A chat with Grizz Chapman, Grizz Chapman interview, 30 Rock
Grizz Chapman

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Check out 30 Rock and other shows rankings on Bullz-Eye's Fall 2010 TV Power Rankings as well as our other Power Ranking interviews.

When “30 Rock” first premiered on NBC, the character of Tracy Jordan was sufficiently defined that he had a posse, but we didn’t really know anything about these proud individuals. It didn’t long, however, before we were properly introduced to a crazy couple of kids called Grizz and Dot Com. We’re not sure how long it took Kevin Brown to get used to answering to the name of “Dot Com,” but one presumes that Grizz Chapman has never had any problems in remembering his character’s name. Bullz-Eye chatted with the man known as Grizz in conjunction with “30 Rock” making yet another well-earned appearance in the TV Power Rankings, and we were darned happy to do so, partly because he rarely appears onscreen without earning a laugh, but mostly because it wasn’t so long ago that Grizz wasn’t sure how long he was going to be with us. Now armed with a new kidney and a few less pounds, he kindly spoke with us about his first encounter with Tracy Morgan, his lunch with Matt Damon, and, of course, his “boo.” (You may know her as Liz Lemon.)

Grizz Chapman: How you doin’? Is Will Harris in? This is Grizz.

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Grizz, good to talk to you. I don’t know if they told you or not, but we do a TV Power Rankings feature here at Bullz-Eye, and “30 Rock” is on our list again, as I think it has been ever since it first premiered.

GC: Hey, that sounds good to me!

BE: I wanted to talk to someone from the cast, they offered you up, and I thought, “Perfect: I’ve never talked to Grizz before!”

GC: (Laughs) Even better!

BE: We did come close to crossing paths, though: I was at the New York Comic Con, and I know that you were there as well.

"(Grizz and Dot Com) came in as background. It was just Tracy Jordan and his posse. Nobody had a name. So for us to get an opportunity to become characters and then see our characters evolve from the first season until now…I mean, it’s definitely an amazing story. Once they realize they had two diamonds in the rough, they just picked us up, cleaned us up, polished us off, and let us go. And I thank Tina Fey every day for giving us the opportunity to do that."

GC: Yeah! That was a great experience. I actually had a friend who had a booth there, so I came down to assist him in the booth and help him out with his sales. His booth was called The Lair.

BE: Are you a comic and sci-fi fan yourself?

GC: Yes! Without question. I love comic books, and I like the whole sci-fi thing. Always been a big fan of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” and I’ve actually been watching the new program on AMC, “The Walking Dead.” Amazing.

BE: Yeah, that’s actually one of the things that kept me hopping at Comic-Con: doing interviews with the cast from the show.

GC: (Surprised) They were there? Wow! Oh, wow, I did not know that. If I’d have known that, I definitely would have been on that line!

BE: So even before asking about “30 Rock,” I feel like I should ask you how your new kidney’s working out for you. Congratulations on getting that transplant, by the way.

GC: Oh, thank you so much. The kidney’s working fine, no problems. I still have to go back for my blood work and stuff like that, you know, but the kidney’s working fine, and I’m blessed to have been able to get a transplant, because not everybody has the opportunity get a transplant. Even to have a donor is amazing in and of itself.

BE: And you’ve really been able to serve as a public figure for people who might be battling hypertension and tell them to get it checked out.

Grizz ChapmanGC: Yeah, I mean, initially when I came down with it, I was a little bit reserved about coming out, but I spoke to a few people about it, and they told me that I was in the position where I could bring a lot of attention to the situation and also reach my community. And that was very important to me, to reach out to my community and to everybody else in the world, because before I came down with hypertension, I didn’t realize how much it affected so many different people. The first year that I did the first kidney walk, I saw how many people it actually affected, and, you know, just reaching out and going to the different seminars and events to talk, I’ve realized that there are so many more people who are going through the same situation that I wasn’t aware of. Currently, there are 26 million people dealing with chronic kidney disease, and they don’t even know it. A lot of them are walking around with the symptoms, and they have no idea. So I felt that I could take my celebrity and reach more people and say, “Look, I’m going through this, and this is how you can prevent yourself from going through this and getting to this stage of kidney disease or diabetes.”

BE: So when “30 Rock” did that “Kidney Now!” thing, did you know about your condition at that point, or was it just ironic?

GC: Yeah, I knew about my condition at that point, so it was definitely touching that they did a story on that. I was dealing with it first hand, so it was definitely great to bring attention to the situation.

BE: Obviously, you and Kevin Brown have a solid relation off-camera as well as on, since he was on “Larry King” went you went on to talk about your kidney disease. Is it a pretty tight cast all around on “30 Rock”?

GC: We definitely get along. I’ve heard so many other stories about series where, after they’re over, this one had a problem and that one had a problem, but our cast is really, really close. And I can genuinely say that it’s a family situation around here. There’s no jealousy, and everybody gets along so well. To be around Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan…I mean, I learn from the best, so I get the best of both worlds. I learn from the best, and I’m part of a real family.

