We had the opportunity to interview four of the stars from Netflix’s Project Power; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Foxx, Dominique Fishback and Rodrigo Santoro. They spoke about everything from their definition of a superhero, what it’s like to be an actor who’s also a parent, and best of all, the truth behind Dominique Fishback’s rapping skills in the movie.
The synopsis reads:
On the streets of New Orleans, word begins to spread about a mysterious new pill that unlocks superpowers unique to each user.
The catch: You don’t know what will happen until you take it. While some develop bulletproof skin, invisibility, and super strength, others exhibit a deadlier reaction.
However, when the pill escalates crime within the city to dangerous levels, a local cop named Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) teams with a teenage dealer named Robin (Dominique Fishback) and a former soldier fueled by a secret vendetta named Art (Jamie Foxx) to track down and stop the group responsible for creating it.
Project Power also stars Rodrigo Santoro, who portrays the antagonist and dealer of the power pill drug named Biggie.
Netflix’s Project Power is slated to premiere on Netflix on 14 August 2020. Stay tuned for our review as well.
Here’s what they had to say to the questions we asked:
Q: Everyone in this movie is morally compromised in some way or another. No one quite fits the description of what you’d call a “superhero.” Talk to me about what it was that drew you to this particular character?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I honestly just thought it would be really fun. I’d just take a couple of years off acting because I’m a dad now and wanted to spend some time with my babies. My first job back was this movie called 7500, which also just came out, and it’s very intense, very heavy and very serious.
After doing that, I just wanted to do something fun and so, when I read the script, and I saw, oh, it’s going to be Jamie Foxx, and we’re going to get to go to New Orleans. This is definitely going to be fun, so I signed up and it was fun.
Rodrigo Santoro: First thing I had was a good reaction to the script. It was a very fresh take, it’s not a superhero movie, but it’s a movie that talks about superpowers, like superpowers for regular people. I liked the premise of the film, I liked playing this part, and I also thought it would be fun to do it.
The character I played goes through a very interesting transformation and I thought, I’d never done that before. I wanted to try and exercise that. Then, I had a great conversation with the directors of the film. They are not only incredibly talented but also very open to talk and discuss your ideas and suggestions.
It’s what an artist wants, to have an environment where they can be creative and collaborate. All of that, it was really great, I had the same experience with Joseph, I had a lot of fun doing it.
Q: You took a two year hiatus from acting and have come back into it at the strangest time. Both 7500 and Project Power are digital releases. And I wanted to ask you if there was a difference in approach when you know you’re making a movie for the cinema and when you’re making a movie for the small screen?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Honestly, I don’t think there’s really much of a difference, but there’s definitely a difference in how they’re received. When we’re shooting, we shot it just like any other film, I suppose that as things evolve, there will be more and more differences. For now, we just made a movie, and it’s exciting to me that so much more people are going to get to watch it, seeing as it’s on Netflix.
You know, let’s be honest, movies can be expensive. I love the cinema, I love sitting in a dark room with a crowd full of people and sharing a film together. I think it changes it, but cinemas can be expensive for families to pay for all the tickets and buy popcorn, parking and everything else.
I like the idea that the things I work on getting to be out there and get to as many people as possible, not just people that have money. Granted, not everybody has Netflix, but a lot more people do and that’s exciting to me.
Q: In genre movies like this one, it’s clear that the person having the most fun is the one playing the big bad guy. Who is “Biggie” and what makes him tick?
Rodrigo Santoro: I agree with you. I don’t know if I had the most fun, but I had a lot of fun playing it.
Biggie is a salesman, he’s the main representative of the power pill. He’s got big ideas, he wants to sell the power pill all over the world and wants to make it big. He really wants to make a big splash, he thinks he’s going to change the world, he’s a visionary. He’s very confident in his vision. That’s the character he’s built for himself, to be able to seduce people and to sell.
Underneath that, he’s a very insecure and weird guy that doesn’t know how to be or how to think. He just wants to have and be accepted, be somebody.
