Everybody Hates Chris
It's been called the best new show of the fall season. It's got everybody laughing. It's Everybody Hates Chris!
(Photo: Courtesy UPN)
We had the cool opportunity to have exclusive chats with the stars of the show: Tyler James Williams, who plays Chris; Tequan Richmond, who plays Drew; Imani Hakim, who plays Tonya; and Vincent Martella, who plays Greg. Reading the interviews, you definitely get the feeling that the Everybody Hates Chris set is truly one, big happy familythat loves to laugh a lot!
Get your giggles on and read our interviews with:
Tyler James Williams
TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS
THE PROFESSIONAL SIDE
Q: What made you want to act?
Tyler: I saw Men in Blackthe first one. I saw Will Smith and told my mom, "I want to do that." She thought it was another fling, like "I want to be an astronaut" or "I want to be a biker."
Q: How long ago did you start acting?
Tyler: Eight years ago, I started when I was 4, doing Sesame Street and commercials.
Q: Do you have a favorite commercial?
Tyler: Yes, I have a few favorites. One is the latest one that I did, the Fruit Roll-Ups commercial, which advertises this 3-D Fruit Roll-Up strip. I think I was able to show a little bit of comedy in that.
Q: Have you ever been in a commercial where you had to eat the product so many times that you never want to touch it again?
Tyler: Actually, in that one commercial I had to eat 40 Fruit Roll-Ups.
Q: Guess you have stayed away from that aisle in the grocery store for a while then?
Tyler: Yes, I have! [laughs]
Q: Are any other people in your family in show business?
Tyler: Actually my parents were on the other side. They were singers and songwriters and publishers. They had formed a group, so I guess I just had that gene.
Q: You said you didn't "study" Chris Rock, but you have similar inflections. How did you pick it up?
Tyler: I picked that up when I first read the script. I noticed that he went to an all-white school, which was something I went through. A couple of things that happen in the house also went on in mine. And I am the oldest of three brothers.
Q: Is there anything you're trying to imitate about Chris?
Tyler: No, not really. I haven't been trying to imitate Chris. He told me the first day, "Don't try to do anything like me, just act like yourself." When I was younger, I did skits on Saturday Night Live. I was always the kid in the back or something, but I always watched their timing and picked it up.
Q: What do you think you and the young Chris have in common?
Tyler: We are both in a two-parent household. I have two younger brothers just as he has a younger brother and a younger sister. Sometimes I have the responsibility to watch over them, as a big brother should. Those are some things that the Chris character and I have in common.
Q: Did you ever get bullied as a kid or did you have any friends who were bullied?
Tyler: Well, not friends, but I knew a couple of kids who got bullied. I was never really the kid who got bullied, because I was the only actor at the school, so I was at the top of the popularity list.
Q: How did they react?
Tyler: Some of them shot back with words, but others just took it.
Q: In the show does Chris get bullied?
Tyler: Yes, he does.
Q: How does Chris react?
Tyler: Chris reacts. I'm limited in what I can tell you, but Chris is very strong-willed.
THE PERSONAL SIDE
A young Chris Rock (Tyler James Williams) sits alone in the locker room.
(Photo Courtesy: UPN)
Q: What part of New York are you from?
Tyler: Yonkers. It was a nice neighborhood. I was the only black kid on the block.
Q: How do you like L.A.?
Tyler: It's a whole other animal, very different from New York. I like the dry heat. It's not humid. What I don't like is it tricks on you at night and gets cooler.
Q: What is the worst present you ever got?
Tyler: I got some socks that didn't fit. One day I went to walk my dog and it was snowing so I put them on the dog. He's a silky terrier. He's back home.
Q: What's his name?
Tyler: Benny "Roughneck" Williams.
Q: Why did you give him that name?
Tyler: I just thought it would be funny. You know, you have a little dog and when people first hear his name they think it's a big dog. When people hear that his middle name is Roughneck, I think that's pretty funny.
Q: Is he your dog or is he the family dog?
Tyler: He is my dog. I am responsible for walking him, feeding him, and all of that good stuff.
Q: Do you want to go to college?
Tyler: Yes, I definitely plan to go to college. My mother wants me to get a scholarshipshe wants academic, my father wants sports. I'm thinking of getting both.
