By Bonnie DeShong
Recently Mike Epps was in Chicago promoting his new sitcom Uncle Buck beginning June 14th on ABC. I was invited to have lunch with him and of course talk about the show. I had met Mike before but never really had a chance sit and relax and get to know the real man. He is warm, open, a little shy, and very normal. I have always enjoyed the comedian and actor but I find the man is so much more interesting. I would like to share some of our conversation with you on the new show and his life. This is the first of the three installments of our conversation.
Mike do you worry that people will compare your Uncle Buck to the character John Candy made famous?
My Uncle Buck is a… first of all I could never follow John Candy. John Candy was a remarkable comedian at what he did and at the time it was great as a film. My Uncle Buck is Mike Epps into the title of Uncle Buck. At first when I was offered the show I got a little intimidated by it. I said, “oh man people are going to look at me like that is not John Candy”, and then I thought about it and I thought, my kids and the new millennium children they don’t even know who John Candy is, so I think the show is going to be an education as well as a homecoming for those who knew who John Candy was.
How have you enhanced the TV show from the film that will keep the audience interested?
Well you know it is a family oriented show and I am bringing my sense of humor to it and I think that I am surrounded by a great cast I have Nia Long that is on the show with me as well. I also have… these kids are incredible, the smallest girl, it is her show. You know how you see those shows and you have a little kid on a show with a star kind of like how Raven-Symone was? That was almost her show on the Cosby show because she was so cute and good at what she did. I think I am surrounded with a good cast and good people and I think that is going to help it last.
Did you write or direct any of the episodes?
I did some ghost writing some of the episodes… the episode Little Scarface was my idea. You can tell my ideas when you see that episode. They come from who I am, really, really urban and sometimes I think Hollywood… I mean like the episode Little Scarface, it is about her peddling cookies, so of course I brought my street paralysis to the situation. Only we know those little ins and outs about hustling and maybe in Middle America they are not going to quite get it but we know what it is and it’s funny. It is in no kind of way tapping into what we know it is I just took the whole idea of it and brought it to the show
Television is so different from stand up or film. Was it hard to adjust?
Well I have been in the business for 20 years now and I guess in a 20-year span you typically learn everything that you want to do. In any kind of business for 20 years if you work at a popcorn shop and you bag the popcorn I am pretty sure you are going to learn how to make the popcorn and that is what I have done. I have just been a sponge in the business and I’ve learned how to adjust to certain situations. I have to give the credit to God giving me the talent to do it to be able to play this role and jump out of that and play this role. Any role that you see me playing I draw from my own life in all of them which was good, bad, sad, happy and I make sure that I am a different person every time you see me because I am drawn from something, someone that I knew or a situation, so that is how I balance everything.
Uncle Buck is primetime TV and rated PG, was it hard not to curse?
It was an adjustment because my fans, my audience, are used to seeing me like you said in Rated R movies and cursing and raunchy and wild, and it was an adjustment for me too because for many years I didn’t think I could be funny without being that way, without cursing and being a certain way. I thought about it and said “well you are not that way around your kids are you?, and I said, “no I am not that way around my kids,” well there you go you have to be that type of funny on this show. It took me a long time to be comfortable with trusting in that type of funny because my fans are critical and they won’t allow me to be on the soft side. Now I am figuring it out like you know that I can be funny without cursing, I look funny – I am just kidding. I cursed a couple of times in front of them little kids and they just laughed and giggled and they loved it and I said don’t tell your mama what I said.
Doing a television series takes a lot of time. How are you going to balance the series and doing your comedy and films?
I don’t even think about it. My father worked at a plant for 40 years and had perfect attendance, never missed a day. I watched my father work hard and it’s just in me. I love to work. I only sleep about 4 hours a day because I run so much and then I’ve got anxiety so it takes so much for me to relax. I take thirty minute naps during the day. I love working because I know one day I won’t be able to do it. I’m getting it all in while I can.
Don’t forget to tune into the premier of Uncle Buck starring Mike Epps on June 14th on ABC.
In the next installment of My Lunch with Mike Epps we will talk about his role as Richard Pryor.