You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

J.J. Abrams Talks TV Show Ideas With Chris Rock at Tribeca Film Festival

A half-hour drama created by J.J. Abrams and starring Chris Rock? That was just one of the topics of conversation to come up in a far-ranging public discussion between Abrams and Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival, during which Abrams also apologized for overdoing it on the lens flares, revealed his personal conception of God and refused to answer a pre-teen in the audience who asked him who Rey’s parents are.

Speaking with an easy rapport at an event that was part of the Tribeca Talks series of public conversations, the two spitballed an idea for a TV show when Rock asked Abrams what he should be doing in television.

Abrams shot back, “If I nail it, will you do it with me?”

“Sure,” Rock agreed. “I’m probably a single-camera show,” he added. “My skill set is multi-camera, but what’s gonna keep me interested, keep me intrigued, in doing 50-whatever shows is probably single camera.”

Abrams noted, “Usually when I do story meetings, it’s with less than 1,200 people,” before extolling the virtues of his favorite TV show of all time, “The Twilight Zone,” which was a rare half-hour drama. So he’s thinking Rock would be good in that format. “A ‘Louie’ show, a ‘Louie’ kind of thing, that would be amazing for you,” he said.

“I’m down,” Rock answered.

Rock, who had previously worked with Abrams on the movie parody segments on this year’s Oscar telecast, kicked off the Tribeca conversation by asking about Abram’s childhood love of film. The director of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Trek” recalled deciding he wanted to be a movie director at age eight, following a visit to Universal Studios.

A year or two after that, Abrams’ father became a film producer himself, prompting Rock to crack, “What job did you get that you didn’t deserve? There’s gotta be one.”

“I want to say ‘Star Wars,'” Abrams joked back.

The writer-director-producer then recalled how his early screenplay work on films including “Regarding Henry” led eventually to “Felicity,” the WB series with Keri Russell that established him as a wunderkind TV creator. He said that “Alias,” his spy series with Jennifer Garner, grew out of an idea he had during the early days of “Felicity.”

“When you don’t have a bad guy of some sort, episode two is really hard to come up with,” he said of “Felicity.” “Because first of all, the show took place in college, so it was like, ‘Ooh, she got a B!’ We were trying to figure out what the story was, and I remember we were on episode five or something, pulling our hair out, and I said in the writer’s room, ‘If Felicity were a spy, I’d know how to write the show.'”

When the discussion moved on to cinema, Abrams acknowledged that the fanbases for “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” the two franchises he has been involved in rebooting, “are bigger than all of us.”

“Could you direct ‘Fantastic Four?'” Rock asked. “I love the Fantastic Four, and they keep f—ing it up.”

Soon thereafter, Rock wondered aloud about the lens flares that became Abrams’ signature on the “Star Trek” films — and earned him his fair share of mockery.

“I’m over that,” he promises. “For a period of time, on ‘Star Trek,’ there was this idea we had that the future was so bright that it just couldn’t be contained. I overdid it, then I went further, and then on the second ‘Star Trek’ movie I went nuts. We all make mistakes. Mine were with light. We literally had flashlights. The flares weren’t put in in post. We had these flashlights and we aimed them right at the lens.”

Abrams and Rock also discussed  the process of working on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and incorporating the characters from the initial “Star Wars” trilogy into the new characters and storylines Abrams and his team had brought to the table. “We knew this movie was a bridge,” he said.

Speaking of one of those new characters, Abrams refused to give out any clues as to the parentage of Rey, the young woman played by Daisy Ridley in “The Force Awakens.” “Rey’s parents are not in Episode VII, so I can’t possibly in this moment tell you who they are,” he said to the young audience member who asked him point-blank to throw him a bone. “But this is all I will say: It is something that Rey thinks about too.”

Other tidbits to come up in the discussion included the fact that Abrams is a fan of the Duplass brothers — he noted their involvement in both “Transparent” and “Togetherness,” two series he admires — and would love to work someday with Meryl Streep or Tribeca festival co-founder Robert DeNiro. Rock, meanwhile, would wants to direct Denzel Washington in a comedy.

“You can be in it too,” Abrams suggested.

“Oh, I’m in it,” Rock responded. “Kevin Hart ain’t in it, I’ll tell you that.”

The evening also, unexpectedly, touched on Abrams’ feeling about God, in the wake of a question from a “Star Wars” super-fan (dressed in a Darth Vader-like black cape) about the Force and the filmmaker’s own spiritual ideas.

“In all honesty, I don’t know if I believe in God,” he admitted. “But I do know that when my mother, who passed away a few years ago, was sick, I did find myself connecting with, talking to, thinking about things in a way that I never had before. It’s a funny thing, because what George Lucas did so brilliantly was he told a  story … that was about a spiritual connection that we all have.”

He went on, “There’s something about the notion of all of us being connected, every living thing, that is profound and beautiful and resonant and somewhat true. I don’t think, when I was talking to myself in my head, that anyone was listening, but I know that there is something that connects us. There has to be. I love what George did in that regard.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Amazon Prime Video Signs Distribution Deal With Altice Europe (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon Prime Video has unveiled its first distribution deal with a telco in France, signing a pact with Altice Europe, which owns leading French internet, mobile and cable-TV provider SFR. The deal will give SFR customers access to the service via their set-top boxes, which is crucial in France, where households still consume content mostly [...]

  • Courtney Kemp Agboh'Power' TV show final

    'Power' Creator Courtney A. Kemp On Why Starz Series Hasn't Gotten Awards Recognition

    “Power” is a top ratings performer for Starz and has a hugely committed fanbase, but the series has lacked in its awards recognition. Other than honors from the NAACP Image Awards, “Power” has not received any awards or nominations from the Emmys, Golden Globes or SAG — something that star and executive producer Curtis “50 [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Breaking Bad

    'Breaking Bad' Movie Release Date, Title and Plot Revealed

    The “Breaking Bad” movie is coming to Netflix sooner than you might think. The film, titled “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” is now set to be released on Netflix on Oct. 11, according to a report from the New York Times, with Aaron Paul returning as the series’ popular meth cook Jesse Pinkman. Jesse [...]

  • Laurence FishburneNational Memorial Day Concert Dress

    Laurence Fishburne to Produce 'Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur' Series for Disney Channel

    Laurence Fishburne is stepping into the animation game. The “Matrix” star is set to executive produce “Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” an animated series which has been given the greenlight at Disney Channel. Based on Marvel’s comic book series, the show hails from from Disney Television Animation and follows the adventures of 13-year-old super-genius [...]

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • 'The Simpsons' Producers on Disney, Spinoffs

    'The Simpsons' Producers Talk Potential Disney Spinoffs, Confirm Apu Will Remain

    “The Simpsons” has never shied away from lampooning Disney over the years, but maybe that’s no longer the case. Homer, Marge and co. are of course now part of the Disney family and made their first appearance at the Mouse House’s D23 Expo convention, where the show’s producers were asked plenty of questions about what [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content