There’s a reason why his name is Biggie, which becomes really clear in the movie, not only physically but it’s about getting big and making it big, it’s about having power and how far human beings go for power, to become bigger. Metaphorically speaking, that’s my take on him.
Q: Joseph, you recently revealed you took some time off when you had kids and Rodrigo, you have a three-year-old – has being a dad changed the way you select roles or approach the industry?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: For the most part, it’s just a matter of quantity. Before I was a dad, I was going from movie to movie, I was lucky to do it. Now I don’t want to do that. I’m less interested in taking a bunch of shots and be like oh, do this and this and this, and maybe some of them will be good, let’s see.
I’m like, this is the movie I’m going to do this year and I will choose wisely. Doesn’t mean I’ll be right every time but I don’t know, that’s the difference.
Rodrigo Santoro: Having a kid really changes everything. I just heard, but you only really understand once you’re experiencing it. It changed me, so it changed my way of receiving things and choosing things. I agree with Joseph, I feel the same way. When I was younger, I would go for things. Now, I’m much pickier, in a good way, where I’m going to put my time and energy while being away from my kid.
So, I have to choose wisely, but also, it changes you so much, like having more perspective on things. It changed me as a person and an actor. Now, I look at a role or at a project and I have a different understanding.
You mature when you become a parent, this is the only thing that matures you in that way. It’s hard to explain, I don’t want to be that dad that talks about how beautiful it is to have kids, even though it is. It’s just a huge transformation, it did change me about how I choose things.
Q: For Rodrigo Santoro, from 300 to Westworld to Project Power, how do you approach all your different roles and what advice do you have for fledgeling actors to improve their acting range?
Rodrigo Santoro: I like to do different stuff, it’s like a recycling process for me. I always have an appetite for non-average joes. I like to do different stuff because that’s when I’ll get more excited. I get to research and try things, and get to know worlds and behaviours that I would never be able to know, far away from my world. I’ve been attracted to them and I’ve been going from one thing to another. It’s natural, I don’t try to do that to be different or cool or whatever, It’s just what drives me very much, and also the story and the character.
As for advice, it’s very hard because I don’t believe in a formula for art. I don’t believe you can tell people to go this way or that way. What I believe in is the commitment you have for things. I think that each artist has to find their own way to collaborate.
Joseph has a platform called HitRecord, which is a great example of that. It’s a space where artists and people can come together to collaborate together. I think that you, as an artist, what you have to find is your own way to develop your tool. The tool of an artist is your voice, your body, your emotions and your intellect. If you find a way to develop your knowledge and understanding as well as do inner work, artists work with themselves.
As much as you can understand who you are, and that’s not hippie talk. That’s real. I’ve been studying a lot of neuroscience now since I started doing Westworld. I really got into it and it’s incredibly illuminating. I’ve been learning about the brain and mind, and it’s been helping me.
There is no formula. The only thing I say to people who want to be artists is to commit and find their voice, their power and work with that, develop that and express it. Everybody has it, it’s just about how you deal with it.
Q: What is your definition of a superhero?
Dominique Fishback: My definition of a superhero is someone who extends whatever power they may have to help other people. A superhero doesn’t have to have powers, they can just be words or whatever gifts that you have. If you can use that to lend itself to other people, I think that’s what makes a superhero.
Jamie Foxx: My definition of a superhero is the man who brings the party. You know, hang out, who got the drinks. You got the right beer, that takes it to another level, drink man, drink man! I’m thirsty, drink man, how may I help you? That’s my definition of a true superhero.
Q: That was some incredible rapping you performed in Project Power – were you freestyling, and how much freedom did you have to make it your own?
Dominique Fishback: I wish I was freestyling. I’m a spoken word poet, so I love rhythm and rhyme and the meaning of words. I don’t really rap. When I first saw the script, I saw the rhymes and I was thinking that I might have to use my own poetic skills to enhance it.
But then Jamie found the rapper Chika, who plays Robin’s friend in class. She actually wrote every single rap that Robin has in the movie. Shoutout to her because she’s amazing.
