Why: Comic turns in “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Mr. 3000” his eponymous hit series and this year’s “Guess Who” from Sony. But remind Bernie Mac he’s ShoWest comedy star of the year, and he says, “How did I get that?”
It’s in the blood: “Comedy is something that I do, and I do natural and I do well,” he says. “I’ve been doing it so long it comes out even when I’m not trying. That’s my mentality, like a carpenter. It’s your instinct.”
When Mac was a kid, people called him Little Sidney after Sidney Poitier. “It was only four blacks at that particular time who was literally in the business, Sidney, Sammy (Davis Jr.), Diahann Carroll and Bill Cosby,” he says. “They motivated me.” Mac wanted to be a performer so deeply he says, “It was welded in my heart.”
Growing up, he adored a wide range of entertainers: Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Doris Day and Bette Davis among them. “I never really looked at myself as being funny — I wanted to look at myself as being good,” he says.
Overbearing father character Percy in the upcoming film “Guess Who” was inspired by Spencer Tracy’s dad in the original “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967). “I wanted people to see me in a different light,” Mac says. “Spencer Tracy was a better listener, Percy more energetic. Spencer was more of a quiet storm; Percy was aggressive. Percy listened but it had to make sense; Spencer Tracy listened because it was part of his sense.”
The earlier film sets the stage for a fussy multiracial engagement party, but Mac says the Kevin Rodney Sullivan-directed update is less a story with a hot political message than a complex tale of family life. “Percy has nothing against the guy (played by Ashton Kutcher),” Mac explains. “Percy has something against why (his daughter) didn’t tell him. Don’t nobody pay attention to that black-white situation like they did when I was coming up. … Don’t nobody care!”