Speakeasy with Chris Rock and Nia Long

Rock and Long straighten out the makings of Good Hair

??When Chris Rock’s daughter came home from school asking why she does not have "good hair," the question set him on a worldwide quest to track down the answer. In his latest project, titled Good Hair, opening in Atlanta Fri., Oct. 9, Rock reveals the origins of the notion of refined hair for blacks and the lengths to which black women, and sometimes men, will go to acquire it. Here, Rock and co-star Nia Long discuss the Good, the bad and the funny.??How do you think growing up in Bed-Stuy impacted your comedic sensibility growing up?
Chris Rock: New York is a funny place — I can only compare it to L.A. … It’s not a funny place. Everybody wants to be in show business in L.A., no matter what — everything revolves around show business. Where in New York, you can go to a good party given by the corrections officers.??Your wife, Malaak, who runs an organization that helps empower women to transition back into the workplace, was missing from the film's conversation. Why is that?
I have a policy when I’m doing movies or anything to not hire people I can’t fire. So if I filmed her and didn’t like what I got — what am I gonna do, am I going to cut my wife out the movie? No, I’m going to keep it in so I can keep a smooth house. 'Cause that’s more [important] than anything and then the movie is not as good, and we don’t have anything. ??What’s the difference between doing a documentary and getting it through the system rather than doing a feature film?
It was a hard movie to get through the system. Nobody wanted to make this movie. HBO didn’t want to give me any money for it. My agent and managers kept trying to change the subject whenever I brought it up. I’d say, “I think this hair movie might work,” and they’d change the subject and say, “Did you read that script from F. Gary Gray?”??Nia Long: It's crazy to hear you say that. At this point in your career, you’d think you can do whatever you want.??Rock: They want me to make money and there’s no money in this, so they want me to take a gig where I get X millions of dollars so they can get their commissions. It’s not a big commission on the black hair movie.??Long: So this is a true passion project???Rock: Yes, this is a true passion project.??At this point in your career, do you hold out for the movies you’re more passionate about?
Rock: Yeah, I do hold out. I have kids now so I don’t want to leave the house unless I have to. I have to really love what I’m doing to not take my kids to school in the morning. And even then I’m like … “Ugh.” I love this movie, but I’d rather take my kids to school in the morning. I don’t [want] to do anything I’d be ashamed of. I don’t want my daughter to say, “You weren’t at my recital for that piece of crap?”??Nia, tell me about the conversation you had with Chris to get you involved in this movie
Long: I just got a call that Chris was doing a movie called Good Hair. And I was like “good hair”? But then I thought, “Chris Rock — Good Hair… OK, I’ll do it.” Whenever you say good hair it's taboo in our community. Your mom said never to say that. I would get popped if I said, “I got good hair, or she has good hair.” But I knew Chris would enlighten us and show all sides of it, because he’s kinda smart.??Did doing this movie make you want to become the next Michael Moore, or are you done with documentaries right now?
Rock: I’m not going to do another just because people like this one. I got to figure out what I wanna do. Right topic, I’ll do it.??Nia, you’ve had long hair and short hair throughout your career. Is that your style choice or do you get pressured by the studios to do this.
Long: The things I did when I was 25 don’t work for me now. So yes it’s a style choice but it's also part of creating the character. Like when I played Suzanne in Are We There Yet ... this woman should have long hair because she’s a mother. But it’s a little bit of both. I also have a weave because I can go to the gym and still go to a meeting and still go to the baseball game with my son and the PTA meeting, so it’s a bit of convenience.??What are the positives and negatives of fame?
Rock: I always said being famous is like being a hot chick. You ever been to a baseball game and a hot chick walks through? It's like having big tits or something. You get attention wherever you go. In one-on-one situations when you’re a guy, people generally want money. When you’re a girl, they wanna fuck you. That’s the difference. I’ve never been one to dwell on the negatives. I like being famous. I was not famous for most of my life — and fuck that shit.??At one point in the film, Dr. Joe Dudley of Dudley’s Hair Care and Cosmetics spoke at his school’s commencement services and stressed entrepreneurship. He emphasized “For us by us” as a motto. Were you surprised to discover the black hair care industry was not black-owned?
No industry is black-owned. Actually, the NBA Player’s Association gets 49 percent of the revenue, since most players are black. That would be the No. 1 black-run organization. It’s the chink in Dr. King’s armor. We marched and did all these things to be a part of something when we should have been trying to get our own thing. It’s like saying. “I wanna be in a co-op,” instead of saying “I want my own house.” So we’re in a co-op and now the building is coming down.??Derek J was featured as one of the contestants in the Bronner Brothers Hair Show competition mentioned in the film. Most people now know Derek from his appearances on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Tell us about your Derek J experience.??Long: He had some badass boots.??Rock: You know what’s weird? You do this journey with them and now it's like I know them. It’s like I did a movie with them so my relationship is like my relationship with Anthony Hopkins or anybody I did a movie with. When you do a movie with someone, it's like you’ve gone through school with them and you’ve graduated. So when I did a show in Vegas, they were there in the front row. In documentaries, you don’t get paid anything so I gave them tickets for life, and they were like, “Yes, good — we’re gonna take you up on this ticket shit." I saw them at a lot of dates while I was on tour.??A lot of comics stop touring once they get big making movies. Is it still rewarding, do you still get thrill out of it?
Yeah, I still get a thrill out of it. I’m fortunate the road is bigger now than it was when guys used to quit. Richard Pryor couldn’t play the whole world. That was the thing with comedians — musicians can play the whole world so they could make all this money that comics couldn’t. Part of it was awareness, but also because things didn’t translate. But now in the age of the Internet, the world is so small. I can play anywhere they speak English.??Long: Isn’t [touring] like an improv class? It gives you that surge of energy. Is that what it's like for a comedian???Rock: It's nice to be funny without all the accoutrements. It’s the instant connection to the audience, it’s close to being an athlete. It’s a live event happening, anything can happen, I have to think while I’m on stage — the show can actually go bad. It's like a game: I could lose. It’s hard to do that in a movie but it could be horrible on stage.??Do your comments get you in trouble? Do people ever come back to you about the things you say?
Yeah, anytime I see Janet Jackson, she cuts me a bad look. I did joke about her whipping her titty out at the Super Bowl. It’s a 40-year-old titty, that’s your man’s titty. Twenty-year-old titty is community titty.??Long: Keep your 40-year-old titty inside your bra.??Rock: There’s no "Aunties Gone Wild."??So you don’t believe in the cougar phenomenon???There’s cougars out there.??Long: Cougar titties are the best titties, because they know their position.??Rock: What’s a real cougar, though? There’s cougars and there’s “I can’t get a guy my age” girls. So I’m gonna get me a young boy that’s happy that I bought him a bike. Real cougars can get guys their age and younger. This is a whole "I’m messing with young boys by default" movement.  ??Long: What if you prefer a younger guy???Rock: That’s fine, but some of them are just frontin’, saying, "I got me this young boy" when really that’s all they could get.??Long: Awww.

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