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Have you seen Straight Outta Compton yet? It took me nearly an hour into my screening before I could get over the fact that O’Shea Jackson Jr. wasn’t, in fact, a digital recreation of his father, Ice Cube, from the early 1990s. The kid is a dead ringer for his father, and I assumed that the stark resemblance to a jerry curled Ice Cube is what landed Jackson Jr. the role. Turns out, Cube made his son work harder than most to earn the role, and his training paid off.
F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton has been crushing it at the box office, adding to what has become a banner year for Universal Studios. But just because Ice Cube was a producer on the movie doesn’t mean he handed his son the plum role of playing one of N.W.A’s founding members. The young actor told PEOPLE that he went through "the wringer" just for the opportunity to play his dad in the movie, explaining:
For two years I was going to acting classes, learning techniques, going to auditions, callbacks, and things like that. … When you haven't acted before, it's a big dish. But I couldn't sit in a theater and think someone is portraying my father the wrong way. If I was thinking 'Oh, he wouldn't have done that,' it would've nauseated me."
Ice Cube had to realize how important it was to cast the right person to play himself – and the other vital members of N.W.A – if Straight Outta Compton was going to soar. But he also knew that if he just handed the role to his son, with no competition, he would get crucified. The young actor put his nose to the grindstone, training for months with acting coaches including Aaron Speiser and Susan Batson, whose clients include Will Smith and Nicole Kidman, respectively. Still, O’Shea Jackson Jr. had to beat others out for the role. To that end, the producer/star said that the final round of auditions came down to everyone having to choose between two other possible Ice Cubes and three Dr. Dre’s. The final test was having the actors rap their own versions of the songs on the seminal N.W.A album "Straight Outta Compton." That’s when Jackson Jr.’s skills as a musician came into play. A source close to the production told PEOPLE that Jackson’s skills on the mic ultimately earned him the role.
Once you have seen Straight Outta Compton, you’ll wonder how anyone BUT O’Shea Jackson Jr. could have played young Ice Cube. The kid does a dead-on impersonation of his famous father, but also gives a subtle and powerful performance as an angry, upcoming artist finding his voice amid racial turmoil. I do wonder what other parts O’Shea Jackson Jr. could play in the future. But I also look forward to finding out what this actor will do next.