David Alan Grier Discusses Hollywood Hardships, “In Living Color” & Wanting To Be A Magical Negro

David Alan Grier and Chuck Jigsaw Creekmur

Iconic actor David Alan Grier talks to Chuck Jigsaw Creekmur about the trials and tribulations in entertainment, but also his testimony of victory and resilience. Tap in!

At a recent red carpet in New York City, veteran actor David Alan Grier immediately delved into the highs and lows of his storied career, offering insights into the trials and rejuvenations in his journey. As a longtime journalist and storyteller, I uncharacteristically gushed over the hilarious thespian, blurting out, “I am your biggest fan.” Completely unplanned, but it created a scenario for an open, candid and revelatory conversation with one of the greats in entertainment.

Grier, currently promoting “The African American Society of Magical Negroes,” is known for his versatility and depth as an actor. He candidly shared his extreme disappointment that came with the cancelation of his short-lived show “DAG,”(a show I found hilarious) revealing the fierce battles and focus it takes to run a show. The actor discussed the harsh realities of navigating Hollywood, but added he’s in an amazing space where he finally knows what he’s doing.

For me, I found it clutch to hear Brother Grier discuss the various support systems he’s employed through the years, whether on ’90s staple “In Living Color,” the Key & Peele precursor “Chocolate News” or the current project. Throughout the interview, Grier, at times tearfully, touched on the resilience and perseverance necessary for longevity in the entertainment industry. In this brief but inspirational moment, he details the ups and the downs, the importance of “In Living Color,” his desire for “real Hip-Hop” to return and even wanting to be a “magical Negro.”

AllHipHop: Hey, how you doing? How doing? Good. Glad to be here with you. So first of all, David Alan Grier I’m your biggest fan.

David Alan Grier: What’s your name?

AllHipHop: Chuck Creekmur. Chuck. I’m going to start this off the right way. I think I was so hurt when they canceled DAG,” man. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I was mad

David Alan Grier: Long time ago, but I just, at that time, I thought that’s what I wanted. That was all that I wanted. I wanted my own show. And what people don’t understand is the battle. The battle for any and every inch. Just the freedom to do the story I wanted to do to writing, to just getting a Black hair person
Don’t know. Well, David, he’s not in the union. You can’t. And it breaks you down when you have to fight so hard. So I learned a lot, but it takes a lot.

You can’t be the only one there the best. So that from in living color, it wasn’t just Keenan (Ivory Wayans). We had a whole phalanx of crew and family of Black and Brown and White people that we were all on board. The thing that people don’t know in Hollywood, that there are so many egos. I would rather destroy your show to prove a point. The only thing I’ve ever wanted is success. How can we be a success? But when you come up against someone who says, well, “I’ll burn down the house,” what do you do? That’s like, really? That’s artistic terrorism. You can’t. You can’t. So I learned a lot. I learned a lot.

So when I did Chocolate News, I was in every meeting because you, you cannot go home and say, “So you got this? You got my notes.” You come back on some craziness in the morning. So that really is what it requires to be totally free. Unexpurgated, to keep your voice pure, come hell or high water. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. And so the battle goes on. The good thing is after dag, it takes so much out of you. I’m like, damn man, lemme just go do something else. You lick your wounds because this is what I do. This is my life. I got to come back and try something else. So here we are. I’m still standing. I’m still here.

AllHipHop: Yes, absolutely. And really anyone that I’ve told is like, “Yo, I can’t believe you’re going to interview him.” All my friends and stuff.

David Alan Grier: It’s fine. I mean, I feel really humbled by my fans. I mean, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve heard about this. I remember I heard an interview by Bob Dylan and he’s almost 80, I think, and he said, the woman said, “You seem to enjoy performing on a different level.” And he basically said what I’m saying, which is like, I didn’t think I’m 67. I really didn’t. I thought I’d be retired. I didn’t think people would want me in the industry, let alone that I would be thriving. And now I actually know what I’m doing. So I have a different approach. I’m going to bring me into every room. I can’t leave me at home. So if we’re going to work together, I’m bringing me, and it’s led to a longevity and a richness in my career. And I connect with my fans on a different level.

And it really, really is humbling. I remember when I won the Tony Award a couple of years ago, and I posted on Instagram and this guy, excuse me, but this guy, he wrote back and he said, David, we’ve already given you every award. We’ve already honored you in every way. It’s good that you got this award, but we put you on a higher pedestal a lot longer. When I was younger, I couldn’t hear it. And that hit me on a certain way and it just broke me down, man. So I appreciate that love. When someone tells you, and I’ve heard that, well, if you in it, I’m going to go see it because you have not let us down, then I’m going to go see it. That’s responsibility. That means I can’t come with no b####### or I’m going to hear it. And believe me, I hear it sometime. Yeah, you all right, we like you. We ain’t like that other stuff. So all that stuff hits me different. It’s more resident, it’s deeper, and I feel it. So…

AllHipHop: As it relates to this movie, American Society of Magical Negroes, it’s a trope. We all know that. What’s your perspective on the “magical Negro“?

