In his latest interview with ESSENCE, comedian Chris Rock keeps it all the way real about diversity in Hollywood and how difficult Black actresses actually have it. While actresses like Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, and Viola Davis have been en vogue lately, Rock says they’re still extremely underpaid.
“Black women get paid less than everybody in Hollywood,” he told ESSENCE. “Everybody’s talking about Jennifer Lawrence. Talk to Gabrielle Union. If you want to hear stories, talk to Nia Long. Talk to Kerry Washington. They would love to get to Jennifer Lawrence’s place, or just be treated with the same amount of respect.”
Rock, who proudly admits he’s never “gone in to a [movie] battle without a Black woman,” says that despite his desire to write and produce roles for women of color, studio executives always try to whitewash his vision.
“I’ve never done a movie, any movie, the silliest movie, where someone, some studio person hasn’t gone, ‘Does the girl have to be Black?’ It happens every time.”
One of the biggest obstacles Rock faced was convincing network executives to trust his choice to cast Tichina Arnold for Everybody Hates Chris. While Arnold absolutely stole the show, Rock says some people weren’t convinced.
“With Tichina Arnold in Everybody Hates Chris, I had to fight for Tichina. I’m not even going to tell you who the network wanted,” he said. “She’s literally as good as Tina Fey or Julia Louis-Dreyfus or any of these chicks. They’re like, ‘Tichina who’?’”
Still, Rock isn’t letting close-minded folks stop him. As the father of two little Black girls, he plans to keep picking women in color for his projects because it matters to him.
“I think everything I’ve ever done has had a significant role for a Black or brown woman,” he explained. “I refuse not to.”
We can’t wait to see what Rock has to say about Hollywood’s diversity problem when he hosts this year’s Academy Awards ceremony on February 28.