Jason Mitchell on his career, being part of Superfly, and what actor he hopes to one day act alongside.
Jason Mitchell is one hell of an actor. If you have seen Mudbound or Straight Outta Compton, you probably already know that Jason Mitchell is a very talented guy that is destined to become a huge star. During a recent press day for the remake of Superfly, I got to sit down with Jason to talk about his career, being part of Superfly, and what actor he hopes to work with sometime in the near future.
Scott Menzel: Hey, Jason, nice to meet you, man! How are you doing today?
Jason Mitchell: Yo, man, nice to meet you too!
Scott Menzel: Before we talk about SuperFly, I was at the Tyrel screening at Sundance back in January, and I wanted to ask what was that like for you? To be at Sundance two years in a row because you had Mudbound the year before right?
Jason Mitchell: Right. To be at Sundance, it was dope. But to me, it was even more dope that we came together and shot a movie in 10 days. Plus, somebody ended up picking it up too. When you shoot a movie in 10 days, as an actor, they put you down with everything. Like look, this is what has to happen, and this is when it has to happen, otherwise, we have no movie and so you got to make it work. But it was cool to kind of see the behind the scenes and I got a co-writing credit which made me really proud.
Scott Menzel: That’s awesome. So, SuperFly. I want to start with, did you see the original, I’m sure this is the question you’re going to get all fuckin day, but did you see the original before doing this one?
Jason Mitchell: Yes, I definitely did.
Scott Menzel: Okay, so what was your initial impression after you read the script for this new one?
Jason Mitchell: I could appreciate it, but, the skeleton itself, I feel like it’s flawless. It could be sort of like a timeless movie, but I still also think it could be cheesy if you do it wrong, period. This is a big nostalgic thing for people, so we had to sort of walk this line of doing it right versus not making a better movie, because they would do so much that people like “I don’t know if I can sit through this, they got like an eight-minute music video in the middle of the movie, like what is happening? I don’t really understand.” But, to me, I know that I trust myself and my craft, and I also trust myself and my history, so I’m like “yo, we need to give this back. That’d be cool.”
Scott Menzel: How was it working with Director X? He kind of a legend in his own right in the music video world.
Jason Mitchell: Right, but he’s very humble about that too and I could appreciate that. He had a lot of weight on his shoulders, but I just respected the way he moved. He would bounce to the beat of his own drum and at the end of the day, he going to do all the work, you know what I mean, so it was good to be able to collaborate with him and sort of have that thing where he’s like “you do all your acting and I will get it, but let’s get one for safety, just for the studio, and then I’m going to let you take it away.” So, it was good just having somebody who was grounded into the work the way I was, and he was very humble about it, so I respect that.
Scott Menzel: You got to play Eazy-E. and now you take on the iconic role as Eddie in the Superflyremake. How does that make you feel as an actor? You’re getting offered these parts and ones that people would probably knock down doors to get?
Jason Mitchell: Right, exactly. That’s why when people call me on my cell phone, my actual cell phone, and pitch stuff to me and all of that, I’m so completely flattered. When I’m on the phone, I’m thinking I am going to let you finish telling me what you have to say but I already said yes in my mind. So, whenever we’re done talking, I’m going to do it. Like when that happened with Mudbound because that happened first with them, but it took seven months before the movie even became real. And it was just crazy when I read the script I was like, “me? You thought of this for me?” Dee’s like “yeah, I don’t want nobody else. I tell you what, I let you pick the actors you want to work around, let’s see if we can make it work.” And I was like “What? What is happening right now?”
This is definitely God’s plan because I can be prepared, and I can do this and that, but I didn’t greenlight Straight Outta Compton, you know what I mean? I didn’t know anything about that, all I knew was if I hit the mark as Eazy-E, we’re going to get where we’re going. And it’s just interesting to see how that has been the main thing in my career that’s made me successful, the fact that I’m not afraid to come out as myself, and I’m not just doing it for money. People take weird jobs and then they start bringing their value down and people are like why you’re incredible. But it’s all a money thing, so.
