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'Everybody Hates Chris' Is Ready to Rock

(Posted September 19, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES ( - If everybody loved Raymond, a lot of people hated Chris Rock as a child, at least in Rock's own view.

The comedian's youth fuels "Everybody Hates Chris," the promising new UPN sitcom that Rock narrates in his typical shoot-from-the-hip style. He's also an executive producer of the sitcom that premieres Thursday, Sept. 22, as it recalls the young Rock of the early 1980s (as portrayed by Tyler James Williams). Newly relocated with his family to the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y., he faces numerous household and school challenges.

His days start with a long bus trek to his classroom, since his forceful mother (Tichina Arnold, "Martin") insists he attend a good school in the South Shore. His quick wit helps him survive bullies who lie in wait for him, and he even makes some pals along the way. At home, while his father (Terry Crews, who worked with Rock in the recent movie remake of "The Longest Yard") and mother are occupied with work, Chris serves as an "emergency adult" for his siblings (Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim).

It may not have been the life Rock envisioned for himself at the time, but it certainly helped shape his comedy. He reflects, "I grew up in a very loving two-parent household in the middle of one of the worst ghettos in New York City. I was bused to school, but I had so much love in my house, it's really weird. I didn't know I lived in the ghetto until I was, like, 19 or 20. I came to L.A. with Eddie Murphy and stayed at hotels and all this stuff. When I got back and saw what my neighborhood looked like, I started getting scared."

Rock reports that beyond his Emmy-winning joke-and-conversation program for HBO, networks have approached him "about doing my own show a lot. There's a lot of hoopla when you do a series. I just like to work. I don't really like to do all the other stuff. We're getting so much attention, it's hard to sneak up on people. [I'm] trying to lower expectations."

That's a tall order, since industry buzz has tailed "Everybody Hates Chris" ever since it was unveiled for the advertising community last spring. Ali LeRoi, co-creator and another producer of the show, says the cast and crew are simply focused on doing "the best work we know how to do. We're really not responsible for any of this [advance hype], in the truest sense of what being 'responsible' is. We went into a room, we came up with an idea, we did it the best way we knew how, and this is what happened. And if this continues to happen, that's great."

Key to getting "Everybody Hates Chris" off the ground was choosing the person to play young Rock. "Tyler was the funniest kid we could find," Rock says. "He's the funniest kid in the country, really. Trust me, there's a lot of unfunny kids out there that need to work on their comedy. [Tyler is] really professional, and the camera likes him. He's a cute kid. My teeth were all messed up."

The 12-year-old Williams is a veteran of "Sesame Street" and the animated "Little Bill," and he says the "Everybody Hates Chris" job didn't just drop into his lap. "You had to work for it. The question comes up a lot, 'Is it hard playing Chris Rock?' It's not, really, in a good way. It's basically just being yourself. When I first read the script, I connected with the character. I didn't really have to study up on anything."

Don't expect to see Rock himself appear on "Everybody Hates Chris" -- at least not anytime soon -- since LeRoi maintains he is "actually a distraction on camera, in a very real way. This is about his life, and he'll be very present in terms of voice ... but in order for people to get to know this cast, he can't be standing there. The majority of attention will go to the famous guy if he's there, so for this to work, it really has to be people who are more or less equal in terms of recognition."

Still, Rock intends to keep his personal imprint on the show. If that seems like a no-brainer since it's about him, his very active schedule could put his time for television at a premium. He insists he'll continue "going through all the scripts, making sure I like all the jokes, trying to be there for pretty much all the tapings. I'll be around. My name's on it."

Since the show is also about Rock's relatives, one might imagine others in his family have definite feelings about "Everybody Hates Chris," but he maintains their reaction is "none, really. It's not like I run it by [them], but I'm sure [some of those] people are like, 'Hey, another check! Good, good. He'll keep paying that insurance.' I changed this just enough so I couldn't get sued by my family, because they'll sue. They love you, but they're going to get their money."

Source: Zap2it

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