Chris Rock’s “Top Five” hits theaters this Friday.
Written, directed , and starring Chris Rock, “Top Five” tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist (Rosario Dawson) forces him to confront the comedy career—and the past—that he’s left behind. The film stars Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Anders Holm, Jay Pharaoh, Michael Che, Sherri Shepherd and Leslie Jones. The film is produced by Scott Rudin and Eli Bush. The Co-Producers are Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Kanye West. The Executive Music Producer is Questlove. We had the opportunity to speak with some of the cast read our interviews below:
J.B. Smoove plays Chris Rock’s right hand man.
Speak about reuniting with Chris. You’ve known him for a long time. You’ve worked on a number of projects.
Oh that was great. Here’s what I love about this industry, man. As long as you show up on time, as long as you give 200% to everything you do, as long as you’re personable, as long as you show up every time, the phone’s gonna ring for good reasons for good projects. You know, people can only do you so many favors, but it’s not a favor when you have to show up and you have to be on time. You’re actually doing them a favor because you’re actually showing up on time, you’re doing your role, you’re taking advice, you’re taking direction from someone that you respect, and that means you’re helping each other out, you know what I mean?
This is a family. This is a family film! You know, we all showed up for Chris, man, because it’s a balance there—we have to show up for him and trust him to put us in something amazing. He has to trust us to show up and make it amazing and listen to direction, and aside from the friendship, he has to get what he has to get out of this movie. And that’s the benefit of everything. He’s gonna cast you in this movie because he knows what you can do, and all you gotta do is show up, have fun, enjoy it, and he gets a chance to work with his friends.
And you play Andre Allen’s right hand guy. Who is your right hand guy?
Oh, sure! You always gotta have somebody. You can hire somebody, but that doesn’t mean they’re your friend, you know what I mean? Like my boy AB, that’s my dude over there. AB is my guy, man, so you could hire somebody to do exactly what he does, but you can’t hire someone to get the spirit he has, and the friendship you have, and the things you’ve been through over the years, that you can’t train somebody to do. They can only gonna do the job they’ve been instructed to do, but I don’t have to tell him anything.
And there are some really fun, comedic moments with your character. Your character likes the voluptuous ladies.
Was it fun to play those comedic moments out?
Oh, playing that role was great! Because I happen to know that plus-sized women love slim guys, and slim guys love plus-sized women. They love them, you know. And I think, especially, you’re presented with the character in the first scene in the movie, you got him walking through after the interview he had onstage. You already know he cares about Andre and Allen, he says “I don’t wanna see you in jail.” You see a plus-sized girl walk by. “Ay, look at you girl, moving with confidence.” That’s the main thing: plus-sized women are gorgeous … if you move with confidence you’re just like every other woman in the world!
You’ve worked with some legendary comedians, Chris Rock, Larry Davis, Louis CK. Can you reflect on that journey? You’re a legendary comedian. You’ve worked with legendary comedians.
It’s this path you end up following. The first movie I ever did was with Louis CK. What’s that movie called? Six Degrees of Separation, whatever it is? So, I ended up working with Louis CK, Louis CK worked for Chris Rock’s show, Louis CK, I did his first movie called Tomorrow Night. I ended up doing Pootie Tang that Louis CK wrote, which was a character from The Chris Rock Show. So I ended up all these little connections that I have, you know what I mean? I ended up meeting Adam Sandler to do Mr. Deeds because Chris Rock called Adam Sandler when Adam Sandler needed a character to play the elevator guy. So it’s all these things that end up connecting somehow. They all end up connecting, which is what you want, which is what a career is, which is what a journey is, you know? And Chris will tell you the same thing. He can tell you exactly where these things crisscrossed and ended up, and I’m right back here with Top Five. Everybody in this shot, I have some connection to. Everybody in this poster, I have worked with in some capacity. And it’s all a spider web of people coming in from all directions. And we all end up in the same spot again. So now, he corrals everybody in, and everybody on that poster, I’ve worked with.
And this whole movie talks about the reality of being a black celebrity, the whole rawness of being one. So how does that speak to you because you are very successful? How does that resonate within you?
This is what we all are waiting for. And what do we do as comedians? We give this away, but we give it for free. We don’t get residuals for you watching this movie, or you driving home retelling what happening in the movie. We don’t just residuals when you laugh at home like, ‘hahaha that was funny. Very, very funny.’ We don’t. This is for free. You pay for the movie, but you get to keep it in your memory banks forever. And that’s free. And that’s what comedians do, we give it away for free.
And who are some of your favorite comedians?
Across the board, everything we do, we are inspired by somebody. Whether it is somebody immediate or somebody who is historically a legend.
Top five right now then.
Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Louis C.K, I love Redd Foxx, I like Bill Cosby. I grew up on Bill. I love Bill Cosby.
And you listened to all of them growing up?
Oh, hell yeah. I even listened to Chris Rock because he is the next legend.
What do you love about the mediums of TV or film?
I like great projects. I’m a big movie guy. I love movies. Something about being on that big screen is so powerful and so amazing. But I also love single camera like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” which is fun. There’s no net, there’s no script, you just go. It’s much like life that they let you go. That they trust you enough to just let you go run your mouth.
