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Mike Epps Says Marlon Wayans Was To Play Richard Pryor In 'Nina' But Wasn't Up For It

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act March 25, 2013 at 12:15PM

It's not entirely clear to me here if Mike Epps is just teasing, or if he's being completely serious about some of the things he says here, especially during the latter half of the interview, when he talks about why he doesn't think Marlon Wayans would be a good choice to play Richard Pryor in a film.
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Mike Epps

It's not entirely clear to me here if Mike Epps is just teasing, or if he's being completely serious about some of the things he says here, especially during the latter half of the interview, when he talks about why he doesn't think Marlon Wayans would be a good choice to play Richard Pryor in a film.

As we already know, Mike Epps is playing Richard Pryor in a supporting role, in director Cynthia Mort's Nina Simone project, Nina, which stars Zoe Saldana as Simone and David Oyelowo as her Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson.

In the video interview below, Epps reveals that Marlon Wayans was originally supposed to play the part in Mort's film, but he apparently wasn't *good enough* to play the part, according to what Epps says, and thus, the role went to Epps instead. He adds that, initially, Pryor's wife (until his death) Jennifer Lee Pryor, didn't want Epps to play the part, saying that she "blackballed" him; although her decision on who would play Pryor in Mort's film wouldn't have influenced the final selection. As he states, she had nothing to do with the film.

But he called her anyway (Epps called Jennifer Lee) if only out of respect, and they had a conversation about it, and it looks like she eventually gave him her blessing, and that was that.

I had no idea that Marlon had been the initial choice for the part in Mort's film. But I guess it shouldn't be a big surprise since he's long been attached to play Richard Pryor in a true Richard Pryor biopic that Chris Rock would be producing - Rock who said that he, and the other producers, were blown away by Marlon’s audition. So, I don't know what Mike Epps is talking about, which is why I wonder if he was just joking around about Marlon not being *good enough*.

As for the status of the Chris Rock-produced, Marlon Wayans-starring Richard Pryor biopic, in my exclusive interview with Marlon last fall, this is what he had to say, when I asked him about it:

You know, I don't know what's going on with it. Hollywood is in a weird place right now. Everyone's scared to make movies. I think it'll be a brilliant movie. You know, I'd never done stand-up until 2 years ago, when I did for the first time. And the reason I started doing stand-up was in preparation to play Richard Pryor. And for me - I'm a method actor - and I just wanted to become Richard Pryor, and see what the journey of a comedian was. But since the movie stalled, I don't know when it'll get done. But one day, I believe it will get done. So in the meantime, I'm just making sure that I'm prepared for that moment, starting with doing lots of stand-up around the country. And you know, it's making me better, smarter, more articulate, and more calmer, and a better writer. So I'm so grateful for this journey, and believing that one day it will get done, and I want to make sure I'm prepared and ready for that moment when it comes.


Amen to ensuring that you're always ready and prepared for THE moment, whenever it comes! 

Unfortunately, like so many other biopics on the lives of black public figures, I anticipate this one to remain in limbo indefinitely...

Watch the Mike Epps interview below:





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