You haven’t had a lot of experience horseback riding and gunslinging on film. What was the preparation process like?
I got a head start, to be honest with you. I got my own personal horse about five years ago, and coming from Texas, there were always shotguns around. I even got the chance to ride my own horse in the movie because when we practiced in rehearsals, my horse was able to pick up the tricks.
Did you ever think, ”I’m going to try to keep up with all of Quentin Tarantino’s movie references”?
You’d kill yourself! Come on! I remember the first day I was like, ”I need to go home and watch all this stuff,” but then I realized there was just no way. That’s just Quentin. It’s what he’s been put on this earth to do.
You play a slave who exacts revenge on ruthless plantation owners. As a black man who grew up in tiny Terrell, Texas, did you feel a personal connection to the character?
I was called the N-word several times growing up as a kid. It was part of your daily life. Luckily, I got a chance to leave Texas and come to California and see that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I remember going back when they had Jamie Foxx Day in Terrell and some of those guys who called me that name came up and said, ”Hey, man, I apologize for what we did back in that time.” And that’s what really matters. But I did get a good dose of what it could be like. It doesn’t feel good, but it made me stronger.
You’re about to start shooting the new, untitled Roland Emmerich film, in which you’ll play the President of the United States. So you’re jumping from playing a slave to the Commander-in-Chief?
Yeah, it’s crazy. How’s this? [Impersonating President Obama] If there’s any indication that America isn’t the greatest country in the world…
I doubt you’ll be doing a full-on Obama impression.
I might do a little, though. I might do a little.