Whether hes rocking a comedy show, a television hosting gig or a cartoon voiceover, Charlie Murphy is a man of many talents. We first really learned of him through his brother Eddies exploits, but Charlie has made his own lane in entertainment in a big way since then. An avid storyteller, Charlie has been able to share his unique life with people via his comedy stand-up routines and his hilarious skits on Chappelle’s Show.
From early roles in films like Mo Better Blues, Malcolm X and Harlem Knights, Charlies work has evolved into a montage of things, including writing and producing. In the midst of promoting the film The Perfect Holiday and taping several upcoming projects, Charlie slowed down for a few to tell us what hes been up to. He gave us the exclusive on what keeps him going, the challenges of juggling so many tasks and exactly what went down with the big brown shark Yeah, that shark.
AllHipHop.com: You have this new movie The Perfect Holiday coming out. Tell us a little bit about your role in the movie and how it was working with this cast.
Charlie Murphy: Well first I’d like to say it was a blast working with the cast. I think everybody did a tremendous job, and I’m really proud to be a part of this ensemble. With the work that was put in, everybody did their thing which was called upon, and you should see that when you watch the movie.
The movie was fun to make – it was fun to go to work and a fun environment. I think I stretched and developed a little during the course of making this film, because it was the first time that I was put in a position where I actually took on things that were intimidating and found out some things about myself, so I’m proud about that too.
AllHipHop.com: Give us an example of what you mean.
Charlie Murphy: Like singing in front of a camera. [laughs] I’m a comedian, so it’s very important as a comedian [that] when do anything and it’s on film and people are watching and laughing it’s because you made them laugh – not because you’ve made a fool of yourself. That was definitely a factor and a possibility if it didn’t go right, but it did go right, so I’m happy about that.
AllHipHop.com: Were there any particular funny stories about filming with any of the actors?
Charlie Murphy: Everybody was very serious and business like. The only problem I can remember having with the film was in the very beginning when the whole singing thing was brought to me. I went crazy because when we were negotiating to do this film and I read the script, I didn’t see anything about singing. I just seen the J-Jizzy character and all the other stuff, and I was like, “Oh okay cool, I could do all this” – it was nothing about singing.
Then all of a sudden the first day on the set, the director comes to me with this CD and he goes, “Listen to this tonight and you’re recording it tomorrow.” I put the CD in and this voice came out and it was like a tenor Michael Jackson, that’s how high-pitched it was. I was insulted, I was like, “What? You think that voice is coming out of my mouth and the audience is gonna look at my face?” It aint like I just came out, they know my voice is raspy and kind of low, and all of a sudden I’m gonna go to the top like Mariah Carey they’re gonna be laughing at me like, “Who are you trying to fool?”
I decided that the best way for me to go at it is, Okay I cant sing, but the joke is that I do sing to the best of my ability, but it’s gonna be horrible, and I’m gonna act like i think that what I did was good. That’s gonna be the joke. They said, “Okay go to the studio and record the song to the best of your ability.” When I recorded the sing to the best of my ability, it came out as what it was and it was a shock not only to myself, but everybody that heard it was like, “You put us through all of that and you can sing it this good?” I was like, “I didn’t know that I could do all of that.”
I had never tried it before. I never was trying to be involved in anything where it looks like I’m seriously trying to move you with a song. In my mind, I was like that would make people say “Is he serious? Has he lost his mind?”
AllHipHop.com: Over the years you’ve definitely made a lot of moves to identify yourself in your own realm, rather than always being Eddie’s brother. You’ve really branded your own name. Do you feel that in the beginning it was a little tougher for you to get out from under that?
Charlie Murphy: Oh yeah, absolutely, because most people don’t know what they want until it’s right in front of them. You gotta show them what they want, and you have to learn how to do that. It’s real intimidating coming out and trying to get involved with this game at first. Whenever you walk into an audition there’s five people already sitting in the room, nobody’s talking and they’re all looking at you like, “Show me something”. They got the little camera in the corner, that’s intimidating.
You have to learn how to not be intimidated by that, you have to learn how to intimidate them and make them feel you. That takes a lot of self-confidence and that’s not something you can just give yourself. It comes from you finding out piece by piece how to do it. The more you do, the bigger and stronger your spirit becomes when you walk in a room without even opening your mouth.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think that people a certain familiarity with you because of the [stories] that Eddie [told] and the stories that you told on Chappelle’s Show about your experiences in life?
