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It's getting harder and harder to remember Jamie Foxx the comedian. Earlier this year he surprised us with his hook on Twista and Kanye West's smash "Slow Jamz," and now his latest serious movie role has critics abuzz with talk of an Oscar nomination. In "Ray," Foxx plays the legendary singer who rose to the top while battling blindness, prejudice and a crippling drug habit. The musical pioneer was the first to blend R&B with gospel music, and as Foxx explained to MTV's Vanessa White Wolf, he set the stage for much of what we hear in popular music today.

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MTV: So our audience, being as young as it is, might not be as familiar with Ray Charles as it should be.

Jamie Foxx: No, they shouldn't be. I mean, that's how it is. Ray Charles was 70 years old, so I understand that.

MTV: So besides the fact that Charles was a musical genius, why do you think young people should be interested in this movie?

Foxx: 'Cause I'm in it. And that's the thing — I connect with the MTV crowd. I've hosted MTV, and you know, there's been times when I've gone to "TRL," took Tom Cruise to "TRL," took all these people to "TRL." So that base is going to be enlightened about the music that they are hearing now. They are going to see the young Puffy and the young Jermaine Dupri in Ray Charles when he was starting out. He wanted to own his own [master recordings]. He wanted to produce the music that he wanted to produce. When Puffy started out — and not to do a comparison to Puffy at all, I'm just using that so someone watching MTV could understand — when this guy starts out to blaze the trail ... That's what Ray Charles did, he blazed the trail so we could have that type of music. You know, a lot of the music that we hear that's sampled and chopped up is because of Ray Charles.

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 Check out the "Ray" trailer, red carpet photos and more.

MTV: Your transformation into Ray Charles is pretty amazing. Not only did you undergo a physical transformation, you spent a lot of time with him.

Foxx: Well, spending time with him, you get it straight from him. Then watching him, the things I thought about before I met him, it's just the rocket. And then when you meet him, it's the way he sat down, the way he ordered his food, the way he talks to his family, you know, the way he gets mad and he internalizes things. Those are the things you can pull from. And then he let me know about the drugs, about the women. You know, definitely it's a rock and roll story. If you look at it, he was definitely rock and roll. He was hip-hop. He was everything. It was tragic, the adversities he had to go through. And the main thing was getting that nuance of him, just the quietness, the small things that really make you go beyond Ray Charles. Even for an MTV kid watching who didn't know anything about it, it's like, "Wow, look at this man deal with all these different things as a young kid." You know, about not having sight and how he came out triumphant.

MTV: How challenging was it for you, and how rewarding was it for you, to do that? You had to lose 35 pounds and you had to walk around not being able to see.

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Foxx: Yeah, losing the weight is tough when you're eating good. And like, I'm getting checks — I've got money. I'm fixin' to get a burger. you know what I'm saying? I'm going to El Pollo Loco. So, you know, you had to turn all that off. Will Smith did a great thing by calling me. Nobody knew he was calling me. He was calling me at 2 o'clock in the morning. I'm coming home from a club, all wildin' out, he'd say, "If you don't get your ass home and really study and get down and do this man justice ... because I think that you have the talent to do it." And he said, "It's going to be a surprise for you." And so hearing that from Big Willie Style really made me get in there and do the best I could.

Check out everything we've got on "Ray."

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Photo: Universal Studios

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