BE: Now, is it true that you and Tracy Morgan first crossed paths when you were working as a bouncer in a strip club?

GC: (Sheepishly) Yeah. Yeah, that is true. A lot of people don’t know if that’s true or isn’t, but…I was a celebrity bodyguard for years, and that was one of the places that I worked on my downtime when I wasn’t on the road. And Tracy would definitely, uh, come out there and patronize the club a lot. (Laughs) We’ve had a couple of glasses of water together.

BE: So who are some of the celebrities whose bodies you guarded?

GC: Over the years, I was with Xzibit, DJ Clue, Juelez Santana, Nas, I was with Missy for awhile, I bodyguarded Steven Jackson…a whole bunch of people.

BE: And it was in town and on the road, you said?

GC: Yeah, it was both.

BE: I’m sure that was an interesting lifestyle.

"I’ve heard so many other stories about series where, after they’re over, this one had a problem and that one had a problem, but our cast (at '30 Rock') is really, really close. And I can genuinely say that it’s a family situation around here. There’s no jealousy, and everybody gets along so well. To be around Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan…I mean, I learn from the best, so I get the best of both worlds. I learn from the best, and I’m part of a real family."

GC: Very interesting. But I always put myself in the position where I would work for people who listened. And if they couldn’t listen, I couldn’t work for them, because certain times artists put themselves in positions because they’re not really paying attention to their surroundings. They’re more into the pictures and the women and the attention, and they’re not necessarily paying attention to what’s behind all that, and they’re not paying attention to the person who’s standing across the street looking at them, and they’re not paying attention to this person or that person. So my thing was, if the person couldn’t listen to me and to what I suggested as far as when we should move, then I wouldn’t work for them.

BE: Not to name any names, but was there any particular situation where you were just stunned at what someone was doing?

GC: Oh, there were so many different situations that I couldn’t even put my finger on just one. I did celebrity bodyguarding for 15 or 16 years. There were so many different situations where I was just, like, “Damn, okay, it’s time to go. It’s time to pull out.”

BE: So how close is the real Grizz to the Grizz that you play on “30 Rock”?

GC: Well, we’re similar in a lot of ways, but we’re also different in a lot of ways, too. True to life, I am kind of quiet in my own right, but when you get to know me, I am real talkative. I think we have our differences, but we are the same person in so many different ways.

BE: So you have a gentle side, but you’re prone to emotion? (Laughs)

GC: Oh, of course, I mean, everybody cries, but not every man is going to say if he does or doesn’t. I mean, look at me, I’m crying like a baby! (Laughs)

BE: You’ve gotten to work with a ridiculous number of guest stars during the run of the show, but to focus on Season 5…and I’m not positive who you actually worked with or didn’t work with off the top of my head...but you had Queen Latifah on the show this season.

GC: Yes. Also, Matt Damon came back. Paul Giamatti was there, too .

BE: As a “Mad Men” fan, I was psyched to see John Slattery show up as well. But how often do you yourself actually get to interact with the guest stars, either on or off camera?

GC: Well, you know, it really all depends on the schedule, because a lot of the times, when the bigger name stars come in, their schedules are so crazy that they come in, do their scenes, and they get out. Or they come in really early or really late at night to do them. Actually, I did get to have lunch with Matt Damon when we were doing the live show, so that was really, really great. That was absolutely the best, sitting at the table and actually talking to Matt Damon, and not necessarily about “30 Rock.” We talked about other stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily get to talk to people about. That was definitely a highlight of the season for me.

BE: I was actually going to ask you about the live episode. How much tension was there on the set when that was going on? I know most of the cast comes from a background where they’re used to working without a net, but it’s still something different for “30 Rock.”

GC: Well, there was a little tension because, you know, even though they’re extreme professionals at what they do, nobody wants to mess up. Everybody wants to do their best, and it’s different when you’re on camera and get to do it once or twice, and if you mess up you get to repeat it again. But in this case, it’s live, so you don’t really get that opportunity to mess up. So it was a little tense, but it was definitely a fun experience for everybody. I didn’t see anybody sitting on the sidelines pulling out there here. Everybody was definitely on their A-game and bringing their best, without question.

Grizz Chapman

BE: You got a chance to be a Pip of sorts when you got to sing on the version of “Midnight Train to Georgia” on the show.

GC: Yes! I got to show my entertainment side. (Laughs)

BE: What was your reaction when they pitched the idea for you?

GC: You know, I was definitely up for the challenge, but I also felt it was good, because we got to show a different side of us. We actually did something that nobody else would consider us to do. I mean, me being almost seven feet tall and 500 pounds…well, at the time, I was 500 pounds…you wouldn’t think the average guy my size would be out there singing and dancing. (Laughs) So getting an opportunity to actually sing…and that was really us singing…that was also a plus.

