I grew up being called Lil’ Stan. Before I came into this world, my father, Stan McKenzie, desperately wanted another son. Instead, out popped the most effeminate baby he’d ever seen—with his exact same face. My resemblance to him has forever branded me Lil’ Stan.
So when O’Shea Jackson Jr., who also has a paternal familiarity in face, voice and swag to his father O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, spoke about the very real burden of being his father’s son, I could relate.
“That ‘junior’ is difficult,” the Godzilla: King of the Monsters star told ESSENCE earlier this year. “The ‘junior’ is a gift and a curse…It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of pressure put on a son to bear his father’s name, but at the end of the day, pressure makes diamonds so what are you scared of?”
“First of all, I take joy in carrying my father’s name,” Jackson Jr. continued. “I love the fact that he will live on through me. It is an honor to be a junior always, but you will always be reminded. You’re always asked if you’re walking in your father’s footsteps or you’re trying to be better than your father.”
For Jackson Jr. he doesn’t have either goal—necessarily—despite the fact that he’s in two films this year, Long Shot, and Godzilla, out Friday, and he has dreams of screenwriting and telling his own stories onscreen.
“There are two O’Sheas. It’s two of us and it’s about making this name last throughout the test of time,” he clarified.
One of the ways that Jackson Jr. is ensuring his and his father’s name remains in the Hollywood history books is through the roles he chooses. The actor and father of one admitted he’s been very intentional since his break-out role in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton.
“I’ve always been taught by my father that when it comes to this business, never do a movie that you wouldn’t go see yourself. At the same time, I know that after Straight Outta Compton, a lot of people might have their own [thoughts on] the type of person I am; the type of actor I am.”
“Every role that I picked after that,” he continued, “was for me to show range. It was for me to show that I can get down and I can rub elbows with the best of them. This whole thing has been, of course, just part of the strategy just to further show that I’m here to stay.”
Jackson Jr. considers Godzilla: King of the Monsters—the 35th film in the Godzilla franchise, which dates back to 1954—”the second movie I was born to play,” adding that being on the set felt like being “a kid in a candy store.”
“It’s definitely the most explosions I’ve ever had at work,” he added with a laugh.
In the action-packed film, Jackson Jr. plays Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, a member of the team dedicated to protecting civilians when Godzilla faces off with three other creatures.
Along with getting in physical shape, Jackson Jr. said he was taken aback by how mentally tough he had to be in order to keep viewers on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next.
“I was not mentally prepared,” he admitted. “You don’t know how much running you’re gonna do. You don’t know what they’re gonna throw at you especially when you have 18 hour days, and you’re finishing work and the sun is coming up. It’s definitely a grind.”
Godzilla: King of the Monsters, also starring True Bloods’ Aisha Hinds, is in theaters Friday.