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Mike Epps Discusses the Richard Pryor Project


Mike Epps on the Richard Pryor Project: “About three months ago, maybe around 90 days ago, I got a call from Richard Pryor’s wife, that she wanted to meet me… No, we had a previous situation before that, where they were shooting a Richard Pryor Showtime piece called ‘Pryor Offenses.’ They started casting comedians to do this. ‘The Pryor Offenses’ was like Richard Pryor in 2005. It was a young comedian in 2005, and it’s supposed to be Richard Pryor… They were casting for this. Every comedian in the city was in line for it, reading for it. She asked me to read for it. I read the script and I was like, ‘No.’ She was like, ‘Who in the f**k do you think you are? This is Richard Pryor!’ I don’t know if she said that, but she probably did. She was probably like, ‘This is an arrogant little a**hole right here. Who is this motherf***er? This is Richard Pryor!’

But I’m real conscious about what I do. I don’t care what the label is. I’m looking at the outcome of it. The script wasn’t right. The material wasn’t there. I was like, ‘Nah, this is a bad representation for him.’ So I passed on it. So I think they went and did it, and it didn’t come out the way they wanted it to come out.

She had me come in—I think she wanted to meet me, just to see ‘who in the f**k told me no?’ You know what I mean? So I went up there, and it was a house full of people—it was Richard’s birthday. It was a house full of his friends. I came by myself and I met everybody, and I sat down with her, and I got to meet Richard Pryor and I asked for a picture. I took a picture with him. We talked and she said, okay, and then it was over with. I went about my business.

Then she called for me to come back up again, to come and sit and talk with her. I was like, ‘Okay.’ So I went and sat and talked again. We were watching some Richard Pryor tapes and she said, ‘You know, we’re doing a Richard Pryor movie. Me and Richard, we’re considering using you. We just want to get to know you a little bit more, let’s build a little relationship.’

She let some time go by. I guess, dealing with people, and dealing with that certain project that’s real sensitive, people got to feel you out. She wanted to see who I was. How’s he going to act? I’ve been solid from here to there. Nothing changed, you know what I’m saying? I’m going to be real with you, ain’t kissing no a**. I’m going to treat you good. Like you’re treating me—I’m going to treat you just like you’re treating me. I got a life, you know what I mean? I love Richard Pryor. I love him to death. But s**t, what about my life I’m living right now? You know what I’m saying? I’m living right now.

The only thing I can do is be at your service if you ask me to, and represent the man. The master. He’s a wizard. He’s a wizard of comedy. So everybody’s got to bow down to him. My job is to represent him right. In my mind, I already know that if he could talk, he would be real with me and he would tell me [in Richard Pryor voice], ‘Look, little motherf***er, let me tell you something! You’ve got to represent me right!’ I can’t do an impression of him. I’m just telling a story through me. I’m telling a Richard Pryor story through me.”

The Richard Pryor Project Script: “The script is about some of the things that made Richard Pryor who Richard Pryor was. He did a movie, ‘Jo Jo Dancer.’ He did this whole movie about his own life. But what he didn’t cover, he didn’t cover… When you ask people about Richard Pryor, they say, ‘Oh, he caught on fire!’ Or, ‘Oh, he was on crack!’ All the bad s**t. This man’s got some beautiful stories about himself. How he donated money to Martin Luther King,when nobody else donated him money for a project he was doing.

This dude was really, really down with the black community in Berkeley, in Oakland with the Panthers. He helped kids. All of this. I think the story needs to cover that, more so than anything because everybody knows [the bad stuff]. We want to show the beauty of him because it’s never been shown. Hollywood tends to pay for the negative s**t. They love the negative s**t. That’s what they want to see. The beauty only comes out when tragedy struck. He’s dealing with multiple sclerosis, you know? But I’m honored to play him.”

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