June 2003
Charlie's Angels : An Interview with Bernie Mac

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Charlie's Angels: An Interview with Bernie Mac

It takes a lot of credit and name recognition to replace another comedian on a film, but Bernie Mac is definitely the man to do so. After playing small roles in a few films the last years, Bernie stepped up a bravado performance in Oceanís Eleven and has even found success doing television with The Bernie Mac Show. Earlier this year, Bernie starred along with Chris Rock in ďHead of StateĒ and now replacing Bill Murray in Charlieís Angels: Full Throttle. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Bernie Mac talks about his career and his experience working on the film.

WM: Did you improvise a lot with your scenes?

BM: I sort of did. McG gave me the luxury to ďBernie Mac itĒ. Iíve been really fortunate. To put it in a sports context, when I was playing basketball, I would take a shot and the coach would pull me from the game or when I played baseball, I would hit the ball against the wall and when I was on second, he would have a pinch runner in for me. He would say, ďI didnít tell you to swing.Ē You would see other guys who had the freedom to do those things and all that does is build your confidence up even more and more, and thatís where my acting and comedy come from. When I first started doing comedy, I was handcuff cause I couldnít say this or I couldnít do that. I really became into my own and as some would say, I ďBernie-Mac-ed itĒ. It looks easy but Iíve been in the gym for so long. I started when I was 8 years old. What you see now is all that work from the gym; in plays, and in the streets. I kept telling stories and next thing you know, my stand-up was two hours. If I told a story, I added something to it. Thatís all there is. What you are seeing is my life.

WM: Are you still enjoying the TV show?

BM: I love the television show. Thatís my commitment. Iíll break it down like a fraction. This is what I am, a movie star. I know doing movies is where I need to be. Thatís where my audience wants to see me. But television, surprisingly to me, is something Iím committed to and it turned out to be something more than I expected it to be. I really didnít want television. Iíve seen too many people get beat up. I saw Richard Pryor and Don Rickels, two of my favorites, get beat up by television. I took a page out of their notebook because what you see on screen is me. Iím playing myself on television. I think that was the unfortunate part for Pryor and Rickels. They had such a strong fan base and so many people loved them that television took them away from the fans. What I mean is that they donít want to see me as John Clark the architect or Frank Bower the painter, they want to see Bernie Mac. They wanted to see Richard Pryor. They wanted to see Don Rickels, and thatís something that television doesnít give a lot of people. My thing has been great timing. I know it, but I donít receive credit for it. Itís a combination of things Iíve done which is why I am talking to you now.

WM: Why did you choose this film to do?

BM: My first goal was to show the versatility. My intention was to show a different range, a different side. But every time I get in there, the guys always bring me out and thatís good, but what we all do is educate people. When I think back as to when I was a street performer and performing on stage, I shake my head to that what Iíve become. In order for you to understand that you have to have passion. I really do. Youíll never see it if you donít have passion. Back in the day when the doctor told you something, it was always advised to get a second opinion. Today you would need ten opinions.

WM: You are the new piece to the puzzle. Did it me feel you when McG gave you the opportunity to be yourself in the film?

BM: He scared me at first cause I didnít know what he wanted. When he called me for lunch and said he wanted to talk to me, I went. I thought he wanted me to be a part of the movie, but when he said he wanted me to be Bosley; I was like, ďWhat about Bill Murray?Ē I didnít see the first film at the time. So I flew home to meet with McG. I told my wife and asked her if we had the film at home. Sure enough, we did, and I watch it three times. I wanted to see how McG shot the film and how Bill played the role. The first time after seeing Bill make his entrance as Bosley, I was like, ďWow!Ē But the third time, it was almost like a sigh of relief. ďOk, I got itĒ is what I thought. I didnít want to bring any similarities to Bill that he was just my brother because Bill is some heavy shoes to fill. I grew up on Saturday Night Live and before you went out, you had to finish watching Bill and Dan Ackroyd and all those guys; and that was an intimidating part for me. You have to understand that no matter how long you have been in the gym, a big fight is still a big fight. Thatís how I looked at it. I coming in behind Bill, and once I blocked that out, it was okay.

WM: What about working with three beautiful women. Any fears on coming to set as the new guy?

BM: Now, but when I was doing Bosley it wasnít. I was so into Bosley. Bosley was a newfound family member sitting among these girls. I wanted you to see that he didnít belong, but he would have time to build into it. He didnít have time to lust over these girls. When he was sitting on the couch in between, he was so stupid; he didnít know what to do. Thatís the comedy part of it, but in between takes, I was looking. I was knocking things down and bending down to look.

WM: With Drew as one of the producers of the films, did she want you for the part?

BM: Drew is one hell of a producer. Sheís really good. She really went out of her way to make me like I belong. I donít know what went down and I donít care, but it like I was the new kid on the block or new guy in school and they wanted to let me know that I was accepted. Drew included me in everything from the rehearsals to the conversations and breakdown of the characters all the way. She asked me how I felt and I had no concerns because I read the script about four or five times before we started to shoot and I was ready mentally on what I wanted to do. Now I just need the guidance of the director, which is the way youíre supposed to do it and what his vision is, and Drew had me in everything. She would say, ďBernie, come over here. Are you comfortable with this? Sincerely. Not just on a business and professional level. She was really concerned, and I went and thank her. She was a great producer because a lot of producers donít go to that extreme.

WM: Will she a guest star on your TV show?

BM: I asked her. I asked them all because with me playing myself, it gives the guests the chance to stretch and not really act and be themselves, and thatís what I like about the guest stars on our show. Drew and the others are welcome. Thatís easy. I think having guest stars on the show brings in a different twist from the guest stars from the past. Back in the day when Lucille Ball had Tennessee Ford and others on the show, it presented a different zest. Then it became overkill. And now itís like it coming back. You just have to know how to use them.

WM: Will the guest stars ever sit down at the bunker table?

BM: Yeah. The thing about telling a story is that your viewers want so much in 22 minutes. You have to be really strong. You have to be patient in telling the story in 22 minutes. The guest stars will be involved. You will see more true friendships with celebrities. Like the Chris Rock story, that was the break for me; to tell that story how comics really feel about each other. Comics are the worst in the world. They are worst than drug dealers.

WM: Why?

BM: Because they are so selfish. They are all selfish. Itís almost like they feel thereís one mic in their mind. You have a few like ďSeinfeldĒ. Guys like that who donít have to do that. They donít have to sit there and remotely just go against or be unhappy about someone else. Thatís just bad because thereís room at the cross. Comics will skin you alive. Iíve seen comedians, especially in the club era, where producers would come from the Johnny Carson show and David Letterman show and they hand picked a few comedians to go and represent the club and get stuck in front of that mic and take your material right in front of you. You would be sitting in the front and taking it. Iíve seen guysí faces break up. Guys who need crazy glue to put it back together. From there, they have to keep it now. But they always die the death of a pilot. They always crash because itís not their time. You donít put in the work. You canít take away something that not yours. Iíve seen comics do that. Iíve seen Milton Berle be good at it, but he made part of his act, and what I mean by that, is that it became Uncle Miltonís MO. It became funny. It was his tag. Milton would sit there, tell you that your joke was funny and then ask for paper. Milton was the only who could get away with that. But back in that day, it was an honor among thieves. Today is different. There are a lot of ďmicrowave catsĒ.

WM: Whatís your next film?

BM: ďMr.3000Ē. Itís a baseball film