Godzilla: King of the Monsters is stomping back to theaters this week! And to celebrate, The Nerds of Color will be continuing our series of interviews with the cast and crew to countdown to the opening of the biggest monster hit of the summer! As part of the series we had a chance to chat with actor O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton, Long Shot), who plays Jackson Barnes, Monarch’s main man on the ground.
As the day began the one thing that was apparent, from his deep rooted knowledge and enthusiasm for Godzilla movies, to the Miles Morales Nikes he was rocking, was that Godzilla: King of the Monsters actor O’Shea Jackson Jr. was one of us — a true nerd of color! We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with O’Shea to discuss his role in the movie, his love for Godzilla, and the importance of the multi-cultural ensemble in the film. Here’s what he had to say:
NOC: Thanks for being here for us O’Shea! How’s your day going?
Jackson: It’s all good! I’m just talking about Godzilla all day, which I do normally!
I love that! So I’m from a publication called The Nerds of Color. And really our focus is to shine the light on some of the underrepresented voices in the industry. And really I think that you are such a strong and wonderful voice in that industry, that we wanted to get your thoughts on a couple of things. When we think about previous Americanized versions of Godzilla (the 1998 Roland Emmerich film and the 2014 predecessor to this film) we’ve actually come a long way. Most of the casts in the previous films were predominantly Caucasian actors. But now in King of the Monsters such a multi-culturally diverse cast, and it’s brilliant that we’re getting to that point. You and Aisha Hinds are really the first African American prominent characters in the franchise. How do you feel about that and can you speak to that?
It’s awesome! I definitely spazzed out, first of all to find out I get to be in Godzilla, then to find out I play Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, part of the G-Team, you get to have a cool role! It’s dope. Usually you don’t care about the humans in a Godzilla movie… But it’s super dope that when the tide seems to be changing, that I get to be a part of it. I found out a couple of weeks ago that there’s a Chief Warrant Officer Barnes keychain. And I don’t remember ever any human toys for Godzilla. I don’t remember any humans licensed as Godzilla toys. So for the first one to be blackass Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, I’m into that! (laughing) That’s awesome! I can’t wait to just get like 50 of those!
I loved Barnes! In my opinion, not only was he the feet on the ground who gets into it, but he’s also speaking as the voice of the audience! And for the first time in a Godzilla movie, I remembered the names of the characters, because they actually do something in the movie! So as a Godzilla fan was that something that appealed to you about the role — that the humans do stuff?
Yeah! I remember my first day there, I had to realize that I was never going to see Godzilla. I’m about to do all this work, and I’ll never get to see him! But it’s about doing your job to the best of your ability. And when you have such a crazy cast, you know, this cast is like an all-star game of actors. Sally Hawkins just came off winning an award! We got Tywin Lannister! We’re stacked! It’s just amazing to be a part of it. It is important to do your part as the humans of the story. If we did a Godzilla film that was just about making a bunch of CGI creatures go at it, we would have no substance to our film. It won’t stand out. And every nerd hates cash grabs, where [the studio] knows you’ll just go see it. And that’s not what we got!… That’s Mike [Dougherty] finding that balance!
If I can ask, one of the things I loved about today was how enthusiastic you are about Godzilla. You are an expert in my opinion, and that’s such a breath of fresh air when you’re going into a conference and someone’s all about everything about Godzilla. Can you talk about how you got introduced to the character and the franchise and what it’s meant to you from when you were growing up to now?
Well I remember watching Godzilla on the SyFy Network on Saturdays. I think the first one I watched was Godzilla Vs. Mecha-Godzilla. And at first I’d never seen anything like Godzilla before. I was just always watching with my father and my older brother Darrell, and then I started to realize “Okay. This 3-headed dragon keeps popping up. He’s in a lot of movies, and he tends to give Godzilla the most work.” Then I saw Godzilla vs. Mothra and she beat him… I didn’t know he could lose. That was the only time I saw Godzilla lose, so that was when I got my respect for her — The Queen! And Rodan, what I loved about Rodan was as a kid I would look at Rodan and was like “this is just a pterodactyl.” And in ours, we take him to a level of badassery — The Fire Demon!… And the music! This is the first American Godzilla movie that used the music! Mike is paying homage to the original content. And if you’re going to be part of a legacy, if you’re going to be welcomed as part of a family, into the Toho kingdom, you better pay respects to what came before you. And we did that!
Were there any MVPs that you were disappointed you didn’t see in this movie that you wanted to see in future installments?
Mecha-Godzilla for sure!… My man with the spikes, Anguirus. I thought for sure we’d get a shout-out to him. And my most feared Godzilla villain to this day, Gigan! Gigan is no joke! The hooks! The buzzsaw chest! As a kid that was the bloodiest Godzilla movie I had ever seen! I was like “We’re dead! We are going to die! There’s no way Godzilla should have lived!” He might be too raw. I can’t figure out how they’d work that out to get him in. Can you imagine the Legendary adaptation of what Gigan would look like? It would just be unreal! So if I had to choose, if they’re going somewhere after Kong vs Godzilla, some organization has to make up a Mecha-Godzilla. We’ll see where they go!
If you get a chance to return as Barnes, what do you want to see for your character?
In King of the Monsters, we definitely find a number of titans. And I would love to see how we got there. Barnes is a CW3. And with a CW3 you need 22 years of military experience before you’re allowed to be a CW3. So that means what was the G-Team like in the beginning? When they decided we need a branch of military under [Monarch]. I just think that’d be so interesting! And it’s a way where we wouldn’t have to use Godzilla so much. You can figure out a way to do that. I would love to figure out just more of these missions that call for us to capture titans!… After you do Kong and Godzilla, Legendary has all these trophies. What are you going to do to use them? Can’t let them get dusty!
You looked dope as hell at the premiere. And I have to ask, the necklace you were rocking, the Johnny Dang necklace — How did it feel? Was it heavy? Was it cool? Did you feel powerful?
I was getting dressed, and they go “So Johnny Dang has come up with this necklace and they want you to wear it.” And I looked at it, and my first thought was “Well who the hell else would wear this?” Maybe Ken Watanabe? He would rock it and it would be crazy, but like, yeah [I thought] “You need me to have this!” I’ve known Johnny since I was 15, and when I got to the carpet he was like “Yo! I got something I want you to wear!” And I rocked it for the carpet to show off the piece for my man. And you know, I’ll have to bug him later today, because I need that! I need that in my life! To rock the giant Godzilla piece at the premiere of the Godzilla movie I get to be in is a dream come true!
Well a mega fan like yourself, you certainly deserve it! Thank you so much for everything!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters hits theaters this Friday, May 31. And stay tuned for more Godzilla fun coming your way this week, with an interview with Oscar-nominated actor, Ken Watanabe, as well as our review of the movie! And if you haven’t checked out our interview with director Michael Dougherty, click here!