Mike Epps’ dream of portraying legendary comedian Richard Pryor finally has come to fruition.
This past spring, Epps appeared on HBO’s controversial Lakers series, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” bringing full circle speculation that he was working on a Pryor project a year ago when he shared photos of himself wearing an afro and Pryor’s signature mustache.
“They gave me a little taste of Richard Pryor. I played a little taste of Richard Pryor and it was amazing,” Epps told late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel of the “Winning Time” episode in which he appears. “Just for my name to even come up with Richard Pryor’s name, I don’t care if I did good or not.”
Epps has been vying for an opportunity to play the late comedian for well over a decade. While the standup comedian says multiple attempts to put together a project have been made, none have proven successful; Epps cites infighting among Pryor’s family as part of the holdup.
He continued, “I’m just happy my name came up. Yeah man, Richard Pryor he’s such an idol. I wish I could have met him, met him and hung out,” said Epps. The “Next Friday” actor previously detailed being invited to Pryor’s home and being able to spend time with the comedian as his health had already begun to deteriorate.
“He really couldn’t talk at the time, you know he was like this,” he explained while imitating Pryor’s restricted facial expression and stiff arms — each a physical sign of the multiple sclerosis diagnosis he received in 1986. By the mid ’90s, the “Harlem Nights” actor was emaciated and relied on a motorized schooler to get around.
As for HBO’s “Winning Time” in which Epps appears: It divided Lakers fans who were initially excited to watch a retelling of how team owner Jerry Buss ushered in the Showtime era of basketball with the likes of Erving “Magic” Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others. But the thrill of being entertained by the earliest years of the Lakers dynasty was short-lived after Johnson disclosed he was never consulted for the project. The NBA Hall of Famer’s speaking out inspired other members of the team to also reveal they too were not asked to be a part of the series in any capacity.
“You can’t do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers. The real Lakers. You gotta have the guys,” he told Variety in April, a month after the 10-episode series premiered. At the time, Johnson was promoting his four-part Apple TV+ docuseries “They Call Me Magic.”
“It has to be authentic and real, and it has to be right. The way we played the game, the way we worked together as a unit… It was a show from the owner all the way down. How are you gonna do it? You can’t do it,” he continued. “So I don’t know what this stuff [‘Winning Time’] is, I haven’t watched it, I’m not gonna watch it. And all the guys said the same thing. Kareem, everybody. You can’t do it.”