Q: What is your weirdest secret talent?
Tyler: I can make my tongue into a threeleaf clover. [demonstrates]
Q: We hear you like macaroni and cheesewhat makes it so special?
Tyler: I love it, because it's a home-cooked meal. I usually have it on special occasions. My mom will say to me, "You did a good job, what would you like to have?"
I usually say "mac and cheese!"
She makes it from scratch. It's the best macaroni you ever had. You have to taste it; it's the best ever.
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THE PROFESSIONAL SIDE
Q: Tell us about Drew, your character on Everybody Hates Chris.
Tequan: Drew is a calm, collected character. He's Chris's brother. Even though he's younger, he's taller, and that's the inside joke right there. He's kind of a ladies man and that's pretty much him.
Q: Do you think that there's a lot about Drew that's similar to you or are you very different from him?
Tequan: Actually we're the same person. When I walk on the set, I am the same person I was when I got out of the car. Drew is the exact same person that I am.
Q: Is that fun?
Tequan: Yeah, it is fun. I didn't do much research, but I did ask some questions. My character is based on Chris Rock's real brother, Tony Rock.
Q: Has Chris told you any stories about how he and Tony handled things when they were younger?
Tequan: No, not yet. I am just going to interpret this part based on what other people tell me. The producer Ali LeRoi has told me that Tony is very calm and very cool and nothing really bothers him at all, so I just take those notes and put it into what my perception of the character is.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
Tequan: I didn't know. My mom was out here acting and she had an agent. She put me on speakerphone to her agent and I sang "Just My Imagination" by the Temptations. They loved me over the phone and they told my mom to bring me out to California.
Q: How old were you then?
Tequan: I was 9 years old.
Q: So, you like to sing?
Tequan: I do like to sing, but I don't think I'm good at it. I'd really like to sing if I was good at it. I'm thinking about taking lessons in the future.
Q: Did you know anything about Ray Charles before you played the role of his son in the movie Ray?
Tequan: I didn't know much about him, but of course my grandmother and other older people in my family knew about him. But I now know who he is and the songs that he did.
Q: What was it like working with Jamie Fox in Ray?
Tequan: Oh, that was a real pleasure. I really enjoyed working with him. He really is funny. He's a really funny guy.
Q: Who's your favorite comedian?
Tequan: I'd actually have to say it is Jamie Fox. I really enjoy his comedy.
THE PERSONAL SIDE
Q: Describe yourself to me.
Tequan: Well, my mom likes to call me an old soul so I am kind of calm, just like the character Drew. I just sit back sometimes. Sometimes I am patient, but if it something that's really important I can become impatient.
Q: What is your typical day like?
Tequan: I probably have to get up around 5:30 every morning and I get ready and leave around 6:00 if the call time is 6:30. I come to Paramount, go to my trailer, set all my stuff down. I change into my wardrobe for the day, go to makeup and hair, eat breakfast, and go over my lines. If they need me for a scene, I go in and do my thing and then I come out and eat lunch or do an interview or something like today. I play my PlayStation when I have some free time and that's pretty much it. I go home and maybe play some golf or something.
Q: When did you get into golf?
Tequan: I originally got into golf like two years ago when I did this Aaron Spelling pilot for PBS with Danny Glover and I had to golf in the episode. I had professional golf lessons and I carried the information with me for two years, until I finally decided to start back at it again. I really like it and I've been doing it ever since.
Q: Do you like to watch golf on TV?
Tequan: Like I said, I'm very impatient.
Q: Are there any professional golfers that you really admire or would like to meet?
Tequan: Of course, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.
Q: We understand you like sushi.
Tequan: Yes, I love sushi.
Q: How did you try it for the first time?
Tequan: There's a really popular sushi spot called Sushi Dan's. We go all the time and the first time I went I was unsure and didn't think it looked so good. But I tried it and put soy sauce on it and it was great. It doesn't look anything like it tastes. I like tempura rolls and just regular California and spicy tuna rolls.
Q: Is sushi your favorite food?
Tequan: My favorite food is my grandmother's home-cooked meals.
Q: What's her specialty?
Tequan: There's a dessert that she makes and it is a cherry cream-cheese pie.
