If you're a fan of Tracy Morgan's Tracy Jordan on the hit NBC series 30 Rock, then you're likely familiar with Grizz Chapman. The seven-foot-tall former bodyguard to the stars plays Grizz, a member of Tracy's entourage who often has to sit on Tracy when he is overly stimulated, and who carries a torch for Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. With the show in the midst of its seventh and final season, I recently had the chance to speak with Grizz Chapman over the phone about his overall experience on the show, Liz Lemon's impending wedding (which Grizz, the character, is none too thrilled about), and much more about Season 7, continuing with "Mazel Tov, Dummies Thursday, November 29 at 8 PM ET on NBC. Here's what he had to say.
The role has really evolved since you first came on. Can you talk about your initial involvement, and if they had plans to keep you around for this long?
Grizz Chapman: In the beginning, I don't think so. In the beginning, I think Tracy Jordan just had a posse, and that was it. I think, over time, by the third episode, the writers thought that Tracy's posse was too big, and they had to cut it down. When they cut it down, that put us in a position for a few things. One was to see what can we do with these two guys besides just stand there? They gave me an opportunity when they said, 'Grizz is driving the boat!' I think when they gave me that opportunity, we got so many laughs and such a good response from that, I think it was just a no-brainer to continue.
Do you have a lot of input as to how this character behaves? Was that an evolving process as well?
Grizz Chapman: The funny thing about the writers, over the years, I always wondered why those guys were watching me. Over the years, I realized that's how they write for us, they watch how we interact on set, and that's what they do. They look at how we interact with each other on set, and they bring it to life on film.
I was reading about your background as a bodyguard and bouncer, and the path you took to this role is amazing. Did you have any aspirations to do this kind of work when you were growing up?
Grizz Chapman: I knew I wanted to do something. I just didn't know exactly what it was. Coming out of my neighborhood, I started to be a bodyguard. I started being a celebrity bodyguard. I was with Wyclef Jean, Nas, and I said to myself then, that I wouldn't say this is the life, but I could make a business. I could turn this into a business. But, God had a different path for me, because when I was with Nas for that short period of time, he asked if I wanted to be in a video. That's how it kind of started.
Can you talk about the rapport you have built with Tracy and the rest of the cast? It has to be a blast going to work with such a talented cast every day.
Grizz Chapman: It's amazing to come to a place where you can just make jokes all day long, and bring the funny. It was definitely a time in my life where I learned a lot. I learned a lot from Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin. Over the years, with us being around each other so much, you develop a rapport with these people.
Can you say anything about what happens with Grizz in the last few episodes? I know a lot of people are looking forward to the wedding. Is there anything you can tease about where the posse goes from here?
Grizz Chapman: They're keeping everything under wraps, as far as these last episodes. Liz is getting married soon, and Grizz is hurt about that, because we had such sexual tension throughout the years, and now she's moving on to marry this guy (Laughs). I would hope that, in the future, we can do something like a spin-off. That would be cool. Maybe it would be surrounding Tracy and his wife, they just had a daughter. Of course, they would have to involve us in it, so that would be cool. Hopefully they have some good stuff coming up for us in the future. It would only make sense, to do a spin-off of some sorts.
Has there been any official talk about a spin-off?
Grizz Chapman: There's always buzz in the air, but you just have to see what the greats think, when it's all said and done.
So, Grizz does not take the wedding news well then?
Grizz Chapman: Of course not! That's my boo Liz Lemon! Why would I be happy about that? Why would I be happy about someone marrying my boo? I don't take too kindly to that.
With an experience like 30 Rock, getting your foot in the door of Hollywood, can you talk about how you want to take that experience and move forward into the future?
Grizz Chapman: I've already taken that. 30 Rock was a great stepping stone for me. Before this, I was just known as a big guy, but now, I'm not just known for that. Over the years, just the things you learn, I think I'm going to take forward with me, regardless of what that may be. How Alec Baldwin handles his every day, or how he's stumbling over lines, the techniques that he does to get over that. I can't even narrow it down to one particular thing. There are just so many things I'm going to walk away from 30 Rock with. It's like being put in a position where you just get to learn from the best. I'm an apprentice to Tina Fey, coming from the security world, then being put in a position of being around Tina Fey all day, every day, for seven years. You're going to take something away from that, may it be business, may it be how you treat people in public, may it be how you handle your next deal. Our parents instill in us things, over the years, and we never know when we're going to use the things they instill in us. You just never know. I definitely walk away grateful, blessed, and ready for the future.
Tina Fey both stars in and created the show, so do you have any aspirations towards writing or directing?
Grizz Chapman: We started the Grizz Chroniclez. That was put together because they always have just a traditional role for big guys. Grizz Chroniclez was put together just to show a different side of Grizz, a different side of what people might see on 30 Rock. I did a little producing in that, a little editing and directing, as far as that's concerned. That came out pretty well. I'm actually working on a pilot right now. We just pitched a TV show to a network, that we can't discuss right now. There are a few things in the works.
Is there anything else you have in the works after the show wraps up?
Grizz Chapman: I did three movies. I did a movie called Home, a movie called Lucky Numbers, and a movie called Hyper Beast. I have another role that I'm going up for, and I hope they give me a very, very good piece in it. I don't want to release too much information about it, because then other people will jump on the film (Laughs). Three actors have just signed on for it.
What would you like to say to fans of the show and fans of Grizz about why they should keep tuning in for the last few episodes of 30 Rock?
Grizz Chapman: They already know. They already know why they should tune in, because they don't want to miss anything. There are going to be so many ups and downs. I think the fans will walk away with the feeling that this is how you end a show. Most of the time, people mess up, when it's finally said and done. There is this dark cloud hanging over a show when it's ending, because not too many shows have done it right. I think when the fans walk away from 30 Rock, they'll say, 'You know what? This is how you end a show. This is how you do it.' There are going to be a lot of tears, mixed emotions. It's going to be a hell of a ride.
Great. That's about all I have. Thanks so much, Grizz. It was great talking to you.
Grizz Chapman: Thank you so much.