Mike Epps: Funny Business

Mike Epps is probably best known for his hilarious portrayal of Craig’s bumbling cousin, Day-Day in the Friday movies, but that isn’t where the Indiana native got his start. His big screen debut was actually in a rather obscure Vin Diesel flick called Strays in 1996.

Originally a stand-up comic, Epps made his television debut on Def Comedy Jam in 1995 after spending years on the small time stand up circuit in Atlanta and later New York. With over 20 appearances in films and on television, Epps is becoming a power player in Hollywood. In fact, he was an Executive Producer of The Honeymooners, which he starred in with Cedric The Entertainer, and Co-Executive Producer of All About the Benjamins with Ice Cube.

Mike is also no stranger to Hip-Hop, and has appeared in quite a few music videos. As he builds successful career as a bonafide actor and is maintaining his standup integrity, Mike Epps proves that he has even more up his proverbial sleeve.

We sat down with Mike to discuss his current film Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, his next career moves and the current state of Black film.

AllHipHop.com: Okay, Mike. [Roscoe Jenkins] was so funny! How was it filming it?

Mike Epps: I mean, being a part of that cast, every day was off the chain. Can you imagine all them people in one room every day? Sometimes, [director] Malcolm [Lee] had to holler, “Alright, fun is over, we gotta shoot a movie.” I think that’s what made the movie good - it was well written, it was really well cast.

AllHipHop.com: And your character was just a mess.

Mike Epps: [laughs] Freaky, horny, a thief.

AllHipHop.com: $300 dollars for ice?

Mike Epps: It was hot out.

AllHipHop.com: [laughs] You bring so much personality to your characters…

Mike Epps: I think, maybe, a lot of my characters are written with me in mind, so they are kind of similar to my personality. I worked with Malcolm previously in Roll Bounce, and after being with him in that movie he kinda felt who I was and what I could do. When I read, it was too familiar. I was like, “My auntie is like this… my uncle is like that,” so it just made me want to do it more.

AllHipHop.com: What’s it like working with Martin [Lawrence]? I have a huge crush on him.

Mike Epps: [laughs] Well, you know, Martin is the best thing we have since Richard Pryor. His show [Martin] was so successful and meant so much to all of us, and he has all this great knowledge and this great information - and he gives great advice. He was great.

AllHipHop.com: Mike, You’ve played so many classic characters. I mean, who doesn’t love Day-Day?

Mike Epps: Those kinda movies they are so fun, and people remember you by those movies. I wish I could do a lot more of them, but in this business, it’s so easy to get typecast. And, you know, Day-Day was more like me when I was younger, and I’m older now.

AllHipHop.com: So, would you ever do that big jump and play a really dramatic role?

Mike Epps: No question. I’ve been inching up to that anyway. Talk to Me, Something New. Those roles have been me inching up to that. I definitely think I can do it, I have it in me. It’s just that people are used to seeing me being funny, so I gotta give the people what they want.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking of giving the people what they want, do you think that Last Friday will ever get made?

Mike Epps: You never can tell. I mean, Ice Cube is the leader of that situation. His interest is in another direction. He’s starting another franchise, and my life is gone off in another direction, and Chris Tucker is who he is. So, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about it right now.

AllHipHop.com: I know people have been asking you.

Mike Epps: Yeah, everybody has been asking.

AllHipHop.com: This year is the 15th anniversary of Menace II Society, and there have been so many feel-good Black movies lately. Do you think we will ever get back to drama?

Mike Epps: I think America… since the war, [Hurricane] Katrina, there has been a lot of pain for our country. I think people want to laugh. American Gangster was a different type of movie. It was violent, but it was a story. Menace, Boyz N the Hood, those were those times and times have changed. If you wanted to make a drama now, you would have to make a different kind of drama. Gangs aren’t really prevalent, it’s a lot of weird cyber crime… you would have to do something that fit the times.

AllHipHop.com: What else do you have coming?

Mike Epps: I got a new movie coming out Next Day Air, it’s an independent flick with Debbie Allen, Mos Def and Wood Harris. It won’t be out everywhere, but it is another chance for people to see me do a different kind of movie, and I am always going to be doing stand up. That‘s my first love.