Q: Another thing you seem to like are sneakershow many pairs of sneakers do you have?
Tequan: Well, I just had to restock my collection, because my feet grew a little bit too big, so right now I probably have maybe five pairs, but they're all brand-new.
Q: Is there a particular brand or designer that you like or do you try everything?
Tequan: I would like to try everything, but I really do like Nike and Brand Jordan.
Q: What do you like to do there when you're not working?
Tequan: I like to swim a lot, because it's very hot out here. I like to shoot pool and I like to play basketball, and my mom and I are thinking about going to Sea World in San Diego.
Q: When you go swimming do you prefer the pool or the ocean?
Tequan: No, I stay away from the ocean; sharks and me don't mix. I like to stay at home in my own pool.
Q: Do you remember what was the first book you really loved?
Tequan: I think it was Green Eggs and Ham. I really enjoy that book.
Q: Why is reading important for kids?
Tequan: Because reading books really helps your vocabulary. When you see a word in a book that you don't know and you go to a dictionary and look it up, it stays in your brain, and so when there's a purpose for the word to be used, you use it.
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THE PROFESSIONAL SIDE
Q: How did you get into acting?
Imani: Well, I was originally in Ohio and I did a couple of plays there. My father had faith in me I guess, so we drove to Los Angeles and we auditioned for other parts and then after a few days I got the part.
Q: So Everybody Hates Chris is the first TV series you auditioned for?
Imani: This is actually my first big piece of work.
Q: Were you scared when you auditioned?
Imani: I was a little nervous.
Q: When you're nervous, do you calm yourself down or use that nervous energy in your acting?
Imani: I breathe. I just take deep breaths.
Q: Tell me about your character, Tonya.
Imani: She's a brat and she's a daddy's girl and she gets Chris in trouble for everything. She's the only girl and the youngest.
Q: So is she pampered a little bit and treated special?
Imani: From her dad, she is. Tonya is his favorite child.
Q: Are you very similar to Tonya?
Imani: I'm not all bratty like her. I'm a daddy's girl and out of my father's children, I'm the youngest girl and the only girl, so that's similar, but I am not all bratty like her.
Q: Do the guys on the show treat you differently, because you're the only regular girl actress on the show? Do they act like big brothers?
Imani: Oh yeah.
Q: What do they do?
Imani: We hang out a lot. I don't hang out with anybody else and they said they were going to treat me like their little sister.
Q: Do they let you play basketball with them?
Imani: Yeah, I play with them sometimes during lunchtime when my older brothers come up here. We all go out to the basketball court and play basketball or we just play catch with the football.
THE PERSONAL SIDE
Q: Is your best friend back in Cleveland or do you have a really close friend in L.A.?
Imani: I had a best friend in Cleveland and my manager's granddaughter and I are really close.
Q: So to you what qualities make a best friend?
Imani: They have to be honest and when I need help, they help me. And when I'm upset or something, they come to see what's wrong, and they keep asking and they care.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not working?
Imani: I like to play basketball. I don't know how to play tennis, but I am learning. I like practicing my jujitsu and riding bikes and running.
Q: Do you remember what your favorite book was when you were a little kid?
Imani: I think it was I'm Going to Read: Big Red Blanket
Q: Are you reading anything now?
Imani: No, but I read my scripts. I have this book at home that I've been trying to get to. It's called Cold River.
Q: What would you like your fans to know about you?
Imani: Do not hate me because of my character and the way she acts. She's a brat but I'm not really that person.
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THE PROFESSIONAL SIDE
Q: You started performing when you were 3 years old, right?
Vincent: I started singing, dancing, and acting when I was that young, but I started doing print ads and commercials when I was five.
Q: How did you know you wanted to perform at such a young age?
Vincent: I'd always loved doing it. I felt good when I was up there performing in front of people and making them smile and making them laugh.
Q: What was your favorite commercial?
Vincent: My favorite commercial would have to be my first commercial actually, for Armor Hot Dogs, because I got to play with both Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. That was really fun. I was only in second grade, but it was the time of my life.
Q: Did you have to eat like 20 million hotdogs?
Vincent: No, not that for that, but you wouldn't believe how many Pringles I had to eat for the Pringles commercial.
Q: You've done commercials, movies, TV, and cartoon voices. Is there anything you prefer or do you enjoy all of them?
