As we draw closer to the Christmas Day premiere date of Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, the spaghetti western meets slavery Django Unchained, so has the press, and of course, the controversy. Still, there’s been some great conversations about the role of race — specifically in the latest VIBE cover story featuring the film’s stars, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Leonardo DiCaprio. In the excerpt below, Jamie opens up about the duality many Blacks have to play in our everyday lives.
Plus, the Academy Award winner discusses going to Tyler Perry and Spike Lee about the film before tackling the role.
VIBE: Before Django was even completed, the screenplay and the trailer received criticism from black people who objected to the treatment of slavery, suggesting it is not serious. It is a spaghetti western not a heavy drama like, say, Roots or The Color Purple. Were you prepared for this type of scrutiny?
JAMIE FOXX: Put it this way: I completely understand what you’re saying. ‘Cause as black folks we’re always sensitive. As a black person it’s always racial. I come into this place to do a photo shoot and they got Ritz crackers and cheese. I’ll be like, ain’t this a bitch. Y’all didn’t know black people was coming. What’s with all this white shit? By the same token, if there is fried chicken and watermelon I’ll say ain’t this a bitch? So, no matter what we do as black people it’s always gonna be that. Every single thing in my life is built around race. I don’t necessarily speak it because you can’t. But the minute I leave my house, I gotta put my other jacket on and say, ‘‘Hey, Thomas, Julian and Greg.” And I gotta be a certain person.
DICAPRIO: Thomas, Julian and Greg?
VIBE: Those are white people.
FOXX: No some of those people are black. But when I get home my other homies are like how was your day? Well, I only had to be white for at least eight hours today, [or] I only had to be white for four hours. Everything we do is that. When you’re talking about the script, of course it’s going to be controversy. I remember talking to Tyler Perry about it. [In Perry’s very serious voice] ‘‘Ah man, the script, man. Have you read it?” When I finally read it, I called Tyler and we had a conversation. I said, ‘‘I got a different take on it than you did.” And we shared. And I called Tyler while we were shooting it. I said, ‘‘Do you know that Quentin Tarantino knows all of your shit on TV. I don’t even watch all of your shit.” He said, ‘‘Really?” The difference is the Quentin Tarantino Effect. I ran into Spike Lee at the BET Awards. You know Spike, he’ll let you have it whether it’s good, bad or ugly. And he said, ‘‘I’m not going to say anything bad about this film. It looks like y’all are getting it
KERRY WASHINGTON: This is not a doc. This is a Quentin Tarantino film. But I remember there was this one moment in the script where Jamie’s character was put in an awful crazy medieval metal mask. I said, ‘‘That’s some sick thing Quentin thought up.” And when I went to the production office to meet about my wardrobe, I saw into the research office. Twenty photos of real masks like that. It made me sad. I realized as much as my degrees and everything I’ve read on slave narratives [should have informed me], I didn’t even know that they wore masks like that, that people did that to us. It took a Tarantino movie for me to know that that’s not some crazy thing out of his imagination. That’s how it went down.
You can read the interview in full over at VIBE.com.