Sometimes hope is the worst thing you can give. Jamie Foxx learned that when he was visiting death row for the movie Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story. In the 2004 TV movie, he played an American gangster. But in his latest movie, Just Mercy, hope becomes a lifeline for Walter McMillian, an Alabama man convicted of murdering a white woman despite the lack of evidence. The film directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton is based on a true story.
“This is back in 1986. Walter McMillian is living in Alabama. He is a tree trimmer; he cuts down trees for a living. He is on his way home one evening and he is stopped by the police. They said he killed someone; a white girl in a county that he has never been to. They take him in and his life changes forever,” Foxx told HFPA journalist Kristien Gijbels.
McMillian was on death row for six years without a trial. “This is his tragic story. He didn’t get a chance to live his life that he should have been able to live. If there was a silver lining it would be in the form of Bryan Stevenson who is played wonderfully by Michael B. Jordan in the movie. Stevenson comes to his aid, a young lawyer who takes his case. And against all odds, he ends up overturning the first case in Alabama of a death row inmate.”
Foxx explains that sometimes it is tough to talk about African Americans in America when it comes to the justice system. “When you see a black man who’s in the media is in trouble, we are sort of used to seeing those images, the black or the brown person is the criminal. And so therefore in a lot of these cases, we automatically think well that is what they probably deserve anyway because of what we perceive.”
For Foxx, the movie is one of the most important films he has ever been a part of. “It is not just the movie but it is the message of the movie that is really important.”
Listen to the podcast and hear how it was working with his friend Michael B. Jordan; why his father shook his head when he was watching Just Mercy; how the struggle that Marvin Gaye used to talk about became a badge of honor; why his youngest daughter finally thinks he made it; how it is working with his older daughter Corrine Marie; how was it auditioning to play Ray Charles in the movie Ray.; what kind of influence his grandmother had on him; what kind of impact awards had on him; why singer-songwriter Billie Eilish is big in his household; what kind of book he is writing; how his daughters are different from each other; why he changed his name from Eric Bishop to Jamie Foxx; who keeps him grounded; and what it is like to have the whole family living with him.