Scott Menzel: What’s really fascinating, and I think it’s so important and vital, is that right now, women and people of color are getting so much more attention than ever before. We would never see this many black directed movies coming out, or so many up and coming black actors. Before, when you think back on it, there was one or two here and there. So how does that feel as an actor, as a creative artist right now, to be alive in a time where there is this renaissance, where Ava’s name is everywhere, and Dee Rees gets a multi-film deal, and there are multiple studio films featuring a predominately black cast. I think this is just a fascinating time and one that is long overdue.
Jason Mitchell: I mean to me, it makes me a lot more focused because like what I was just telling you about me not knowing the whole journey but just sticking to my lane? Nothing about me saw how that affected the world because I’m not from LA. In New Orleans, it’s a whole different story. But in LA it’s like, I was like I don’t understand why y’all out here feuding because this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. But it’s important to bend and shake and move and do all these things and keep your career rolling, right? And like I said that was all God’s plan and all I could do is be prepared when it came, but to be able to do something now where 100 years from now, people could look back and say, “yay, they did this” which is why film has become my new voice. Film has become my new choice of weapon. And at first, I was like “yeah, I could roll like this,” but then somebody asked me, are you some sort of activist? And it’s like “wow, this is really a thing.” So, I think the position that I’m in now is more about how I handled it because so many people are like, “we want you to make it.” Everybody wants me to make it, it’ll give them some sort of information, to be able to push what we have forward.
Scott Menzel: What was the most difficult scene for you to film in Superfly?
Jason Mitchell: I hate technical stuff because it’s not my thing. It’s my worst thing on set like just staying busy because I believe that everything I do is for a reason even if it’s in my action. It’s about body language and all these different things, so for them to be like, “you just do you like you are who we hired for this, so do you.” So, for me handling this new nostalgic thing which helps kids dream big, and be like “yo, this is dope, this is how it’s supposed to be.” And we’re giving that to them. We’re putting a different form of history in their minds through film. It’s cool.
Scott Menzel: You’ve done television, you’ve done independent films, and you’ve done studio films. What have you as an actor noticed is the difference between those three mediums? Is there something in particular that stands out?
Jason Mitchell: Well with TV, it’s more about the writers and directors. And they switch up because no matter what, if you keep the pace up, then it’s cool, but at times, because I’m a very chill, and I like to be relaxed and jump into my stuff very honestly, but in TV you got to be quick because it has to flow, editing wise it has to flow. So, it was picking up my speed, make sure I enunciate words and do all these different things, because I’m like, “guys, it’s not my fault that have a bad accent,” but there are like we don’t understand what you’re saying, so articulate yourself, and I’m like “okay.” But the technical stuff bro, aw man, there were 36 takes on the pull up to the house on Straight Outta Compton. I wanted to shoot myself in the head it’s like so much different stuff.
Scott Menzel: For my last question, you’ve done so many different projects. Is there a particular project, a director, or an actor that you really want to work on or with?
Jason Mitchell: I think I’m going to have to say Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy is the man. I like people who commit 100%, but they don’t want that feedback, that’s not what I need from you. I don’t need that. That’s what’s up. But there’s so many people that are like that like Anthony Hopkins who is a favorite of mine. Matthew McConaughey, another favorite of mine. These guys are super dope, so I’m like “yo, I shouldn’t even be in the same room as y’all sometimes.” But yeah, let’s get it on. It’d be cool, Vincent D’Onofrio is another one. So, I’m trying to constantly work on it, but I got my first writing credit with Tyrel, and looks like I’ll be settling into production credit real soon, so, yeah man, I can’t wait.
Scott Menzel: Alright, well thank you very much. I love your energy, keep that alive alright?
Jason Mitchell: Dope, thank you.
Scott Menzel: Have a good one.