view.
Grier told Miller, “For all of us, it was Xanadu. It was a city of gold. What if we had our own show? What if we had a ‘Saturday Night Live’ that was all Black?“
Its skits sometimes pushed the boundaries of political correctness. Its social commentary could be biting, its humor a little raunchy. But for Jamie Foxx, it was heaven.
“I went onto a set that was Black writers, Black directors, Black producers, Black cast. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was in the wrong place. Even the smell was different, ’cause the catering – was that, like, smothered chicken?”
As Foxx went on to create his own TV show, make a name for himself in dramatic films, and record a string of albums, Grier gave him high-fives all the way. “I’m a fan of his,” he said. “And the greatest joy is to watch a tree grow. So, that’s what it was like watching Jamie. It wasn’t like he won the lotto. No, he was a tree that grew.”
Now, the two are reunited on “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!” Grier plays Pops, Jamie’s father. Like Foxx, Grier brings real-world experience to the role – he’s a dad himself.
“My daughter’s 13,” he said. “And she had her little friend, this dude, this little boy, they grew up together. He came to the house. I said every time they go in another – ‘Well, what y’all doin’ in there?’ ‘Daddy, he’s like my brother.’ ‘Like your brother? OK, we’re cool then. Well, leave the door open!'”
As for Jamie Foxx, Corinne and her half-sister Annalise give him high marks.
When asked what grade she’s give him as a dad, Corinne replied, “A-plus. He thinks the world of us, and we can feel it. And that’s really powerful for a young girl to grow up and have such a strong father figure in her life.”
The man balancing family and a flourishing career knows just how lucky he is. As Jamie told Miller, “To be able to sing what you wanna sing, go do your television show, go do your movies, I mean, it’s a blessing, man!”
To watch a trailer for “Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me!” click on the video player below.
For more info:
- “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me” (Netflix)
Story produced by Reid Orvedahl. Editor: Steven Tyler.