Meet the new guy from the weekend's No. 1 movie -- we think you'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future

By Gregory Kirschling
August 18, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

THE HOT PROJECT: Tropic Thunder

WHY HE’S HERE TO STAY In Thunder, as the rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino, the Detroit native plays the straight man, hilariously, to veteran funny guys Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Robert Downey Jr.

ON THE SET Jackson was a little too impressed by Downey’s take on a black man. ”Robert stayed in character the whole time. My mom got to the set and thought he was Don Cheadle. When I saw Iron Man, I said, ‘Omigod, he is white.”’

FAMILY FEEDBACK Jackson was unwilling to show Thunder to his parents, both pastors, until the premiere. That way, ”if they looked down on me, I could say, ‘Ben Stiller made me do it! Go talk to him — he’s right there!”’

COMING UP The 22-year-old recently wrapped the indie spy flick Rogue’s Gallery and is picking his next big project with care: ”I don’t want to be the black comedy guy. I want to be like the Barack of acting, where you don’t see a color, you just see a person.”