Chris Rock & Ice-T Discuss Making “New Jack City” On Its 25th Anniversary (Audio)
Twenty five years ago tomorrow (March 8, 1991) New Jack City was released to theaters. Largely conceived and written by Barry Michael Cooper, and directed by Mario Van Peebles, the film starring Wesley Snipes would live well beyond its impressive theatrical run. A quarter century later, the Warner Bros. movie is a time capsule of New York City, drug addiction, music, fashion and cool culture. However, when it comes to over-arching themes and captivating performances, the work is timeless.
Two actors who transcended on screen were Chris Rock and Ice-T. Chris, who played opposites that ceremoniously bonded. Rock, who joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (n/k/a SNL) the same year as filming began, played “Pookie” a fully-formed portrayal of a crack cocaine addict. Despite comedic features in Beverly Hills Cops II and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, this would be Chris’ first dabble in dramatic acting—not without his moments of humor. Ice-T, who had starred in Hip-Hop-inspired features previously, played police detective “Scotty Appleton”—a cop with a vendetta on crack and its pushers. To that point, Ice had become the star Rap artist on Warner’s music division, but a fledgling actor in the eyes of mainstream America.
For Ice-T’s Final Level Podcast, Chris and Ice reminisce about how real the title “New Jack City” is, as it applies to the film. Following Barry Michael Cooper’s powerful revelations last week, this pair reveals another music star tied to the film, and joke about who audiences may have seen, if they did not take their roles seriously. Here is the audio, with transcription below:
Chris Rock: At the time, you and I were the most popular people in the cast, really, just ’cause we’d done shit.
Ice-T: We’d done things.
Chris Rock: Nobody knew Mario [Van Peebles]. Nobody knew Wesley [Snipes].
Ice-T: Wesley had done Major League.
Chris Rock: No one knew “G-Money,” you know, Allen Payne.
Ice-T: That was what got me confident enough to act.
Chris Rock: And you were actually making money. [Laughs] I was broke.
Ice-T: [Mimicking producers] “Yeah, you guys are actually the stars—don’t get it fucked up and think y’all are actors, but y’all can pull this off.” Me and Chris was in there, and we just [did what we were there to do]. Before the [film] was put together, we had these read-throughs. At that point, me and him wasn’t homeboys, but we had a mutual respect for each other. We knew we had a lot of lines together. So they had Oran “Juice” Jones.
Chris Rock: Oran “Juice” Jones was playing “G-Money,” originally. Yes.
Ice-T: — Oran “Juice” Jones from “(Walking In) The Rain.” So [he is] there [and the next day], he is gone. There is a dude named Allen Payne there saying all the [dialog]. He was sayin’ the shit like he’d been–
Chris Rock: — An actor!
Ice-T: — And me and Chris looked at each other like, “Yo, these [film producers] will cut you so fuckin’ quick!” We got nervous. I think we were kinda confident up to that point. But at that point, me and him got nervous. [A production assistant] was like, “You guys are finished with your parts for the day. You can go.” Chris was like, “Fuck that!” [Laughs]
Chris Rock: I was like, “Is [another potential ‘Pookie’] Charlie Barnett downstairs?”
Ice-T: And I thought Chuck D was downstairs with a dread wig on. So we both know who they had as our replacements, reading our lines. So we just stayed down. We started to work together. You know, it was an interesting experience. New Jack City was a new-jack movie. The director was a new-jack.
Chris Rock: The producers were new-jacks, new-jack actors, new-jack soundtrack. Remember we kept runnin’ out of money? There was a couple of times, while we were filming, we were like, “This shit is getting shut down.” Like, the chase on the bikes was [written as] a car-chase. But it turned into a bike-chase; we had no money! [Laughs] Somebody had to think fast.
Ice-T: When that chase started, I said, “I want to do all my own stunts.” Chris was on the bike, and I ran for about two hours and said, “fuck this! [Laughing] How about I run into the camera? Can you get somebody [else] to run away from the camera, like that?” You just start to bond and stuff. I think the fact that [Chris Rock] wasn’t a professional actor, and I wasn’t, neither of us had an ego. We just said “fuck it.”
Chris Rock: Yeah, we didn’t have big trailers. We didn’t have trailers. [Laughs] Like, you’d be getting dressed in somebody’s apartment or somethin’. They had [just] enough money to make the movie.