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Jamie Foxx interview: The 'Soul' star on the music and message

Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey in Soul
Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey voice lost souls Joe Gardner and 22 (Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx leads an all-star voice cast in Pixar’s new family film Soul, which beautifully ponders the meaning of life to a jazz-tastic soundtrack.

Foxx plays struggling music teacher and jazz pianist Joe Gardner, who lands the gig of a lifetime in New York, only to fall down a manhole and be transported to cosmic realms called The Great Before and The Great Beyond. 

But when Joe encounters a cynical, petulant soul known as 22 (voiced by 30 Rock star Tina Fey) and persuades her to help him return to Earth, will they end up finding answers to some of life’s big questions? 

Here, Foxx reveals more about Pixar's animated adventure Soul, coming to Disney+ on Dec. 25. (You can read our full Soul review now.)

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Jamie Foxx on his role as a struggling jazz pianist in Soul

"Joe Gardner’s dream is to play with jazz legends, and I was born with a similar spark because I came out singing and telling jokes," says Foxx, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles. "I’m like a big kid, really, but it works to my advantage as you need a child-like spirit to play a character like this. 

"I've done animations before, but my 11-year-old daughter, Annalise, said she wanted me to do the ‘good kind’, ha!" Foxx laughs. "This role is momentous, though, and there’s music, which is what I set out to do with my career. Plus, everyone is going through a weird time right now and we need good things. Soul is great!"

Jamie Foxx on his musical inspiration for the film

"Everything I’ve done has always revolved around music and I listened to many musicians to prepare for this film, from jazz pianist Thelonious Monk to the film’s very-own jazz composer, Jon Batiste," says Foxx, who’s also a Grammy Award-winning musician. "I always think back to meeting Ray Charles, too, plus cats from my hometown in Texas. Just guys who build wonderful worlds with musical notes." 

Jamie Foxx on Soul’s themes of mentorship and not taking life for granted

"I really relate to the film’s message," says Foxx. "I lost my sister [DeOndra Dixon], who had Down’s syndrome, in October and this film exemplifies what I’m going through in a beautiful, strange way – the bittersweetness of losing someone, but also gaining a vision of joy about how she taught me to love the little things in life. I just want to say to everybody, ‘Live your life!’

"I’ve also talked to many young actors over the years, from Michael B Jordan [Creed] to the late Chadwick Boseman [Black Panther]," he says. "But I stay artistically young by finding people like, say, Ed Sheeran, who stayed on my couch when he was starting out. I took him to an all-black night in LA, and when he went on stage with a ukulele, I thought there’d be riots. He got a standing ovation and the rest is history!"

Who else is in Soul? 

Black Panther star Angela Bassett plays jazz legend Dorothea Williams, and Jingle Jangle's Phylicia Rashad voices Joe’s pragmatic mother, Libba. 

UK presenter Graham Norton also features, playing hippie human billboard Moonwind, alongside British comedian Richard Ayoade as an abstract soul counsellor in The Great Before. 

When and where can you watch Soul? 

The film is available to stream in Britain and the U.S. on Disney+ from Christmas Day.