Vincent: Well, each one is pretty much a different experience. I enjoy all of them. In voice-overs you can change your voice and be as wild as you want, because it doesn't matter. It's all about your voice and your facial expressions. When you have live television and movies, every little bit teaches you something new about acting.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your character, Greg.
Vincent: Well, Greg is Chris's best friend in the show and they're both kind of the outcasts of the school. Chris is the only black kid in the school. I'm not exactly the coolest kid in the school. I'm very smart, so that intimidates people in a different way.
Q: How is Greg similar to you and how is he dissimilar?
Vincent: They wanted an Italian kid for this part and they wanted someone who was really from New York. They said all they wanted was someone who could be real in the audition room. I am Italian and I am from upstate New York, so I had most of the qualities and they just loved the way I played the part.
Q: What's it like on the set of Everybody Hates Chris?
Vincent: On the set we hang out and practice lines or talk to each other and just basically have fun. But off the set we play basketball together, we go swimming, we go to the movieswe do everything together. It's so funny, because on some of these TV shows the kids just act nice onscreen, but we're really all great friends outside of the TV show.
Q: Chris Rock sits in on some of the read-throughs. What's it like to have him on the set?
Vincent: Oh, it's a pleasure. He's been here a lot and he's very fun to work with. We're bouncing ideas off of everybody all the time, so it's awesome.
Q: Describe your co-stars.
Vincent: They are all amazing actors and actresses and nice people all around. They are very fun to work with. I have a blast with them. I think that Tyler is such a nice person and he really shows the comedy of a situation on the screen. I think that's what people want to see. It's not just comedy; it's real- life comedy that they all bring to the screen. Tequan is more of the cooler kid on the show and he plays that part great. He just shows that real-life situation of how the younger brother could totally be way better than the older brother. It's really funny.
THE PERSONAL SIDE
Q: When you were in school were you or any of your friends ever bullied?
Vincent: Yeah, I have been a little bit. I'm in the gifted program in my school, so it's kind of the accelerated classes or honors, so the other kids are kind of shaky around that. And then again I'm acting, so it intimidates some people.
Q: What's your favorite subject?
Vincent: History and geography. I just like learning how everything happened and where it happened and how it happened and things like that. I just like to know what life was like back then.
Q: Is there a historical era that you would like to visit?
Vincent: I would probably like to visit the '60s or '70s. That's when a lot of big things happened in the music industry and the film industry. I mean you had Star Wars and The Godfather and the Beatles and everything big started happening in the entertainment business.
Q: Is Jim Carrey your favorite comedian?
Vincent: Yes, he is. Of all his films, I think I like Ace Ventura Pet Detective best. That was really his first big movie and that was when he was coming out of the woodwork. He wanted to show everybody how amazing he could really be and he really put it out there.
Q: What do you do when you're not working or studying?
Vincent: I like to sing, dance and play the piano. And then there's the basketball and the swimming and things like that. On that side, I'm just like a regular kid.
Q: Does your family have any special traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Vincent: Since we have four kids in the family we usually have two turkeys with two wishbones. We try to do the wishbones at the same time just so we get that feeling, and everybody gets their chance.
Q: What is the best Christmas memory you have?
Vincent: My favorite Christmas memory is of all those years when you wake up and you just feel happy and you know that today everybody's going to be happy and everything's going to feel OK and you're just going to feel right at home. It's just that warm feeling that you pretty much get every year.
Q: Is your mom a good cook?
Vincent: Yeah, she's a pretty good cook and she's Italian also, so she knows how to make all the pasta and lasagnas and things like that.
Q: When you go home is there something that you ask your mom to make?
Vincent: I would probably ask her to make me some pasta, because I love her pasta. Her pasta is awesome or I like to just crack open some olives. I love black olives. They are awesome.
Q: If you could make a special flavor of ice cream, what would be in it and what would you call it?
Vincent: I would make the ice cream blue. I wouldn't put a flavor in it yet. I'd just make it blue and put chocolate chips in it and call it the Vin-Man ice cream. That's my little logo right there.
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Tyler James Williams interviews by Marie Morreale and Gerri Miller.
Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim, and Vincent Martella interviews by Marie Morreale.