*Chris Rock has never been one to bite his tongue. His politically tinged and biting humor hits home across the board. With his latest lauded release, “Top Five,”
Rock wears three hats as writer, director and star. In “Top Five” he explores career choices and celebrity, not too unlike his real life.
The Film Strip asked Rock at the Ritz Carlton Central Park Hotel what was the upside and downside of wearing so many hats? What’s the upside and downside of wearing so many hats? “It’s all upside because I get to control it,” he beamed. “The only downside is less sleep.”
Rock was with cast members Gabrielle Union, Rosario Dawson, Ben Vereen, JB Smooth, and Sherri Shepherd. There was no doubt fun was had by all on the set and that spirited ambience was present when they talked about the film.
What was it like being under the tutelage of Chris Rock?
JB SMOOTH: I got a chance to play a role I wanted to play. He really helped me and my range has increased.
SHERRI SHEPHERD: It was a bunch of comics working with Chris. It’s very hard to corral a bunch of comics, so I have to give it to Chris because he was able to let everybody have a certain amount of freedom, and then corral everybody back. That’s a hard thing to do. He was intensely focused on the directing and he knew exactly what he wanted; yet you had freedom within that realm. It was an awesome experience.
ROSARIO DAWSON: I kept calling him a conductor. He had all these different people and everyone can be noise or it can be music. Just because you have that much talent doesn’t mean it’s going be watchable. I thought what he did was really remarkable.
Chris, what was your focus?
The three relationships are kind of the heart of the movie. I wanted to do what I do and not have it so filtered down, and I thought I had a decent idea. I made this movie just like my standup. I treated it just like my standup and that was kind of the goal, to get a movie that felt like my standup that kind of went all over the place. That start here and went there; can be about relationships and have a political component to it.
Can you talk about your characters?
BEN VEREEN: Playing his father I had to go to a certain place because this guy was really dysfunctional and Chris allowed me to break him down. He allows the artist to find the character within, with boundaries. It’s like being a Michelangelo.
GABRIELLE UNION: For my character, and me, in real life there is an addiction to please, to want to be liked, and to want to be validated by other people. In the film you have this girl who doesn’t have any discernable talent, any quantifiable talent except who she is and that people like her and are interested in her wedding. There’s this addiction to constantly feed the beast. How do I stay relevant? How do I stay liked, how do I keep it going, how do I avoid unemployment. I think that becomes addicting in our industry and in life. Except with reality TV we’ve taken it a little bit further, to be publicly chosen. In our own lives you want to be chosen, you want your boss to say, good job.’
BV: The thing about addiction is the choice in life. We can choose. There’s a [passage] that says ‘choose you this day whom ye will serve.’ You can serve your addiction or you can serve your wellness. You can serve your God or you can serve your devil. That’s a choice. Even in this business we [what] we do. I loved being on that set. Chris loves what he does. We all love giving. That is our choice. We don’t choose the dark shadows.
What is the role of music in this movie?
CR: This is a movie with a bunch of characters that grew up on rap and we don’t question it. We don’t even call it hip hop, it’s just music. We treat it like any other music and in most movies they treat rap music or hip hop music like it’s this new thing. Like only old people call it the Internet. [It’s] social media, you know what I mean? With young people, it’s just whatever it is. They don’t think about it. It’s music.
BV: Music in time has always moved society and society’s voice is in that music. So therefore, we’re moving with it, hip hop, music; it’s called art.
Chris, Rosario referred to you as a conductor. How do you see your job in this?
CR: I’m the protector. I write a script and it’s my job and Scott’s [Rudin] job to protect this idea that I came up with. You have to protect it because there is nothing worse than a bad comedy. With a drama you actually get credit for completion. I like ‘Gone Girl.’ You can make nine different version of ‘Gone Girl’ that will work but when you’re doing a comedy, it’s kind of one version that works. If you miss anything to the left, to the right, one second, two seconds syllables and you’ve got nothing. So it’s my job to make sure all this stuff works.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]