An Interview With Carl Jones

JM Carl Interview

A couple of days ago I got to speak with one of the most talented individuals in the animation game. That person is Carl Jones.

Carl Jones is an executive producer, writer, and voice over artist for shows like The Boondocks and Black Dynamite. I decided to reach out to Mr. Jones, and he made time to grace us with an interview. In the interview Carl Jones and I talked about various topics involving his career as well as some somewhat devastating news concerning The Boondocks season 4. Check out the interview below.

The following interview was transcribed from an audio interview.

JM: Junkie Monkeys here with Carl Jones, writer and producer for shows like The Boondocks and Black Dynamite, thanks for stopping by man, how are you?

 Carl: I’m good man, I’m good.

JM: When did you first link up with Aaron McGruder and what’s it like to play such an important role in a series like The Boondocks?

Carl: How I linked up with him is really kind of a crazy story man, I was actually developing a cartoon series in New York with my man LeSean Thomas and a guy named Brian Ashe. We were developing this project for Beanie Sigel and Roc-A-Fella films, it was an animated series called The Playpen. It was basically like Rugrats meets OZ (laughs). We was developing that right, and then Beanie Sigel got arrested for attempted murder and it kind of shut everything down. At that period of time, Roc-A-Fella was going through a period of changes and long story short, I actually went out to Los Angeles and oddly enough my first day in Los Angeles my wife was driving and riding down Melrose Street, (I was familiar with Melrose Street from Melrose Place the TV show) and I see Aaron McGruder walking down the sidewalk with a Boondocks  t-shirt on. I literally jumped out the car, because I was a huge huge fan of the strip and obviously that was the business I wanted to be in and I admired him so much that I just jumped out the car and ran up to him like “Yo put me on nigga!” (laughs). He just stopped and he talked to me and I told him what I was doing and why I was in LA. We exchanged information and I sent him some samples of my work, he liked my stuff, and he told me at the time they were trying to set up a Boondocks pilot at FOX. I started out working on the comic strip with him and the pilot was dead at the time, Adult Swim wasn’t even in the scope it was just kind of like, “Oh I guess it’s dead, so we’ll just keep working on the strip” and then Adult Swim came out of nowhere and they picked up the show and the rest is history man.

JM: What the hell happened to Boondocks Bootleg and The Super Rumble Mixshow? I think the world misses Tubesteak. 

Carl: You know what man, I actually shot some Tubesteak stuff not too long ago and I’m going to put it out real soon, but the reason why we actually did that was because we were working on The Boondocks at the time and there was the writers’ strike in Hollywood. Everyone was pretty much out of work at the time, so we decided to develop this webshow for a website called SuperDeluxe.com. We were trying to blur the lines between reality and sketch, do something that felt real, but wasn’t like your traditional sketch.

The Tubesteak character actually came about when we used to be around the office I used to play around with this character that was really inspired by a few different rappers and a few in the industry.The name Tubesteak meant “internet beef” basically, it was just a character that hated things for all the wrong reasons. He hated niggas that was successful, that took care of their families, that paid their bills and shit, because that’s not what “real” niggas do. When I watched Worldstar and listened to these interviews of all these rappers, they took so much pride in doing fucked up shit. You were almost seen as the weak mother fucker if you actually had a job. There was just so much stuff at the time, this was around the time when Worldstar just started to kind of bubble and I was just so infatuated with it and being able to see all of this stuff. I just wanted to say something about the state of Hip Hop and all of that, so that’s where that character came from. There were other things we did with John Witherspoon and Black Jesus.

 JM: I recall Black Jesus being a part of The Super Rumble Mixshow, how long has this idea been floating around and did that segment serve as inspiration for Black Jesus coming to Adult Swim?

