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Jamie Foxx game for anything

Jamie Foxx plays the character Bats in "Baby Driver."

TRISTAR PICTURES/TNS

By RICK BENTLEY | Tribune News Service | Published: June 24, 2017

LOS ANGELES — It’s not a good time for Jamie Foxx. It’s a GREAT time.

A big reason the Oscar- and Grammy-winning performer is so happy is that he’s starring in “Baby Driver,” the latest feature film from director-writer Edgar Wright. His role in the car chase/romance/heist movie is as the psychotic Bats, a thief who is as violently crazy as he is deadly philosophical.

The other reason for the unbridled joy that he is showing during an interview is a little surprising. Foxx is so happy because he’s also become a game show host with the new Fox series “Beat Shazam” that airs 8 p.m. Thursdays stateside and premieres Aug. 4 on AFN-Spectrum.

Foxx doesn’t think the joy he’s feeling is isolated, but he’s certain this is a great time for actors.

“It’s a good time for entertainment,” Foxx says. “Anything he or she wants to do, there’s a great chance to get it on because people are thirsting for this kind of entertainment.

“We were trying to get ‘Beat Shazam’ together for three years. I was telling my new management, that was the move.”

Foxx had seen how so many performers were diversifying the type of work they were doing. He pointed to performers like Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart who are not only huge box office draws but also have their own TV shows. Foxx wanted to star in a TV program that reflected his own deep interest in music while at the same time was “fun, funny and be full of guest stars.”

Foxx is taking his role as a game show host very seriously. The fact that he has seen people win life-changing money has touched him, and there have been numerous times Foxx, who describes himself as “an emotional dude,” has had to leave the stage because he’s been crying so hard.

It hasn’t been all tears. Foxx has invited a host of his celebrity friends to be guests on the show.

Mariah Carey almost turned down the offer because she didn’t want to come on the music game show and have to sing. Foxx assured her that all he wanted her to do was just come on the set to give the contestants a chance to be near her. Her appearance on the game show got the excited response Foxx had predicted.

The game show is the latest in a long list of credits for Foxx since the 49-year-old Texas native came to Los Angeles. After years on the stand-up circuit, Foxx hit it big when he joined the cast of “In Living Color.” Since then, he has starred in TV shows and films (including his Oscar-winning role in the 2004’s “Ray”), plus his comedy career.

“Baby Driver” is the latest film work for Foxx. It features a strange group of smooth criminals who come together for illegal activities that tend to end in high-speed chases. The players include: Baby (Ansel Elgort), the laser-focused driver of few words; Buddy (Jon Hamm), a white-collar whiz turned drug-using killer; Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), Buddy’s girlfriend whose aim is as killer as her looks; and Doc (Kevin Spacey), the mastermind of the group.

On working with Foxx, Hamm says, “There is a place you get when you are comfortable with your talent that is a real, grounded, centered place. And it is really nice to act opposite someone who is that comfortable. It’s nice to sit across from someone who really knows what they are doing.”

Creating the character of Bats was the most fun of all the criminals for Wright. That’s why he was so happy that Foxx signed on because the actor could bring charisma and chaos to the role. That was easy for Foxx because whether it’s either very scary or very fortunate, he has known people like Bats in his life.

“When I first got to L.A., I would do stand-up comedy for anybody,” Foxx says. “I remember being at people’s house and be in parts of this city that were ‘different.’ And some of these guys, I still know.”

Foxx also had a little understanding of what it means to play a character like Bats who is always on the verge of being in big trouble because of his early days on the comedy club circuit. One night, Foxx started doing his Mike Tyson material at a club and despite the material being a big hit in past shows, there wasn’t even a snicker. That’s when someone shouted out that Tyson was in the audience.

Foxx knew that this was a time when Tyson was known for knocking people out just for smiling. While he pondered that reality, two women in the front row taunted him about being too scared to do the joke.

“That’s when this guy yelled out ‘Mike says do the joke, and that (expletive) better be funny,” Foxx says. “So I do the joke and get a standing ovation. Mike comes up and says, ‘ya so crazy.’ The guy who was with Mike was a lot like Bats. On Monday night at the comedy clubs there were a lot of gangsters in the audience.”

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