Recently I was invited to sit down to lunch with Mike Epps while he was here in Chicago promoting his new show Uncle Buck which airs on ABC (Read Part One of My Lunch With Mick Epps). We spoke on many things and one topic was his starring in the Richard Pryor movie.
Has there been a role that was more challenging than another for you?
Well, I think this Richard Pryor movie is going to be the most challenging role for me because it is a comedian playing a comedian. I have similar life experiences parallel to him but not as intense. I think it is going to be very challenging for me to embody somebody that I have always looked up to and it seems like it would be easier for me to do, but it is not because I am embodying somebody that is like a legend.
How do you prepare to be Richard Pryor?
I am approaching it very natural and what is crazy is that I did a lot of homework on him before I got the role just being a comedian. I just read about him and watched him and I almost patterned myself after him before I even got the role which is really crazy. When I went to study him and I read the book about him and did my homework on him, I said, “Wow Mike, you might kill yourself trying to put yourself through what he went through, trying to become him.” I am just doing it with a natural progression and what I know is what I know and what I trust is what I trust, but I think on the day that I am there on the set I think that Richard Pryor blessed me enough to give me the knowhow and strength to pull this off.
What surprised you about Richard Pryor?
I saw a clip of him singing and he was singing and man he could have been a singer. Like his voice was incredible. I was like wow Richard Pryor could sing. I hope you know when I tell you this dude was layered up… when I say layers, from education to a romantic person to a crazy street guy to very, very meek and very afraid and very vulnerable. I mean layers man and when you read this script that is what this script is. It is a roller coaster it is like now you see me now you don’t. Every time you see him he is a different person, but the same guy in different situations.
I read that there were people, including some of his family who weren’t happy about your being cast in the role. How are you handling the criticism and how do you maintain the confidence that you can really do it?
Of course on the critical side you know being criticized for what people think I am, or what they think I should do, or how I should do it is always a question for me, there is always a fear. Just tapping into somebody that was so complex because as an actor and a comedian I know for me to pull it off I have to go into some dark places in my own personal life that I don’t particularly like to go to, but a sacrifice is a sacrifice and in order to give people what they want I have to sacrifice that and disappear and go away and deeply engulf myself into this role.
Yeah, it was tough. Some of the family members, I think his daughter Rain and a couple of others disagreed with me playing Richard. I guess his widow ran his estate and that’s who I met first so whatever problems they had it was with his wife. I told them, “Hey, I’m an actor for hire. I don’t care what you say, ain’t nothing bigger than my life. If you don’t pick me I’m still going to do what I’m doing. I’m not going to jump off any buildings because of it.” And I lost it a couple of times. At one time they said Marlon Wayans was doing it and then it was Nick Cannon. What I knew about that was, I sat with him for a year before he died and none of them did that. I would go to his house and he really, really couldn’t talk that well because he had MS but his wife took care of him. Man, that’s what I had. I think I was born to play Richard Pryor.
The Richard Pryor film won’t be completed and released for a while but I can’t wait to see it. I know that Mike Epps is the perfect man for the role. In the next and final installment of My Lunch with Mike Epps we will talk about his career.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!