No star burned brighter than Chris Rock in the late 90s. He was doing massive HBO specials, starring in movies, and solidifying himself as one of the greatest comedians of all time. Rock recently sat on a panel for The Hollywood Reporter. On it, he talked about his career and some various turns it took.
This included a time where he actually turned down multiple offers to appear on The Sopranos.
Rock said, “Sometimes you can respect something so much, you don’t even want to be a part of it. Years ago, when I had my own show on HBO, it was at the height of The Sopranos, and I got a couple of offers to be on The Sopranos, and I was like, ‘I like it too much, I don’t want to spoil it.'”
This is a bummer. Rock would have been an interesting face to see in the show, although he may have been so famous that it would have taken us out of the world. Hard to tell with only hindsight to consider. Rock didn't reveal the role he was offered. There's a chance they were specific for him, and those characters never panned out, but we'd have to ask David Chase.
Rock eventually did enter into the mafia family with his stint on season four of Fargo.
Rock explained, “I thought [Noah Hawley] wanted me to host his wife’s charity event or something. [Fargo] is a big job… I was such a fan [of Fargo], I took the meeting anyway, and then he presents me with this offer, and I’m like, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’m down.’ Because I saw how he handled Bokeem Woodbine.”
Bokeem Woodbine played Mike Milligan in the second season of Fargo, and watching that performance put Rock at ease.
He said, “Sometimes people do amazing work and then when they handle Black people, it’s horrible. But with [Hawley], I saw how he handled Bokeem and I was like, ‘I can totally be in your hands.' Once you see that, you go, ‘OK, this guy [Hawley] has no problem putting himself in that character’s shoes.’ I write, right? So, when you hand a studio a script, what you notice a lot of times is everyone gives you notes of the character they most identify with… Now the problem is that some people have a hard time imagining they’re Black, so there’s no notes on the lead if he’s Black. Or if the lead girl is Black, there are no notes from the white women. Because they couldn’t step into it. But Noah had no problem being Bokeem, and that’s why it’s written so well.”
Rock brings up a ton of valid points here. So much of writing is empathy, and if you're not willing to do the work to understand another culture or person, then you'll never be able to write them. So get out there, study people, and do your legwork.
Let us know what you think in the comments.