[IMG:L]Tracy Morgan may not be a sketch comic anymore, but he still gets to play one on TV. The Saturday Night Live alum joined the cast of 30 Rock for its freshman season last fall as Tracy Jordan, the not-quite-living-in-the-real-world star of The Girlie Show. When the sitcom wrapped in April, Jordan was still being followed by the Black Crusaders (a militant group targeting the blackest of black entertainers for failing to tow the Oprah/Bill Cosby party line), had narrowly escaped a kidnapping in Pennsylvania and was back at the TGS studios just in time for the big finale.
Morgan, who stars in the upcoming film First Sunday, sat down with Hollywood.com to talk about life on 30 Rock, his days on SNL and his own legal troubles behind the wheel.
Hollywood.com: You were on hiatus from 30 Rock for the summer. How did you spend your time off?
Tracy Morgan: I would love to do a movie every hiatus. That’s the thing about television--it takes up so much of your time that it affects other aspects of your career. But I’ve got a great team so I was able to do something with my time during the summer, other than getting in trouble [laughs].
HW: Do you have a lot more job offers since taking the role of Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock than you did when you were on SNL?
TM: You know, I can’t say that … I’m not Will Smith, I’m not getting three movies this summer, nobody’s really banging down my door. But when the offers do come I appreciate it. I’m going to leave it at that.
HW: What kinds of things do you do to get jazzed up on set?
TM: Oh man, just think about it. You think about the premiere, you think about the red carpet, you think about all the things that go into it. You think about the people who are going to come to the movie. That jazzes me up--$9.75, that’s the price of admission [laughs]! You know, all of that jazzes me up! When it hits, you just get psyched. It’s not work when I’m here, you can see it. So being here you don’t have to do much to get hyped--just coming to work. I know big comedians--I still go to the comedy clubs and a lot of them will probably unfortunately never get to this level. So, haaah, holla at me [laughs]!
[IMG:R]HW: Is it a different challenge to create a character over a series of episodes on television as opposed to something more self contained like in a movie?
TM: Not really for me because I mean I understand the role I have in a series. I’ve always wanted to make a distinction in everything that I did. I mean, when you look at Al Pacino when he did Scarface he’s a Cuban! When you looked at Carlito's Way he was Puerto Rican but from the east side of Harlem and you see that! And I’ve always watched that. I’ve always wanted to make a distinction. So I have to find out what do I have to do to make that distinction. So yeah, that’s where knowing your craft comes in.
HW: When do you go back to 30 Rock?
TM: Aug. 16. I look forward [to it]. I spoke with Alec Baldwin on Father’s Day. He’s a really good friend. Again, I love Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels, you know those are my guys. I look forward to going back to 30 Rock. The winters in Silver Cup [Studios] are great. We have one, but I look forward to it. Plus, The Sopranos are gone so we’re probably going to get their space [laughs].
HW: Do you know what’s in store for Tracy Jordan?
TM: I have no idea. I think this bracelet is going to probably to be in there [lifting up his pant leg and pointing to his electronic ankle bracelet that he’s been ordered to wear after recently violating probation on a DUI charge]. Tina knows my voice, she takes everything I do and say and she adds it to the script. That’s what I bring to it. Working with Rob Carlock and John Riggi and all of those writers, man, it’s so … I’ve learned to be a part of some great writing, great writing, cool stuff.
[IMG:L]HW: When you first joined the cast of SNL, Chris Rock wanted to support you and help you avoid the problems he went through like being the token black performer on the show.
TM: I love Chris. Chris is one of my comedic heroes. But I just come from a different place than Chris. I mean, I came from a world of black; Chris was bussed out and all of that stuff and he was exposed to white people. And no matter if you’re white, black, Spanish, whatever, kids can be mean. And I guess growing up in that environment they were mean and he took it extra. But I didn’t grow up like that. I went to regular public school in my neighborhood … so it was different for me. So by the time I got to Saturday Night Live I wasn’t on the black and white thing, I was just on the funny thing…I think comedy transcends all of that shit. Funny is just fucking funny, you know what I’m saying. I can take anything and I appreciate all the support, but by the time I got to Saturday Night Live they had never had nothing like me. And I’m coming from the hood. I grew up across the street from Jay-Z, I raised Jay-Z. I raised Jay-Z and Biggie … So it was a different challenge for me when I got there ‘cause I come from Def Jam and all that. I had never performed in front of a white audience until I performed for Saturday Night Live….Lorne Michaels had a talk with me one day and he said [doing a Lorne Michaels impression] ‘Tracy’--everybody does a Lorne Michaels impression--‘Tracy, you’re not here because you’re black, you’re here because you’re funny.’ And that always stuck with me. I’m here on this planet because I’m funny and I got a good heart and I’m a good person, in spite of this bracelet, ok. That’s why I was on Saturday Night Live, not ‘cause I was black. They could have gotten anybody if they wanted a black person. I was there because I always felt I was funny and that right there is what I’m dealing with. That’s my conflict. I’ll make anybody laugh--white, black, Puerto Rican, alien, I don’t care, also Astronaut Jones [laughs].
HW: Have you performed for many aliens?
TM: Astronaut Jones has. He got a sexual harassment charge at NASA so they shot his black ass into space [laughs]. That’s how he got there in the first place. "Rocket, I’ve taken the rocket" [doing an impression] … I’m one of the few black artists/entertainers/performers out here that really has his finger on the pulse of American pop culture. Some artists are huge in the black community, and some are huge in the white community, so it’s great to be universal.
HW: How did Saturday Night Live define you as an actor?
TM: I think it made me crazier. I was hanging around Will Ferrell, Colin Quinn and all those guys. But as an actor, Saturday Night Live was like theatre, so it refines you in that theatric way--you know about cameras, you know how to open up, you know about blocking, and these things. But as far as my sense of humor, I’m still f*cking raw dog!