Meet Cedric Joe, LeBron James' biggest fan — and his Space Jam son
Cedric Joe, a 15-year-old L.A. native and diehard LeBron James fan, didn't think life could get any better than when the four-time NBA MVP signed in 2018 with the Los Angeles Lakers. If only he knew what was to come — and we're not talking about 2020 title that James and the Lakers won.
"I cried tears of joy," Joe recalls of being cast as James' son in the highly-anticipated Space Jam: A New Legacy. "I was just so happy."
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip), the follow up to the 1996 classic Space Jam finds James stepping into Michael Jordan's shoes and playing a heightened version of himself. The father of three is struggling to relate to younger son, Dom (Joe), who's more interested in creating games than playing sports. And when Dom's tech skills draw the attention of a rogue A.I. named Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), the father-son duo get sucked into the Warner 3000 entertainment "Server-verse." How will they get out? Well, round up the Looney Tunes and play a basketball game, of course!
As part of EW's New Legacy cover, Joe dished on learning he scored the coveted role, getting basketball tips from his GOAT, and choosing an unexpected favorite costar.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Space Jam was a bit before your time, but did you still have a relationship to it before being cast in New Legacy?
CEDRIC JOE: Oh yeah, definitely, because growing up I was always a big fan of basketball. I love basketball. So I watched Space Jam when I was younger, and so after I got the part I looked back at that, just getting the feel of how it would feel being in that Space Jam environment.
What was your reaction when you heard that they were making a new Space Jam, and then that you possibly had a chance to be in it?
My first reaction when I heard about it, I was thinking, "Another Space Jam?! In my generation?! That is going to be dope." Before I even got the call to audition, I was just thinking that's pretty cool, I wonder who they're going to cast for it and all that. LeBron was already a thought of playing that Michael Jordan role, because, to me, he's the greatest to ever play basketball. So my reaction was crazy. And getting the call to audition, it was cool, but I know in the business there was such a slim chance because of everybody that is auditioning for it. So my first reaction to getting an audition, I just told myself, "I'm going to go in there, give it my all, whatever happens, happens."
What was that audition process like? Did you eventually screen test opposite LeBron?
It was funny, I wasn't really too focused on the audition, but I still gave it my all. That was the same day I had a chemistry read for another role. And so when I did the audition, I went in there, got a callback. I was like, "I must have done something right." I did the callback, thinking I did really good, so I was like, "Okay, what's the next step?" And then I ended up getting a chemistry read, and around the chemistry read I was doing a play at the Geffen Playhouse [in L.A.], so it was a lot going on but I couldn't miss this chemistry read with LeBron. I was like, "Okay, I made it this far, now I have to get the part." So we made arrangements around the play and I ended up getting to go to the chemistry read and, boom, gave it my all.
So you're now really invested and I'm sure going to be crushed if you don't get it, so what was that moment like when you found you'd be playing LeBron's son in a Space Jam movie?
Oh man. I actually got the call opening night of my play, because we had been rehearsing for months. So opening night of the play and my parents didn't tell me I got the part until we got home. And hearing it… at first when they called me into the room, I was nervous, because they started recording. I was like, "What's about to happen?" And then when they told me I got the part, it was so many emotions going on, because it's like my first big role as a principal; there was so much going through my head and I did cry over the role. I cried tears of joy. I was just so happy.
I need to go back to something you said earlier: LeBron is your GOAT?
So what's your team? Or are you one of those LeBron fans who follow him wherever he goes?
I'm a LeBron fan but I was always a Laker fan because I was born and raised in L.A. Even with LeBron on the Heat, Cavaliers, whenever he went to the playoffs and finals I would always go for his team, no matter who he was playing. So when I heard he came to the Lakers, that was the greatest thing in basketball history for me. I was like, "What more can happen?"
Well, if only your summer 2018 self could see what else happened! Pivoting to your famous costars, where are you in terms of Looney Tunes fandom? Besides Space Jam, is that something your generation even has a connection to?
For me, personally, it was the Space Jam movie that really brought me closer to them. But my dad grew up watching the Looney Tunes and his favorite is Porky Pig. Him telling me that before I even got the part, I started watching Looney Tunes. And I love Daffy Duck, he is hilarious to me. When he talks and he spits, it's just so goofy. The Looney Tunes, it's so goofy that it's funny.
So who were you more excited to share the screen with: LeBron or Daffy?
Whoa. Daffy Duck or LeBron? I ain't gonna lie, LeBron might have to step down on this one. [Laughs] I had tons of fun filming with Daffy.
