Rock and Ealy worked together on the 2002 film “Bad Company,” and the comic had some not so savory words for the budding actor, which Ealy said “crushed me.”
Get the scoop via Chicago Tribune below.
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“I was doing this movie with Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock called ‘Bad Company’ (from 2002). I was still waiting tables at the time but I had just done a ‘Law & Order’ episode, which basically certifies you as a New York actor. I was so excited to audition for this movie and I didn’t get the part but (director) Joel Schumacher saw something in me and he wrote a part for me.
“It wasn’t much, it was a bit part, but I was very grateful. The movie was shooting in New York and Chris Rock played a street hustler — like, he’s that guy who’s doing three-card monte in the park — and I played one of his best friends. I’m a young actor and I’m thrilled because this is my first movie. And it’s a big budget movie. And I’m going to do a scene with Anthony Hopkins! Kerry Washington was just starting out too and she played Chris’ love interest. I guess Kerry and I were the local hires.
“Everything went well. Joel was fantastic. Anthony Hopkins was fantastic. But Chris Rock was a little cold. He was probably at the height of his career at this point and I idolized him — I had watched all his stuff and thought he was so funny and I really respected him — but he was just kind of indifferent to me.
“We had to do some reshoots for the end of the movie so they asked me to come back a couple months later — I’m still waiting tables, so I take a day off from that — and we’re doing this wedding scene between Chris and Kerry and I’m the best man.
“So we’re about to shoot this scene, I’m in my tux, I come on set and Chris and Kerry are standing there and Joel is telling me where to stand. And right before he says action, Chris looks over at me and he says: ‘Oh (pause). Still in the business, huh?’
“And when he said that, it was like a Mike Tyson left hook. And I knew he wasn’t joking around. I think maybe he was trying to disguise it as playful teasing, but it was a dig. For whatever reason, it was a dig: ‘You still in the business, huh?’
“Some people don’t get it when I tell this story, but to say that to me was beyond disrespectful — to the point where Kerry was like (laughs), ‘Chris, no.’ I still love Kerry to this day because she was like, ‘What’s wrong with you? That was just wrong.’
“He had an entourage of people and they were very nice to me, but he was just an a——. You never know what somebody’s going through. Wherever he was in that point in his life, he probably wasn’t very happy.
“When I first moved to New York and started waiting tables, I didn’t tell anybody that I wanted to act because it’s kind of a cliche. I didn’t want people to look at me and think: Oh, this pretty boy thinks he can just come here and be an actor. I wanted to have a chance to prove myself to myself and pay my dues. So when he said that, it was crushing. It was awful.
“And mind you, we didn’t speak much on set in the first place. For whatever reason he didn’t talk to me much. He was a big star and I had a small part and maybe he didn’t think I was going to be around much, so he didn’t think it was important to be nice to me.
“I just stayed professional and did my best, but I was stuck there having to look like I’m happy to be at my friend’s wedding when really at this point, I wanted to punch him in the f—— face. The crying came later. In the moment I wanted to punch him in the face. That was my Maryland upbringing coming into play (laughs) where you just fight.
“But it forced me to look at what I wanted to do. I could either quit and make him right about me. Or I could be like, you know what? There’s going to be other people who don’t believe in me, so I have to believe in myself. At the time, being successful didn’t mean being a big movie star — it meant making a living as an actor. I just needed to make my rent doing this.
“Shortly after this happened I decided to move to LA. And my first week there I had a panic attack driving down Sunset and looking at all these billboards of famous people and feeling like I had to be famous right now and realizing that I had left New York abruptly and this might have been a crazy thing to do. But within a year, I myself was on billboards for ‘Barbershop’ and my whole world changed.
So what happened when Ealy crossed paths with Chris years later?
“Years later I see Chris at the Golden Globes. I had been nominated for ‘Sleeper Cell’ (a Showtime drama from 2005) and I run into him on my way to the bathroom. And you know what he said? ‘I love your work and I apologize for what I said.’
“He somehow remembered what he said to me and that it was wrong — and he owned up to it and apologized and told me he loved my work and he was a fan.
“That’s when the crying happened (laughs)! For him to acknowledge it was huge — it meant everything to me. And he’s kind of a dope person because of that. I forgive easy, but can you imagine if he hadn’t remembered that we had worked together on a movie before? That would have been the second punch, right?
“I’ve seen him numerous times since then and all is cool (laughs), no big deal. And I still think he’s a great comedian, you know what I mean? I don’t hold this against him. I did — I held a serious grudge up until we met at the Golden Globes and we talked. But I also know that he motivated me.”
Read the rest of the interview here and find out the takeaway lesson Michael learned from his experience with Chris.