Rock says he won't skip out on show


July 24, 2005|By Maria Elena Fernandez

HOLLYWOOD -- Ever since UPN showed clips of Everybody Hates Chris to advertisers and the media in May, the television industry has been abuzz with one question: How involved will comedian Chris Rock really be?

The comedy, inspired by Rock's experiences growing up in the 1980s in Brooklyn, is the critical favorite of the entire fall lineup, but the tide could turn quickly if Rock, who narrates each episode with his own special touch, flies the coop to, say, star in a movie. The pilot first belonged to Fox Broadcasting Corp., but executives there eventually passed on it, fearing Rock wouldn't stick around past the first episode.

At a gathering of television critics in Beverly Hills this past week, UPN president of entertainment Dawn Ostroff said: "To the extent that his voice is going to be on the show and he has to read the script to do the voice-over -- that's an excellent guarantee. This is inspired by his own life. Chris is involved in the stories, he was certainly involved in the first story, and is involved in the co-creative process now. Three years down the road, I don't know if he'd still be as involved as he is right now, but he will still be narrating the show and doing the voice-over."

A few minutes later, Rock made the Beverly Hilton ballroom roar with laughter: "I've been working a while. I don't think I've ever done anything and walked out. I don't think there's any evidence of that. My name is Rock, not Chappelle," a reference to Comedy Central's AWOL star, Dave Chappelle.

Everybody Hates Chris stars Tichina Arnold and Terry Crews as Rock's parents and 12-year-old Tyler James Williams as Rock, who grew up in a Brooklyn ghetto and was bused to a predominantly white school. Rock, who said he was raised in a loving home with his parents and six siblings, made his fictional family smaller because of the challenges of writing stories for seven children. In the show, there are three children.

"People talk about racism all the time, but after you get a certain number of dollars, a lot of that goes away," said co-creator Ali LeRoi. "We're dealing with class issues much more so than race issues. It's not black folks don't get along with white folks. It's which black folks don't get along with which white folks and why. It's broke people trying to do the best they can and we're not going to make a speech about it. We're just going to show them doing it."

In the pilot, scheduled to air Sept. 22, the young Chris responds to bullies by trash-talking and intimidating them into leaving him alone. Asked where the producers found Tyler, Rock responded with a gag:

"How it'd go? I was at Michael Jackson's house, right. ... I'm leaving and I'm in the driveway and this kid runs out, 'Wait, wait, save me!' "

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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