In his first foray into network television, comedian Mike Epps plays the lead character, Buck, a wayward but charismatic hustler, who has managed to skate by in life on his charms alone. However, when his brother Will (James Lesure), and sister-in-law Alexis (Nia Long) moves back to town, it’s Buck who steps in to help them raise their three precious children. Like the original 1989 homonymous film, Uncle Buck becomes a beloved nanny of sorts and teaches the kids a few non-traditional rules of life.
Over lunch at Bar Americain in New York City last week, Epps told EBONY.com he was sure to incorporate a bit of his signature “all-the-way-real” flavor of comedy into the sitcom format. Find out how the comedian bucked the standard, and remixed a classic, for his upcoming ABC series.
EBONY.com: Network television means curbing the dialogue to reach the masses. Was there any apprehension?
Epps: I come from a really urban and edgy world. So there’s definitely a thin line. I’m trying to fit in at the [network], but still bring my thang. I did think…wow, is middle America really going to accept meeting Day-Day [from Friday ] for the first time? But, while we were shooting, I just figured it out. I thought Redd Foxx was a real brother on Sanford and Sons and the world accepted him. So, when I started thinking that way, I knew I could pull it off. You just have to stay conscious of it. I didn’t want to be watered down.
EBONY.com: How did you adapt for the role?
Epps: It’s a different ball game. However, we have some really great writers and Will Packer produced it (Think Like a Man franchise), so they truly understand where I’m coming from. For example, one of the upcoming episodes is centered around the little girl Maizy (Aalyrah Caldwell) and she’s selling cookies. I brought a whole new spin to the idea and only those in the know will catch it. It was sort of like The Notorious B.I.G’s Ten Crack Commandments. We have this tiny girl pulling up in a car, selling cookies out of her trunk. They are throwing money on the ground making cookie deals. There are these hidden edgy street things, that some will catch, but others may overlook. But, everyone will get something funny out of it.
EBONY.com: What makes this ‘Uncle Buck’ reboot fresh and new?
Mike: That irresponsible, fun-loving, been-sleeping-on-people’s-couches-for-thirty-years, just-now-getting-your-license-and-you’re-forty-uncle; people can relate to that. Nobody’s on television like that. Plus, I’m really Uncle Buck! I’m 45 now, and never took a real driver’s test.
EBONY.com: Speaking of tests. Congrats on getting your high school diploma last month. Tell us a bit about that?
Epps: Growing up I had behavioral issues, so they put me in special education classes. At the time I was content with being the class clown. If I didn’t know the answer, I would just make a joke and shut everyone up. But, my mom always said you’re gonna need that education. So, when I finally got my diploma my mother said: ‘I guess you didn’t play hookie today and your ass was on time’. Some of the kids graduating with me, were give me the look like…you know damn well, your ass didn’t take one test for this diploma. But, I gave a few scholarships out and in turn I got my diploma for doing a good deed from the very high school I should have graduated from back then. So it all worked out and now I’m here!
Catch Uncle Buck on Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. on ABC
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Fashion Editor, Ebony Magazine