“I don’t want people to feel like we got lucky,” said Jason Mitchell, the subject of an increasing amount of best supporting actor Oscar buzz for his portrayal of the late hip-hop artist Eazy-E in Universal’s “Straight Outta Compton.”

“For lack of a better expression, we worked our asses off,” added the young star.

Along with Mitchell, his costars O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who plays his father Ice Cube) and Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) and the film’s director F. Gary Gray are also being recognized. Awards voters are being asked to consider the film for best picture, Gray for best director, Jackson and Hawkins for best actor and Mitchell for best supporting actor.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Straight Outta Compton”—a $28 million, R-rated, two-and-a-half-hour drama that subjects/producers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre spent 13 years trying to get made —resulted in one of the few films of 2015 that has won the enthusiastic seal-of-approval of critics (89 percent positive reviews), audiences (it’s about to hit $200 million worldwide) and, at least to some degree, Academy members (it got an over-the-moon reception at its official Academy screening over the summer).

“We had no idea that people would respond to it this way,” said Gray, the film’s director. “I felt like ‘Compton’ was the film of a lifetime. It’s partly my story, as well—I grew up on welfare, in the ‘hood, my mother had a drug addiction, my father wasn’t around, I didn’t have the resources to go to college, and I had to work my way out of a Compton-like environment to enter Hollywood without any resources, just like they did with music and electronics and then movies,” Gray says.

Gray’s association with Ice Cube dates back more than 20 years. After collaborating on some music videos, Gray explains, Cube recruited him—although he was just 24 years old—to direct the film “Friday,” which became the most profitable film of 1995.

The Compton story takes a very personal turn for Ice Cube. His son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., a student who was studying screenwriting at USC, had no plans to act prior to his father approaching him about “Straight Outta Compton.” However, he embraced the challenge and delivered a stellar performance.

Corey Hawkins’ (Dr. Dre) journey to “Compton” took him from Juilliard to Off-Broadway and then to Broadway. In the beginning, he wasn’t sure about taking the role. Understandably, the reasons for his brief hesitation centered on director Gray’s demands that he learn how to DJ professionally, like Dre, but on a very tight timetable. That’s a lot of pressure.

Mitchell (Eazy-E) went through some tough times himself, coming of age in post-Katrina New Orleans, and on landing the part in Compton he said, “I feel like I hit the life lottery.”

Mitchell says the unforgettable scene in which the police rough up N.W.A outside a recording studio for no reason—eerily similar to many recent incidents involving cops and young Black men—left him with “tears in my eyes.”

In the theater where I went, you could hear a pin drop. The scene was very realistic and disturbing.

And, about the powerful final moments of Eazy-E’s life in the film, Mitchell says, “I had a thousand things to cry about, and I was just allowed a moment to myself where I could really tap into something real … turning it on wasn’t really the problem, it was the turning it off.”

Gray emphasizes that “Straight Outta Compton” is not an anti-cop film. He says he is “optimistic” about the future of race relations in America and thanks the Academy for giving the film a fair hearing.