Chris Rock: Madagascar Interview

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Chris Rock was born on February 7, 1965 in Andrews, South Carolina, but raised in Bedford Stuyvesant, New York. He continues to reside in Brooklyn with his wife, Malaak, and their daughters, Lola Simone, 2, and Zahra Savannah, 1.

Himself the oldest of seven children, the comic-turned-actor was discovered by Eddie Murphy and made his screen debut in 1987 in Beverly Hills Cop 2. From there, he went on to do a three-year stint as part of the ensemble cast on Saturday Night Live. Chris' versatility enabled his career to blossom in a variety of ways.

He's acted, written scripts, directed movies, hosted his own comedy show on HBO, had several stand-up specials, done commercials for Nike and 1-800-Collect, covered a Presidential campaign as a correspondent for a cable network, written a book, release comedy CDs, and, earlier this year, hosted the Academy Awards.

For his efforts, Rock has been rewarded with endless accolades, including three Emmys, a couple of Grammy Awards, an American Comedy Award, a Blockbuster Entertainment Award, and his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also voted America's top comic by the readers of Entertainment Weekly.

The 40 year-old funnyman's screen credits include New Jack City, Boomerang, CB4, Panther, Doctor Dolittle, Lethal Weapon 4, Dogma, Nurse Betty, Down to Earth, Pootie Tang, Osmosis Jones, AI, Head of State and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Chris currently has two movies in theaters, Madagascar and The Longest Yard.

BSN: You haven’t done an animated feature in four years [Osmosis Jones]. What attracted you back to the genre?

CR: "I don't know. I think it's great. Animation is sooooooo good, soon they're not gonna need people. Just the movements. All the walking—the lips are perfectly synched. Everything just felt so good. And looks great. And once I had kids, that had me start thinking about family movies, since they can’t see most of my films till they’re 30. So, it’s nice to make something they can see right now. "  

BSN: And what made you want to do Madagascar, specifically?

CR: "When you get a script, you look at the players. You're dealing with DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg who did Shrek. So, all of the above."

BSN: How did you prepare to play a zebra?

CR: "I didn't even know it was a zebra, until yesterday. [laughs] I thought I was doing a muskrat. But it looks great."     

BSN: How did your daughters like the movie?

CR: "Lola saw it, and about 15 minutes in she said, 'Daddy, is that you? I think that's you, Daddy.' I went, 'Yeah, honey, it's me.' Then she snaps right out of it, and keeps watching." 

BSN: Tell me a little about your character, Marty.

CR: "My character is a zebra who wants to get out of the zoo and live in the wild. And he gets the other animals, and they leave the zoo, go to the wild, and realize, 'Hmm, we're zoo animals. We gotta get outta here.'" 

BSN: Did you identify at all with him?

CR: “Yeah. My character bores very easily. The same thing that took him out of the zoo, took me out of Brooklyn. As a child, I wanted to get out of Brooklyn, immediately.�

BSN: How did you feel about the cast assembled to supply the voices?

CR: "Ben Stiller, the Jude Law of comedy, is in the movie. Like Jude Law's in everything, Ben Stiller's in every funny thing. And they're all funny. I love Dodgeball. I do. I liked the Polly movie, too. [Along Came Polly] Then there's David Schwimmer, who's one of the friends [TV's Friends] He's a friend of everybody. Ever meet him?"

BSN: Nope.

CR: "The guy's just friendly. He gives you a big hug. Then you have Jada Pinkett Smith, who's a great actress in her own right. She was in Collateral with Michael Mann, and she's married to Will Smith. And you have Chris Rock, myself." 

BSN: How about Cedric [the Entertainer] as Maurice the lemur?

CR: "Yeah, the booming voice coming from this little cute thing is just funny. There's something unique about his voice in that character. I don't know exactly what it is. I don't think you have a lot of booming voices in animation. So, I want to see that character for a whole movie."

BSN: Was it hard simply standing alone in a studio, reading your lines in front of a microphone?

CR: "As a comedian, you're used to working alone anyway. So, I had no problem with it."

BSN: Were you tempted to ad-lib at all?

CR: "You do a couple takes the way it's on the page, and then you run with it. They used a lot of the ad-libbed stuff. Any of the crazy slang is definitely ad-libbed. All of my clean jokes are in the movie. All the dirty ones are in a factory somewhere." 

BSN: What's it like seeing yourself as Marty onscreen?

CR: "It's kinda weird anytime you hear your voice back to you. You're like, 'That's me? I sound like that?' And when you're a zebra, it's 'Do I look like that as a zebra? I don't look like that as a zebra.' It's a weird fight to have with somebody. 'I'm a handsome zebra, dammit.'"

BSN: Which scene is your favorite?

CR: "I like the dance scene. That was kinda cool. And I like when Alex [Ben Stiller's character] goes 'Okay, it's showtime!' and does his big act for the people." 

BSN: What do you see as Madagascar's message?

CR: "It has a big friendship message. 'Friends till the end.' And there's 'The grass isn't always greener on the other side.' You have to appreciate what you have. I think that's a big message in the movie, too."

BSN: Are you upset to have two movies, Madagascar and The Longest Yard, opening on the same weekend?

CR: "Hopefully, everyone will see Madagascar in the morning or the afternoon, and then, at night, they’ll go see The Longest Yard.�

BSN: Would you mind discussing the challenging preparation and process involved in doing voice work versus playing a character like Caretaker in a buddy action comedy, especially when you’re working on both films at about the same time? 

CR: "They’re very similar, though in The Longest Yard I actually had to wear pants. I don’t know. I’m like a fix-it man. I get hired, I’m like, ‘What do you need me to do? I’m a zebra? Okay, I’m a zebra. What does the zebra say? Okay, I’ma say it. You like that? I’ll do it again, if you need me to do it again.’ I do whatever they tell me to do, and then I go do The Longest Yard and I’m like, ‘Huh? I’m in jail? Alright. Whatcha need?’â€?   

BSN: You turned 40 this year. How does that feel? 

CR: “It feels old. 40’s only young if you’re dead. [laughs]�

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