Carl: Yeah, that was something we shot also as part of The Super Rumble Mixshow and the guy that plays Black Jesus, Slink, this nigga is like one of the funniest dudes, he’s brilliant, he’s off the cuff, he’s one of the best improv actors I know man. He’s kind of like a best kept secret. We started doing some stuff with him first with The Tubesteak videos, and we started kicking around the idea of doing something with a black Jesus type character. The first person that came to mind was Charlie Murphy, then we were thinking, “Well you know Charlie is kind of busy,” at the time he was doing a lot of stand up, so we thought about Slink. He was so funny with the Tubesteak videos we literally just came up with a few ideas and went out and shot it man.

JM: It was recently revealed that The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder was not involved with season 4. Did this affect production on the show in any way and how did it feel to not be working with him on the latest season.

Carl: Well here is what you have to understand, after the third season, I left. I didn’t produce the fourth season at all. After the third season I went on and produced a show for FOX with Affion Crockett, a sketch comedy show, and I also did the Black Dynamite pilot and then we got picked up for it, so I got really busy with Black Dynamite and I wasn’t able to continue on season 4 of The Boondocks. With that said, I don’t know, I can’t tell you what Aaron’s involvement was. Obviously you said he wasn’t involved, but if they said he wasn’t involved in the press release I guess that’s what it is.

JM: That news kind of shocked me, it’s relatively new, at first I didn’t know whether to believe it or not. I was pretty skeptical, because think about it, The Boondocks without Aaron Mcgruder? Just saying that out loud, I don’t know how it’s possible, so I just wanted to see if you had any insight on the matter. 

Carl: I mean, to be honest man I can’t even speak on it.

JM: There is plenty of controversy surrounding The Boondocks.  I remember one such incident with BET which ended up being the reason that The Hunger Strike and The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show episodes were pulled from airing. It has been stated that this wasn’t the case for the banned episodes, but we never really got an explanation on why they were pulled. Is there anything you can say about this situation?

Carl: Well with the BET episodes, I heard that some people at the network got offended. Some people at BET got offended and you have to understand the politics of all these networks, they have relationships with each other and you know sometimes niggas just go to far and they got to not air it. We’ve had issues with Oprah Winfrey before, there was this whole thing where we couldn’t actually show Oprah, if you notice you never see Oprah’s face. Sony literally told us “Nahh nigga she’s off limits.” (laughs).

JM: So let me get this straight, you could mention Oprah, you could make an episode about Oprah, it’s a cartoon version of her, but you couldn’t show a cartoon version of her face? That is funny as all fuck.

Carl: Yeah, even If you remember the Chappelle episode of Oprah, you never saw her face (wow moment). Oprah’s like God man (laughs).

JM: (laughing) That’s insane.

Carl: Yeah and The Pause episode, I’m sure everybody heard Tyler Perry wasn’t too thrilled about it. What’s interesting is I saw a gay rights activist panel about homosexuality in media and that episode of The Boondocks came up and they started talking about it. It was interesting that all of them pretty much loved the episode and were very very supportive of it. I think part of the reason is because we never really did anything that was insulting to gay people. Just because we made the notion that he could possibly be homosexual, we weren’t saying that he was and for the record, the characters name was Winston Jerome it wasn’t Tyler Perry. What I’m saying is they had no problem with us exploring homosexuality in television and film, because it’s not like we were taking stabs at them, we weren’t making fun of homosexuals at all. I think just the fact that they were represented in it, and it was done in a funny way, it was satirical, no one was offended. I was actually surprised about how much support we got from the gay community on that episode.

JM: Do you feel that the extended breaks for The Boondocks always kept the show fresh? I would still love to see the show on a yearly basis, but there has got to be loads of material to draw from once you guys started production on a season. 

Carl: Let me explain it this way, we actually never took a break until after the third season. First of all it takes two years to make a show. I think a lot of people don’t realize this, but it takes two years to make one season. So we actually never had a hiatus and we rolled right into the next season for three seasons straight. It was just that the last season there was a small hiatus and you know that’s between Aaron, Sony, and the network. I’m just saying typically it just took that long to make it. It’s also hard to stay topical and to find subject matter that is evergreen, because as soon as something happens we got two years before people see it. You know how shit is now, three weeks on Twitter and it’s old news. All of it is quite a lot of work.