BE: Must’ve been pretty cool to meet Gladys Knight, too.

GC: Oh, yeah, it was amazing. I grew up on Gladys Knight, so to actually get the chance to meet her and sit down and talk to her for a second…? And it was just a brief second, because she had other engagements that she had to do, so she had to do her scene and get out.

BE: To expand beyond Season 5, who are some of your all-time favorites that you’ve gotten to meet?

GC: Still Matt Damon and Queen Latifah, but also Steve Martin, definitely, and Jennifer Aniston. I didn’t get a chance to meet Oprah, but I would’ve liked to. We didn’t get a chance to meet her because that was really, really tight under wraps when Oprah did the show. (Long pause) Man, I’m just sitting here thinking: it’s been five years. So many different people and so many different stories come to mind that it’s hard to pick.

BE: It’s got to have been a crazy five years for you, too, both professionally and personally, with the highs and the lows.

Before I came down with hypertension, I didn’t realize how much it affected so many different people. Currently, there are 26 million people dealing with chronic kidney disease, and they don’t even know it. A lot of them are walking around with the symptoms, and they have no idea. So I felt that I could take my celebrity and reach more people and say, 'Look, I’m going through this, and this is how you can prevent yourself from going through this and getting to this stage of kidney disease or diabetes.'"

GC: An emotional rollercoaster. But believe it or not, I wouldn’t change one thing. Even our story is interesting, because we came in as background. We were just background. There was no Grizz and Dot Com. It was just Tracy Jordan and his posse. Nobody had a name. So for us to get an opportunity to become characters and then see our characters evolve from the first season until now…I mean, it’s definitely an amazing story, and one I’ll hopefully be able to tell myself someday.

BE: So I presume it was Tina’s idea to expand you guys from the background into full-fledged characters…?

GC: Well, you know what? Believe it or not…and I can’t speak for Tina or for the show’s ideas..but at the time, I don’t think they were aware of the diamonds in the rough that they had. Once they realize they had two diamonds in the rough, they just picked us up, cleaned us up, polished us off, and let us go. And I thank Tina Fey every day for giving us the opportunity to do that. Especially me. Coming from a security background and being able to show this different side of me that nobody…I mean, nobody would know that I’m an actor and that I can do this. So she saw something different in me, and I thank her every day for giving me that opportunity.

BE: And you’ve had some very fun storylines over the run of the show. I mean, you’ve got the Griswald Talent Agency going, with Adam West.

GC: Oh, yeah! I’m a great agent, man! (Laughs) And I blew a whole bunch of money on WorldCom. I’ve had some trouble financially, of course, but I brought it back up. And I got married to Feyonce. So, yeah, we’ve definitely had some good storylines.

BE: Yeah, actually, that’s a very fun storyline, with the romantic triangle between you, Feyonce, and Dot Com.

GC: Yeah. But I came in, and I got the girl. (Laughs) Me! I turned up, and I got the girl!

BE: And apparently Liz Lemon and Grizz have had a history at some point.

GC: Well, you know, believe it or not, deep down in my heart, that’s still my boo. She’s always going to be my boo. No matter whether she’s off dating Matt Damon’s character or Jon Hamm’s character or not. So you believe it or not, but she’s still my boo. Deep down, Liz Lemon is still my boo. (Laughs) She’s my boo!

BE: Do you enjoy doing the “Livin’ XL with Grizz and Dot Com” stuff for the “30 Rock” website?

GC: Oh, it’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing, because it gives us the…not taking anything away from anybody on the show, but it gives us a chance to put a little bit of attention on the Grizz and Dot Com characters and what we bring to the show, and it gives a little something to our fans. So, yeah, definitely, it’s amazing. When they came to us with the idea, I was stoked. I was definitely excited about the whole thing. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do the “Grizz and Dot Com” cartoon that they’ve had in the works, also. That’d definitely be a plus, to actually do that.

BE: Lastly, who on the cast would you like to get the opportunity to work with more? You get to work with everyone at least a little bit, but…

GC: The person I’d like to work with more is Jack McBrayer. His character, Kenneth, is so far-fetched and zany that I would love to work more with him. Definitely. Without question.

BE: Can you give us an idea what’s coming up?

GC: I can’t really say a lot, but we’ve got some fun things coming up. Definitely a few fun things. We’ve got a great Christmas episode coming up.

BE: Any guest stars in that one?

GC: You’ve got to wait and see, man!

BE: Oh, I see, so it’s like that.

GC: (Laughs) Got to tune in to find out!

BE: Well, thanks for chatting with me, Grizz. Oh, and congrats on “30 Rock” getting picked up for a sixth season!

GC: Season 6, baby! Season 6…and let’s keep our fingers crossed for Seasons 7, 8, 9, and 10, too!

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