Chris Rock certainly has a reputation for sarcasm and humor, but he gets serious and deep when it comes to making the right hires. "Some people are just great to be around, and your life is going to be enhanced by having them on your team," he said in conversation with J.J. Abrams during a Tribeca Film Festival panel on Friday evening in New York City.
During the hour-long interview--which would more aptly be described as banter--the comedian and director discussed terrible first jobs (Abrams was once a lackey for Jon Feltheimer, the CEO of Lionsgate), favorite television shows (Rock is a big fan of Fargo and, begrudgingly, The Walking Dead), and early sources of inspiration (Abrams knew he wanted to become a director when he was 8, after visiting Universal Studios for the first time).
As expected, many laughs were exchanged between the two. When asked whether or not Rock identified himself as a "director," the comedian insisted that he isn't in the same league as Abrams: "Yeah, J.J., you and me. Star Wars, Pootie Tang," he joked, referencing one of his earlier films.
A highlight of the discussion was when Rock gave some practical career advice to the audience. On meetings, he touched on the importance of remaining polite and civil--no matter how awful the circumstances. "You will take meetings with the same people your whole career," he said. "They will move to different companies, and you'll think they've gone, but you'll see them again."
Abrams also agreed that it's crucial to find employees you'd actually want to spend time with, and who have similar creative impulses as you do. "The deal-breaker for me is someone who's not going to be a human being," Abrams said. "When I've heard that there were people who were difficult, I've almost always said 'no.'"
To make his point, he recalled an (unnamed) actress on his television series Alias, whom he said would routinely "make people cry" on set. Later on, he did not provide a good reference for the actress when she tried to land another role.
Of course, it's important that your team shares similar interests as you--and Rock, for one, takes that very seriously. "I once fired a director because I found out he didn't like Annie Hall," he said, referencing Woody Allen's 1977 film starring Diane Keaton.
"Imagine taking notes from someone who doesn't like Annie Hall?" Rock proclaimed in mock disgust.