When Chris Rock’s daughter came home from school asking why she doesn’t 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.
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