Eric Wright, better known as Eazy-E from the group NWA died March 26, 1995, at the age of 31. Twenty years later, Straight Outta Compton; a hood to Hollywood movie about a group of kids making it big in the music industry hits theaters. NOBP had a chance to ask Jason Mitchell, the New Orleans native from Uptown who plays Eazy 20 questions about how he went from shucking oysters to being the next big thing in Hollywood.

 

Life wasn’t always “Eazy” for you. Were you a struggling actor before this role?

Yeah, I was a struggling actor, working two seasonal jobs; an electrician and an oyster shucker. I was working at Mr. Ed’s and Drago’s, I’ve been in the cooking world for almost 5 years. I was caught up in the system, I was in trouble with trying to get money. I was the hustle type, and I would go to any limit to get money to support myself. But I was losing friends, I was losing sight of a good situation and really wanted to do something to better myself and that’s how I got into acting.

 

You were born and raised in Hollygrove, that’s where Lil Wayne’s from right? What was it like growing up there?

I was actually born in Germany, I’m an army brat but my mom was from New Orleans, my whole family is from Hollygrove pretty much. Coming out of middle school my mom retired from the Army, she did 20 years there and after that decided to make New Orleans our home. We would always visit family there so pretty much all my childhood knowledge and what we say here in New Orleans “where you jumped off the porch” would definitely be New Orleans.

 

What was it like growing up there?

Growing up in Hollygrove was rough. I went to a high school (Alcee Fortier) that was probably one of the worst schools around at the time, if not the worst.  During my time there they had people getting killed at the school, but it made me charismatic and made me have really thick skin, it’s probably the reason why I am the way I am today.

 

From the Gulf Coast to the West Coast, what are some of the biggest changes between the two L.A.’s?

The amount of opportunity and the different level of integrity that people have. In the South, people are very principle shaped but when they have a lot of money and fame involved then people change. Even though this is the land of opportunity and it’s a beautiful place sometimes you find the worst monsters.

 

Was it a lightbulb moment that made you turn to acting?

My best friend got killed and I didn’t really have a way to express myself. I wanted to go somewhere, be something different and really be around people who were positive and like mind… And be around some nice looking girls {laughs}, you know just do something different. I never thought I could be an actor or anything like that I just thought that it would be therapeutic. I’ve been through a lot, my dad killed himself when I was 15, I went through Katrina. I was a pretty stand up guy in my situation, but it was hard finding people to look up to.

 

The struggle is still real for a lot of African-Americans in the U.S., and many will relate to this movie. Can you relate to the hood to Hollywood storyline?

Yes absolutely, that’s the epitome of what I am.

 

The movie also focuses on the injustice of law enforcement towards blacks and people of color. Twenty years later this egregious behavior is still going on with recent incidents like Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner… Just to name a few.

Making a really good film was my goal, doing my job was my goal and either way it came out it was a beautiful thing. It’s very sad to say that Straight Outta Compton the film is just as relevant as Straight Outta Compton the record and it’s very sad to see these things still happening. I don’t think it’s just a thing about African Americans or a race thing, it’s really the people in power choosing to abuse that power. They talk about us having a code of silence in the hood but they have a blue code of secrecy in the police department. We need guys to stand up and say “Hey they aren’t doing the right thing” and hopefully this film just picks up and shows people that the same things are happening and you have to check yourself and ask yourself, “am I doing the right thing?” Is the person next to me doing the right thing? Would I stand up if they weren’t doing the right thing? We just want to get that dialogue started and as far as it goes as black men and African American people and people of color or people dealing with these issues on a day to day basis is we have to create a different mentality and instead of having a protest state of mind have a very optimistic state of mind and just try to get home every day because your families need us. It’s a shame to see what happens to a lot of these people and you shouldn’t lose your life just because a cop is having a bad day.

 

What’s it like working with Dre and Cube?

Oh my God, a dream come true! These guys are living legends and what you see is what you get. On TV they seem to have this amazing persona and this bigger than life character, but when I met them they were the ones who snatched all that fear out of me and gave me that confidence. They would say “your the man for the job. We were confident in who we picked, it took us four years to cast this movie and we stand behind who we pick.” Those guys are like my uncles now.

 

Any crazy transformations you went through for the role?

Absolutely, obviously I’m from New Orleans and I can’t talk like I’m from new orleans being Eazy-E. I had to make an amazing transformation I had to learn everything about California because I had never stepped foot here before I booked the role. I went through a 2 month boot camp and had to learn how to talk and walk like I was from California. To take on this role I had to do weight training and eat 4 thousand calories a day. When it comes to the mental part and taking direction from the director and giving the people what they need and going through all these emotions I can’t be thinking about the physical part of it. I had to instill that in myself before I could even get to the point for them to say “Action.”

 

Was it hard getting rid of the New Orleans accent?

There were some words that were definitely hard to say, I couldn’t get out the word “Ruthless” It came out so bad. There were just so many things I had to go through with that but to see the way it came out I was really pleased. They had some live performances so to see that they trusted me enough to go live mic and really use my voice, I was really pleased.

 

What’s the biggest change back home? Do people recognize you?

The biggest change is people coming together and taking pride in the situation that happened because I haven’t seen that happen since the Saints. We’re a real prideful city but it’s still a crabs in a barrel mentality so rarely do you see people come together and really support somebody and stand behind what they do. But New Orleans has been standing behind me and what I do and they been putting on for me so I thank my city for that.

 

Single, married, kids?

I do have kids, I have two beautiful daughters they are 1 and 3 and as far as my situation that I’m in, I like to keep that personal… I like to have a regular life too. {laughs}

 

What’s something about the movie or filming that viewers won’t see on screen?

Oh man, we had this amazing moment after we did our first performance at Skateland, we came outside and they had all these lowriders, like 500 people were out there and we had just wrapped for the night and they started playing YG My Hitta but with the real words. We had this huge crowd of people, everyone was just bouncing and really feeling it. The  energy was good people were hitting switches in the lowriders, everyone had on their rope chains and beanies, it was just crazy dope moment, something I’ll never forget.

 

What’s the good, bad and ugly about filming?

The worst part is that your spending 16 to 17 hours a day grinding blood, sweat, tears and vomit. When it was time to do the work you had to do it no matter the conditions.. The best thing is seeing a lot of young people, people of color working on one sound wave and one wave of love. I feel like the universe created what happened and it was just incredible to be in the presence of legends and so much positive energy.

Do you still live in New Orleans?

I do, I have a spot in New Orleans and a spot in LA. You know You got to go where the work is at. I would say I’m bicoastal right now.

 

Do you prefer Hollywood South or the real thing?

I’ve never lived anywhere more than home, but its nothing like being on the beach and seeing the mountains in Cali.

 

Favorite New Orleans dish?

Gumbo

 

Any future plans and or projects?

To be honest I just want to be the new guy when it comes to drama. They have a few people stepping up, a couple in my lane but they’re not necessarily my competition. I just want to step up and be the new wave of African American men that are really in that drama section holding it down.

 

If you could play anyone who would it be?

I don’t know. I hear a lot of talk of Floyd Mayweather which would be dope, but I wouldn’t be looking forward to his workout at all {laughs}. But as far as bio pics go I’m still letting this Eazy-E thing sink in.

 

Any Tips for struggling actors?

Stay with it and respect it as a craft. There’s no way to cheat the system, what you put in is what you get out. They say that after 1000 hours of working on your craft you’re ready to start making moves, so if you don’t have at least that much time in your craft then reevaluate and really let it come from your heart and don’t do it just for the money because I did this when it was free.

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