Charlie Murphy: Absolutely, because every circle of friends has a storyteller, somebody that basically shows up and spreads the news and they get the information from him. Me showing up as the grand storyteller and telling a story about Prince and everything – everybody knows who Prince is and this guy is telling us he was really there, we believe that he was really there and his story is funny, now we like him too. But there’s a tribune in every crowd, definitely.
AllHipHop.com: True or False – The G.I. Joe swimming in the water story from Delirious. Is that true?
Charlie Murphy: What, the big brown shark story? [laughs] Wow! I can’t believe you asked me that. Yeah, it’s true, but I don’t think nobody was singing no songs like “Then the big brown shark came”. That happened when we was real young, and I don’t even know who s**t in the tub, but we was young enough to do that, we was probably two years old.
I was on stage once doing my show and this dude started yelling out, “Oh that’s funny Charlie, but we wanna hear about the big brown shark.” I didn’t stop my show, I just kept going but I could hear him and I’m going “What is he talking about?” He’s going “Charlie! Charlie! tell us about the big brown shark” until finally I stopped the show and said “What are you talking about, man?” and he sang “and then the big brown shark came” and the whole audience erupted. That was one of those moments, I had to go along with it, because it was so powerful.
AllHipHop.com: Over the years you’ve actually developed into writing and producing, and you’ve done a range of the comedic roles, but you’ve been in some serious roles as well. What do you find is the most challenging aspect?
Charlie Murphy: The most challenging aspect is showing up. [laughs] I write, I do stand-up comedy, I do movies; so it’s a challenge to be separated from the family as much as I am, but I want nice things for my children and this is the way it’s coming. This is what I’ve been doing all my life, if a person has a talent or skill that they’ve honed and you take that from them, that person’s gonna be lost. The biggest challenge is showing up, because you gotta keep the pressure on you, you’ll never let up at this. That’s just my way of doing things, I don’t think a man has the luxury of relaxing.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve had a couple of shows you had the Hot Ghetto Mess show which actually got a name change on BET. Did that actually ever premiere?
Charlie Murphy: Yeah, it showed all six episodes. That was something that Reggie Hudlin threw together in like two days, he called me on the phone and said, “I got this idea I want to do, do you want to be involved?” When he told me what the premise was I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s fun.” He said “We’re only gonna do six of them.” I said, “I’ll still do it,” because the way I looked at it was when we did the lost episodes of Chappelle’s Show we got to host three segments. We knew that going in, but from a business standpoint I look at it like each time I [hosted] I was getting experience in doing that.
One day down the road you may be in a situation where this is about you, you’re the host and you’ve been groomed because you had experience. You won’t be somebody just doing it for the first time and basically throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what’s gonna stick, you’re doing it with a technique. So that’s why I took those assignments and I did well on both of them, so when stuff like that comes up I’ll take a shot at it.
AllHipHop.com: You have several projects coming up, a few different movies going into the end of this year and 2008. Tell us a little bit about what you have upcoming, and is it true that there’s a Beverly Hills Cop movie in the works?
Charlie Murphy: I keep hearing that rumor, and unless it’s gonna be me starring and Eddie… [laughs] Eddie’s doing Beverly Hills Cop and I didnt hear anything about it. I hope they do come with Cop IV, that’ll be a huge check for Charlie Murphy. But for right now that’s a rumor, I’ve heard it quite a bit over the last two months. I have not only this film, The Perfect Holiday, in the beginning of the year I have a film Bar Starz that’s coming out in January, and I have another film that I did up in Sacramento that’s coming out in the spring called Freddie and Junior with me and Al Shearer.
All these films are mad funny, you’re gonna have a nice little Charlie Murphy blanket coming up in 2008, [Frankenhood] is supposed to be coming out in February. We’ll be putting some good stuff out and I cant wait for people to see it, and I got a sci-fi/horror movie that’s coming out next year too. It’s a lot of stuff happening, and it’s all different types of stuff and I perform well in it. All I ask in return for that is to give me the same opportunity that everyone else has been getting. They came out and performed well in the project and the response was, “Okay now you’re gonna get more work and get better roles”.
AllHipHop.com: You’re still doing stand-up as well. How do you balance all of that?
Charlie Murphy: That’s a good question. A lot of praying.
AllHipHop.com: What advice would you give to any young person that’s looking to get into comedy and/or acting in the comedic realm?
Charlie Murphy: Be prepared to lose a lot of sleep and deal with failure and adversity. It’s always there. Also always never give up on what you believe about yourself. Always remember that before any big victory there’s a big battle. That explains any pain we deal with in life. It makes it easier to deal with knowing that there’s a reward at the end if you deal with it. There’s something waiting at the end if you don’t let it conquer you – there’s a victory in the end.