Tell us about your character.
I play Brad, who is Chelsea’s boyfriend. But I’m a bad boy – I’m cheating on her, and it’s with a dude and she was suspect of that because of a certain activity I enjoyed in my butt.
What was it like to work with Chris Rock?
Working with Chris was awesome, he’s pretty laid back, he wasn’t in over his head, everything seemed like it was running on time and that’s just the producer side. As a director, he was very helpful, we’d do a few takes how it was written and then he’d throw other stuff at you and kind of let you riff and for as naked as I was, I felt okay.
Speak about working with Rosario Dawson.
She’s not just like, “Oh, Rosario Dawson, cute actress”, she’s so cool and she’s really well rounded and fun to talk to and will give you lip, she’s fun like that.
You are in one of the funniest scenes in the film and it involves hot sauce.
Yeah, it was fun. It was exactly what is was, and I kept saying poor Rosario. She had to be right back there where, you know, the action is so bless her heart.
New York is an important character in the film. What do you love about this city?
I love New York because all the cliches about it are true and it doesn’t sleep, the city’s always alive, there’s always something to do, there’s always something going around. There is an energy, like people say there’s an “energy!”, it’s for real and I got to come out here for a week and have fun filming this, and at night, do whatever I wanted to do in one of the best cities in the world.
Who are some of your favorite musicians?
Overall, lifetime favorites are the Beastie Boys, David Bowie, R Kelly, and I’m on this Kanye train and I don’t know where it’s going, I’m loving everything he’s been putting out.
Is it cool for you that Jay Z and Kanye produced the film?
I’m pretty sure I’m off their radar but it’s cool to be associated with all these awesome people.
Tell us about your upcoming projects “The Interview” and “The Intern.”
I won’t do any movies unless they start with “I-N”, so those ones lined up. I’m also in “Inherent Vice”, which is a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I’m barely in that, I probably only have one line. “The Interview” is just going to be balls to the wall, insane comedy, and “The Intern” is something I just finished with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro and I think that’ll be out next year (finally something my parents can see).
Cedric The Entertainer is hilarious in the film as Jazzy Dee.
Tell us about working with Chris.
Cedric: Yeah, it was fine. He yells a lot, a lot of people don’t know this about Chris Rock and it’s just his normal voice. When he’s saying, “Gimme some pancakes!” or “Pass the syrup!” I’m like “really … can you turn it down a little bit.” He yells action and cut with the same intensity and it’s like relax, but you know, good director, fun dude, he comes prepared each day so you’re not wasting a lot of time and at the same time loose and fun so it’s not like he’s some stickler who’s going to be really hard. But he was serious, you do take him seriously when he asks you to do something again or do it another way, you respect that. He really covered all the bases in that way.
Cedric, you are in a pretty raunchy, but hilarious scene. Tell us about that.
It was one that was written when I was reading the script, I was like, “Chris, do you really want to go there?”, I was like I don’t know man, but you know what, as I got into Jazzy Dee, I put the hair on, the gold grill on the bottom, next thing you know, this guy would go there. Once I trust that and trust Chris as a director, makes sure he treats it really nice, and I believe that he’s gonna kill it, you just go freedom man, just go all out.
Ben Vereen plays Chris Rock’s father.
Tell us about working with Chris.
Ben: Working with Chris was wonderful. I was surprised and just blown away. I heard about the film, I wanted to work on the film, I just wanted to work with Chris. And he gave me the nod, we talked, we met, talked about the part and then I was on the set. I got to feel the energy of this man and it’s amazing. As Cedric says, he comes prepared, but he also allows you to be who you’re going to be in a character.
Ben, you have graced the stage and appeared on television and in movies. What do you love about all these mediums?
Ben: Employment haha. No, it’s about reaching the people. I’m in the service business, I love to serve people, that’s why I came this way. Each medium allows me to do that, through my art.
Who are some of your favorite comedians?
Ben: Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce.
Did you listen to any of them growing up?
Ben: Yes I did. Except Chris. I was already grown when Chris came around. Joan Rivers and I worked together. Robin Williams, I didn’t mention him, we used to hang out together. So I have been fortunate.
And what about comedy do you love, especially with this movie?
Ben: I love this movie because it is funny. It is a funny movie. I never thought I would be in a funny movie but I am in a funny movie.
Who are some of your favorite musicians so far?
Ben: I am from the old school. I still listen to Earth Wind and Fire, I still listen to Shadowfox, I still listen to Ella Fitzgerald, I still listen to Johnny Mathis, I still listen to John Coltrane, Carmen McRae. They are the ones that these young people are standing on their backs.
And in the movie, Andre Allen stars in a slave movie, so has the comparison to “The Roots” ever come up?
Ben: No. Never did. You’re the first one.
What is it like being at the New York premiere?
Ben: It is wonderful being here at this premiere. It’s funny, the character I play is an off shoot of character in a film called “Time Out of Mind” with Richard Gere, where we play two homeless people and his father is going into that direction. You’ll see, it is coming out next year.