Whacky Rock star cops on
I thought he'd be crazier. Since Tracy Morgan broke through in one of the finest sitcoms -- the fantablous, behind-the-scenes-at-a-TV-sketch-show sitcom 30 Rock -- it was clear that he could be just as surreally wonderful off-screen as he was on.
Success came slowly for Morgan. Having built a reputation as a stand-up comedian and with supporting appearances on various sitcoms, movies and variety shows, a seven-season run on Saturday Night Live led to him being cast as the somewhat deranged, faded superstar Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock.
Now, Morgan is getting a shot at movie stardom, in the tradition of his idols Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, with black cop/white cop comedy thriller Cop Out. Bruce Willis takes on the straight man role.
PAUL BYRNE: How was it, working with Bruce Willis?
TRACY MORGAN: Hey, it was a real kick, working with a big star like Bruce. It took Bruce a while to get used to my tempo, and it took me a while to get used to his, but we had a lot of fun. This is like a dream come true for me. When I was young, no money, a young married father, I remember looking up at a billboard for 48 Hrs, and I just thought, that's going to be me one day. And now, it is.
PB: You're an overnight sensation that's taken 26 years to happen . . .
TM: Yeah, it's been a while, but a lot of the delays were my own fault. I had some great leaps forward, and some dumb steps back.
PB: It's been said that your character on 30 Rock is based on Martin Lawrence -- the Bad Boys actor arrested in May 1996 on LA's Ventura Boulevard for ranting and raving at tourists, but you yourself were arrested on December 3, 2005, being charged with driving under the influence, and in possession of narcotics and for being completely nude . . .
TM: Absolutely. Martin didn't need to inspire me when it came to playing Tracy Jordan.
PB: Why do you think The Tracy Morgan Show didn't last?
TM: It obviously just wasn't the right time. Or on at the right time. I loved that show, and I loved making it. Also, we went up against American Idol. How unlucky was that?
PB: Your autobiography, I Am The New Black, was incredibly frank. Did it feel like an exorcism getting those dark moments of your past out there?
TM: Yeah, it felt good. A lot of the personal stuff, issues with my mum, charting the difficulties I had growing up -- it was important for me to get the truth out there. Same with my drinking problem, and the end of my first marriage. I felt it was important to be as open and straight as possible. Even if it meant hurting a few people.
PB: Such as Chris Katten and Cheri Oteri, co-stars from the SNL days.
TM: I felt I had to be honest. So many people in this business are scared to call a spade a spade, a fool a fool. I ain't one of those people.
PB: You seem to live with your heart on your sleeve -- you break down a few times during the audio version of your autobiography, and, recently you cried during a radio interview with Terry Gross . . .
TM: Well, I believe in expressing myself, whether I'm happy or sad. I don't think it's healthy to bottle things up. And I had a tough life growing up, you know. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes it was somebody's else's fault, but I accept all that now. And I think it's good to grieve, to deal with it, and not lock it away somewhere as though it never happened.
Yeah, I'm an emotional guy, and not afraid to show it. I'm also crazy though, and I'm certainly not afraid to show that.
Cop Out is in cinemas. 30 Rock is on 3E on Thursday nights