Like father, like son in NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

O'SHEA Jackson Jr's acting debut is anything but typical.

The 24-year-old plays his father - rapper and actor Ice Cube - in Straight Outta Compton.

The film, which charts the rise and fall of influential US hip-hop group NWA, is already the highest grossing musical biopic of all time after spending three weeks at the top of the US box office.

Neil Brown Jr, Aldis Hodge, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and O’Shea Jackson Jr in a scene from Straight Outta Compton.
Neil Brown Jr, Aldis Hodge, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and O’Shea Jackson Jr in a scene from Straight Outta Compton. Photos Contributed

He went through a two-year audition process and acting lessons before being cast opposite Corey Hawkins (Dr Dre) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E).

"Things could have gone a different way. I could have given up in the beginning and let a seasoned actor come and play him and me feel my certain ways about it," Jackson tells Weekend.

"I could have got the role and completely bombed and ended my career before it could even take off, or I could knock it out of the park. The added pressure was all from myself. I couldn't have anyone thinking anything about my father other than what I felt."

Jackson said he felt like the rookie on set - Hawkins studied acting at the prestigious Juilliard School - except when he was performing as Ice Cube.

"My cast mates knew that I was coming in with four years' worth of onstage experience (rapping as OMG) under my belt. They let me take my quarterback role when it came to those scenes. When they tell you 'we're following you' that means a lot when you're the young guy."

The film chronicles the personal experiences of the five core NWA members, such as growing up with racial tensions in their LA suburb of Compton, that informed their music.

The group's hit songs including Panic Zone, Straight Outta Compton and the controversial F*** tha Police laid the foundations for '90s gangsta rap.

"NWA was five great minds thinking alike… and that can lead to monumental change," Jackson says.

"I think what people grab on to is the fact that the members of the hopeless found hope and were able to get out and build empires. That David and Goliath, rags to riches story is something everyone can relate to."

There are also plenty of lighter moments, such as NWA's early recording sessions where Eazy-E first attempted to rap.

"We wanted to make sure our movie was like real life; in life you cry, you think, you laugh," Jackson says.

"Another key point my father (as producer) wanted was to not have him frown all the time. These guys are icons, yes, but humans first. Everybody likes to laugh more than they like to frown."

Straight Outta Compton is just the start of Jackson's on-screen career. He studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California and is a self-confessed film buff whose favourite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski.

"I don't want to just be a one-hit wonder," he says.

"Movies are my thing and I want a long career in cinema."

Straight Outta Compton is in cinemas now.

Straight Outta Compton

Stars: O'Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti.

Director: F Gary Gray

Rating: MA 15+

Reviewer's last word: This biopic of influential rap group NWA and its famous members, including Ice Cube and Dr Dre, is well crafted and introduces a talented young cast. It's a visceral, beat-thumping, albeit partisan, story of the highs and lows of fame.

Star profile: Corey Hawkins

Quirky fact: Is a graduate of the Juilliard School and made his Broadway debut as Tybalt opposite Orlando Bloom in Romeo and Juliet (2014).

Best known for: Straight Outta Compton, Non-Stop, Iron Man 3.

If you like this movie you'll like these: Friday, 8 Mile, Hustle and Flow, Set It Off.

Quote: "I'm the same person at home and on the red carpet, although I'm a little more shy at home."

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