David Alan Grier: Dude, I was trying to get them parts! [Laughs] The the thing is, who I am, I would be be trying to get the “[Driving] Miss Daisy” role thing. “Oh, David, thanks for coming in.” If I just could have seen her and I’d be like, “Why did I get the lead slave?” I just wasn’t built for it. And I realize now that that is a gift. But back in the day, these were the roles where they were the Black people that getting awards and “Oh my God, you came out of the forest naked and you took care of these White people. We’re going to give you an award.”

I never got them. So it’s a real thing. It’s funny. I was talking to a white guy and he said, I never realized. We know, we know. I remember in the theater, we’re driving Miss Daisy, and first of all, Morgan Freeman is brilliant, but these white folks, they were really mourning. They were crying. And I was like, “Damn, damn.” So we blew it up on “In Living Color.” One of the things I loved is that, is “In Living Color” allowed us to bring our private conversations into the public. All the stuff we used to joke about in private, now we had a platform. So we fired so hard because we knew we were on a limited time. So everything was like do or die. I miss it, but I brought it to other things, other projects, and that’s where we’re at, man, do it. It’s your last time.

AllHipHop: Wrapping up a little bit, but “In Living Color” was a specific period of time. It was a bit of a renaissance overall, not just “In Living Color,” but in (TV and film for Black people). Do you feel like we’re getting back to that a little bit? A lot of the movies recently are very diverse.

I like that because for so long, Richard Pryor was the one black superstar comic male. Eddie Murphy took over after him. So there was not a growth. It was like we had a slot. I passed the mic to you don’t give it to anyone else. Wait till you’re done. Now there’s a bunch of people. And also I remember the first time when Prince, I think it was Musicology, he put it out only online. I remember talking to my friends, prince is crazy. This is never going to work. Well, now it works. Look at you. Literally all you need is a mic. And then you can blast. Go home. Right now you can live, live stream. So the culture has changed in which everybody has a voice. Doesn’t mean everyone’s going to listen to everyone’s voice, but at least we have the freedom to put your little G out and you don’t have to wait for approval, a million dollar bank to do it.

It’s not going to be on the same level, but that’s where it starts. Issa Rae started with a streaming online and now she’s big it up. And for me as an older actor, I really want to work with younger people of color, black women, men, young directors and writers to mentor them. And I call it subversive mentoring. I’m going to show you by my behavior. So working with Kobe as a first time director, I’m going to give him the respect on set and set a tone on set, which is the way it should be. Because I’ve been on other sets with, you’re at war, the director, I want to do this shot, you can’t do this shot. They’re arguing with the cinematographer, the lighter, I want to do this. Sit in the hallway. You can’t like it. So you’re fighting, fighting, fighting. It shouldn’t be that way. So that’s kind of what I do and I like it and I want to do more of it. I could do my part.

AllHipHop: They’re giving me the wrap up. But I got to ask you, “In Living Color” was so important for Hip-Hop, it was huge for Hip-Hop

David Alan Grier: They were inextricably linked. And by happenstance it was Rosie Perez because her position was not official, but she was the one who brought all these emerging hip hop acts onto in Living Color and convinced Keenan, here, we should put these people on, put these people on, put these people on. And so it was all hands on deck. And one of the things I remember, Keenan, from the first day, he said, look, you can sit here and waste all this time or do your work, come with your characters and we will give you some daylight if they’re good. But I can’t do it for you. You can’t wait for these writers to, Hey, I got a character for you. So that really brought me on. I remember when Damon came to my dressing room, he said, look, when it first started, David, you need a character. And I started telling him about this blues dude that I used to see in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So we wrote That was Calhoun Tobbs Detroit. Exactly. But he pushed me. Come on man. So now think of something else. So that was very much the spirit and competitiveness and support. So it was beautiful.

AllHipHop: Thank you so much, man. It’s great to have you in this movie and your legacy too. Thank you so much for all you’ve given us. Can we get a quick shout out for AllHipHop?

David Alan Grier: All of Hip-Hop, wherever you at. I’m talking about the real Hip-Hop. I love it, man. Stay alive. It has to be pure. It’s funny. I’m trying to think. Sometimes I don’t even know what Hip-Hop is anymore.

AllHipHop: Oh man, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

David Alan Grier: Hear me? My daughter, she brings some, she plays some stuff while I’m sitting there. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. But the real stuff. Yeah man, we need that.

AllHipHop: We’ll get it back. We going to get it back. It’s coming

David Alan Grier: Back. It’s Wild. Break Dance is going to be an Olympic event. I’m just going to leave that there. The world is crazy. Yeah, that’s crazy.

AllHipHop: Thank you so much. Appreciate you brother. Great talking to you.