Jamie Foxx: You’re amazing (to Dominique Fishback)!
Q: It’s interesting how Project Power explores the superhero genre in an unconventional way – why do you think audiences are so captivated by the idea of superheroes?
Jamie Foxx: Our movie comes from an organic place. It actually comes from a pill, and you can take that pill and you won’t know what you’re going to get. If you were an adventurous person, let’s grab a few pills and I’ll meet you at the park, you know what I mean. I’ll meet you at the park because I’m getting ready to fly and catch on fire. Give me ten minutes and I’ll be like (makes swooshing sounds).
Q: What do you want audiences to take away from Project Power?
Dominique Fishback: It’s super exciting, the idea of this pill, and what you would do if there was a pill giving you powers for five minutes. But at the end of the day, we don’t have that pill, so I would hold on to the fact that Robin’s power is within.
Like Jamie’s character tells her, it is within herself. I would want people to be excited of the fact that we do have power inside of us and discovering it could be one of the most beautiful experiences of our lives.
Jamie Foxx: What I want people to take away from this film is Dominique Fishback because she is amazing. She will be standing in front of an audience one day and say, I would like to thank the academy, I would like to thank the members, I would like to thank my mama, I would like to thank Brooklyn. To me, this is a coming-out party for her.
The movie itself is amazing but to have someone who can really like bring the humanity to the film. I think it wouldn’t work if it’s just about special effects, you have to have someone who’s bringing to you, brings it in a way that’s vulnerable and powerful. It really is true, her power lies within, and I cannot wait. Hashtag #DominiqueFishback, that’s what we’re doing. August 14 on Netflix!
Q: Sandwiched between all of the shooting and the explosions is a thread about Robin finding her own superpower. Which, in this case, means finding her voice. I was wondering if you could speak to Robin’s insecurities as well as her determination to stay away from using Power and stay clean.
Dominique Fishback: I think Robin feels a little bit lost, with her mom being sick and if she loses her mom, she has no one. But because she doesn’t have a father, she has this dream of being a rapper but how do you get that if she’s too nervous to do it in front of people. And so when Art comes into her life, it looks unfavourable but he really does change her life. She opens up to him, he’s the very first adult that she shares her rapping with and he encourages her that she already has this inside of her.
I just loved that it changed from her thinking that she needed her father and feeling that void to learn that she’s actually looking for herself and that this is the way in which you find yourself. Her determination was admirable indeed but for me, I was like, can Robin take a power pill and see what kind of powers she would get.
I would’ve been excited to see that but to understand the power of her not having taken it and who she actually is was actually more powerful. No pun intended.
Q: It’s so rare that we see movies shot where they’re set. As an actor, what does it mean to you that a movie set in New Orleans is actually shot in New Orleans? Does that help with the authenticity of your performance in any way?
Jamie Foxx: I tell you, New Orleans has a vibration that can get inside you, it’s almost like even in the raining scenes, being wet in New Orleans just has something to it that makes it special. When you can show the city and the way the city looks, it becomes a character in the film and so, shoutout to the 504, shoutout to the people there that helped us make this incredible project.
They have a leg up over everybody else when it came to where we wanted to shoot. Me, that’s where I would love to be because they have a certain amount of skin. The skin of the people is beautiful and I would like to be wrapped up in it, like extra skin. I don’t even know what I’m talking about or what I’m saying but it’s amazing.
Q: What was it like working with Jamie Foxx and the other cast?
Dominique Fishback: It was beyond what I could have hoped for. Even off set, we got to hang out, we had a very special Halloween. It was the best Halloween of my life where we were all dressed up and Jamie rented a bus. We went to the zoo, where we saw the animals and people had their family and friends there. We also went to a haunted house shooting up zombies, swamp tours and ghost trains.
All of these I only ever saw on TV as a kid, and so not only am I living my dream of being an actress on a film like this with Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I was also living a childhood dream of just having a Halloween that was just magical like something from the movies.