Chris Rock was one of the early superstars for HBO, starring in three comedy specials between 1994 and 1999 (“Big Ass Jokes,” “Bring the Pain,” and “Bigger & Blacker”) and launching “The Chris Rock” show in 1997. The late-night talk show ran for 55 episodes across five seasons, all while “The Sopranos” debuted and turned HBO into a powerhouse for original drama programming. One might not expect a crossover between the two series, but Rock revealed on a panel for The Hollywood Reporter that he turned down multiple offers to appear on “The Sopranos.”
“Sometimes you can respect something so much, you don’t even want to be a part of it,” Rock said. “Years ago, when I had my own show on HBO, it was at the height of ‘The Sopranos,’ and I got a couple of offers to be on ‘The Sopranos,’ and I was like, ‘I like it too much, I don’t want to spoil it.'”
Rock had a different mentality when Noah Hawley approached him to lead the fourth season of the FX anthology series “Fargo.” As the actor explained, “I thought [Noah] wanted me to host his wife’s charity event or something. [‘Fargo’] is a big job…I was such a fan [of ‘Fargo’], I took the meeting anyway, and then he presents me with this offer, and I’m like, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’m down.’ Because I saw how he handled Bokeem Woodbine.”
Bokeem Woodbine starred as Mike Milligan in the second season of “Fargo,” and Rock was so impressed with Hawley’s handling of the character that he knew he would be in good hands on “Fargo” Season 4.
“Sometimes people do amazing work and then when they handle Black people, it’s horrible. But with [Hawley], I saw how he handled Bokeem and I was like, ‘I can totally be in your hands,'” Rock said to THR. “Once you see that, you go, ‘OK, this guy [Hawley] has no problem putting himself in that character’s shoes.’ I write, right? So, when you hand a studio a script, what you notice a lot of times is everyone gives you notes of the character they most identify with…Now the problem is that some people have a hard time imagining they’re Black, so there’s no notes on the lead if he’s Black. Or if the lead girl is Black, there are no notes from the white women. Because they couldn’t step into it. But Noah had no problem being Bokeem, and that’s why it’s written so well.”
While Rock never got to star in “The Sopranos,” he did view his “Fargo” Season 4 character, crime lord Loy Cannon, as a close companion to Tony Soprano. Describing the character ahead of the season premiere, Rock said, “He’s a businessman, he’s a deacon at his church, he’s a loving father and husband, he owns a bank, and he’s also a criminal. He fixes fights and runs numbers and prostitution. He’s always on edge. It’s Tony Soprano-esque.”
The fourth season of “Fargo” is available to stream via FX on Hulu.