All eyes are on Chris Rock as he gears up to host the Academy Awards.
For the first time ever, the comedy vet graces ESSENCE’s annual Hollywood March Issue cover. In a candid and revealing profile—written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson and conducted in December 2015 before #OscarsSoWhite reached fever pitch—Rock contemplates diversity in Hollywood, his second go at hosting the Oscars, and roles for Black women in Hollywood.
"I'm going to do my best," says Rock of the gig everyone will be watching on February 28. "It could go horribly wrong. Don't ever think that it can't. That's when it goes wrong—when you don't think there's any chance of it going wrong. If you know it won't, it probably won't."
The 51-year-old comedian also reflects on the challenges facing Black actresses in Hollywood. “I’ve never done a movie, any movie, the silliest movie, where someone, some studio person hasn’t gone, ‘Does the girl have to be Black?’ It happens every time," he says. "Black women get paid less than everybody in Hollywood. Everybody’s talking about Jennifer Lawrence. Talk to Gabrielle Union. If you want to hear stories, talk to Nia Long. Talk to Kerry Washington. They would love to get to Jennifer Lawrence’s place, or just be treated with the same amount of respect."
So what has he done about the disparity? "I think everything I’ve ever done has had a significant role for a Black or brown woman. I refuse not to," he says. "I’ve never gone into battle without a Black woman, you know, a movie battle. With Tichina Arnold in Everybody Hates Chris, I had to fight for Tichina. I’m not even going to tell you who the network wanted. She’s literally as good as Tina Fey or Julia Louis-Dreyfus or any of these chicks. They’re like, ‘Tichina who’?’”
ESSENCE continues to the diversity conversation in Hollywood by gearing up for our 9th annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards luncheon. This year’s honorees—Tracee Ellis Ross, Debbie Allen and entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw—join a growing list of African-American women who continue to uplift and inspire both on-screen and off.
The March issue of ESSENCE hits newsstands on 2/12. For more on this month’s issue, visit ESSENCE.com.