Chris Rock turned down multiple offers to appear on The Sopranos. The HBO crime drama, created by David Chase, ran for six seasons premiering in 1999, starring James Gandolfini and Edie Falco as the head of the Soprano family, Tony and Carmela. The series also starred Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, and Tony Sirico. The Sopranos, about the life of a depressed mob boss attending therapy, is widely regarded as one of the best television series in history, winning multiple awards for Gandolfini, Falco, and the show itself.
Rock has spent a long, successful career in comedy, appearing as a main cast member of Saturday Night Live, and going on to later star in numerous comedy films like Head of State, I Think I Love My Wife, and the Grown Ups movies. Throughout his career, Rock has continued to lend his comedy talents on the screen, voicing the character of Marty the zebra on the Madagascar film series and hosting the Academy Awards twice. But over the years, Rock has expanded his horizon, appearing on Broadway in the dramatic play, The Motherf**ker, with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis and his recent starring role in Fargo season 4.
In a roundtable interview with THR where Rock was talking about his experience working on Fargo, he reveals that he has declined several opportunities to be on The Sopranos. Rock compared that story to his offer to star on Fargo in terms of quality of the show, and his apprehension to be a part of it due to immense respect for the program. But what made the difference for Rock to take Fargo was the way the anthology series handled a previous Black character that became a breakout character for the show’s second season. Rock’s full statement can be read below:
I thought he wanted me to host his wife’s charity event or something. [Fargo] is a big job. And sometimes you can respect something so much, you don’t even want to be a part of it. Years ago, when I had my own show on HBO, it was at the height of The Sopranos, and I got a couple of offers to be on The Sopranos, and I was like, ‘I like it too much, I don’t want to spoil it.’ But I was such a fan [of Fargo], I took the meeting anyway, and then he presents me with this offer, and I’m like, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’m down.’ Because I saw how he handled Bokeem Woodbine [who played Mike Milligan].
At the time of the early seasons of The Sopranos, Rock was hosting his own late-night talk show also on HBO titled The Chris Rock Show from 1997 to 2000. While short-lived and only lasting for five seasons, the show was critically successful and Rock and his writing team, which included Louis C.K. and Wanda Sykes, won an Emmy Award. The show, along with Rock’s comedy specials, put him in high demand, so it is understandable to why he would get an offer from The Sopranos.
Rock, of course, was not much well-known back then as an actor the way he is now, much less a dramatic one, so it makes sense why he would turn down a show that not only had a lasting impact on modern television and storytelling, but also centers around dark and immoral characters. While it is not revealed what Rock would have played on The Sopranos had he agreed, it would have been interesting to see him in the world of the New Jersey Mafia.