Daffy has enough shine already, let's talk about Dom.
Dominique James, of course growing up with LeBron as his dad, LeBron wants his son to play basketball. Basketball is what we grew up doing and seeing our dad play basketball, basketball is everything. But it's not exactly everything to Dom. He wants to explore more with technology, and specifically gaming. Creating games and playing games is more what he's into and I think that's really cool.
From everyone I've talked to, the heart of this story is about a father and a son. What was it like playing that out with LeBron, especially when he is starring as, well, LeBron?
For me, personally, I wouldn't say it was hard or a challenge or anything, it was just about the chemistry we had. And me growing up with a dad, I know how that bond is. So doing it with LeBron, I felt like once we built that chemistry we were able to actually go to that level, to that son and dad level.
Did you end up talking to his real kids at all?
We did see Bronny on the shoot, but it wasn't really questioning, it was more so studying how he communicated with his dad and his mannerisms and how they bonded and how they were close. It was more physical and less verbal, just watching.
How would you grade LeBron as movie dad?
He actually surprised me. Because going into it, I think he's a basketball player. But he's a really great actor. LeBron is actually a really great actor. And I think him being able to play himself made him more comfortable, being a father of three beautiful kids and that being natural for him, not being a challenge.
Don Cheadle told me that you and LeBron would go at it a few times on the court between takes. As a self-proclaimed diehard Laker and LeBron fan, that had to be pretty surreal.
Oh yeah, behind the scenes, it was so much fun. We definitely went at it a couple times. We did a lot of free throw contests. I would always win that first game and then when we'd play like 10 other games and I'd just get blown out. I never understood it. I love LeBron so much [that] I know what he's great at, what he's not good at, so I challenged him to a free throw contest. I think I did win two games. I even got to play Don Cheadle a little bit. We played a game of HORSE and I ended up winning. It was really cool getting to shoot and still play basketball, two things I love.
Did LeBron give you any tips? You can't ask for a better personal coach.
He did give me tips on different layups and stuff. And I felt like once I was done filming Space Jam my basketball game [had] progressed; I could tell the difference in how I was playing, and using the tips LeBron gave me. I remember coming home from shooting and everybody was like, "Oh, so you got the talk from LeBron?" Because of how I was playing. It was pretty dope getting that advice from my greatest of all-time.
Thinking back to production, is there a moment that sticks out to you? Maybe it was a favorite moment with LeBron.
Man, the whole process for me was super great. I would say just being there filming with LeBron and Don. When I was shooting with both of them that was mind-blowing for me, being with one of my big inspirations, Don Cheadle, and my greatest basketball player, and just watching the chemistry between all of us.
Has it even fully sunk in that you're one of the stars of a Space Jam movie? Or will that not hit you until closer to release?
I think it will hit me when it's closer to coming out. I don't really think it's hit me as hard yet because I'm still waiting. I'm definitely excited for the release.
We've talked a lot about your onscreen dad, so it's time for mom to get some shine. And your movie mom is played by Walking Dead alum Sonequa Martin-Green. What was it like working with her?
Her playing my mother was cool. And that comes back again to the chemistry, how comfortable we were, even seeing behind the scenes how close we were as a family and as a group. Acting together, she was great on camera, she was so nice off the camera, giving me tips and talking to me like the mother-son relationship we had. Everybody was so great. It was really a family, you could feel the bond we had.
What would be your message to fans of the original who are very eagerly anticipating the new film?
For me, I think if you love the first Space Jam, you're gonna love this one. It's going to be legendary, that's what I can say. Fans are going to love it. They are going to fall in love with it, the story, the characters. It's going to be great.
Besides New Legacy, where can we see you next?
I am currently in Mississippi filming [ABC's limited series] Women of the Movement and starring as Emmett Till. So look out for that. I'm so blessed and humbled to be a part of everything that is going on right now.
Yeah, it's definitely dope. And even getting to work with [Ma Rainey's Black Bottom star] Glynn Turman, who is playing my uncle [in Women of the Movement]. It's crazy watching him and Don Cheadle act and getting to talk to Glynn about working with Don and what his experiences were, which was similar to my experience in how nice he was [Turman starred as Cheadle's dad in Showtime's House of Lies]. Watching them act is like watching Albert Einstein solving an impossible math equation.
Space Jam: A New Legacy premieres July 16 in theaters and on HBO Max.
To read more on Space Jam: A New Legacy, order the April issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning March 19. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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