JM: You’ve stated that you had no input on the production of season 4 of The Boondocks at all. So we’re not going to see Thugnificent?

Carl: Not to my knowledge, unless they replaced me with somebody else.

JM: Oh no! I’m hyped for this season and all, but I swear if there is somebody else voicing Thugnificent…

Carl: Yeah, I don’t think there is, but I can’t say for sure.

JM: Let’s touch a bit on Black Dynamite. How did Black Dynamite transform into the animated series? What was the process of transforming that into the cartoon that it is today?

Carl: To answer your first question, while working on The Boondocks I actually got a hold of a bootleg copy of the Black Dynamite movie before it came out in the theater. At the time I knew Michael Jai White through The Boondocks, because he did the voice of Bushido Brown. Other than that I wasn’t aware too much of what they were doing with the movie and all of that, but when I saw it I was like really really fucking blown away. I just immediately thought to myself that this would make a really dope animated series and it’s just the perfect world to visit in animation. So oddly enough man, I tell you it must be written in the stars because literally like a week or two later my manager calls me and says, “You know the people at Ars Nova want to meet with you,” and I was like, “ Cool I just saw the movie, don’t tell them because it’s bootlegged, but yeah.” (laughs) I met with them and they showed me the movie and I acted like I saw it for the first time and shit (laughs), and they told me how they wanted to see how this could be transformed into an animated series, and so I started kicking around some ideas and trying to figure out how to make it unique and create it’s own space without necessarily relying on the same device of comedy that the movie did. When you watch the movie, the movie is all about the bad filmmaking of the films in that area.With animation you can’t quite pull those kind of jokes off, but what I did love about the film is that you had four really really great characters and to me the first thing I thought of was trying to focus on those four characters and creating a tight dysfunctional family between the four.

I just started focusing on the personality types and trying to figure out what their commonalities were, the different dynamics between them all, and how they would function kind of living under the same roof so to speak. That was the meat of the show, that was the bulk of it and I think the 70’s genre was more or less the icing on the cake, we basically turned to 70’s into it’s own universe. If you notice in the show we never pinpoint exactly what era in time in the 70’s. The 70’s is just like a planet (laughs). So we took some of the sexiness, the cool fashions, the hairstyles, and the colors of the 70’s; and we painted the world with that in mind. I believe we did a pretty good job in keeping it consistent with the movie in terms of the characters and the world, while still making it unique and kind of owning it in a fresh way. The beauty of it is we can go back in time and take these iconic personalities like Richard Pryor, Elvis . or OJ Simpson, and we can kind of tell our story of how they became who they are or at least who we know them to be now. We can kind of rewrite history in that way and there was so much ground for jokes there, like with this season we’re doing some stuff with Bill Cosby and some stuff with the mini series Roots, there is just so much stuff to play with from that era and kind of revamp.

JM: What’s it like being able to work with Michael Jai White? That dude is just a beast in general.

Carl: It’s amazing man, he’s incredible. He’s really really fucking funny man. It’s interesting because you see how physical he is in all the movies that he played in, you never really got a chance to see his comedic side.The cool thing about when he played Black Dynamite in the movie; he still played him very straight, but at the same time he understood the comedy in how straight of a character he was, like he was almost too straight. As a matter of fact, he’s like a caricature of Shaft. Mike knew how to walk that line so delicately where he came off as a real fucking baddass while at the same time find ways to pull the comedy out of the character and exaggerate him enough to where it wasn’t so cartoony or so much of an exaggeration that you didn’t buy it. For example, I think Eddie Griffin is amazing, I love Eddie Griffin, but when you look at Undercover Brother that’s a different type of parody. You don’t buy that Undercover Brother could really kick your ass, but Mike could really fucking fight (laughs). He’s incredible, all of the cast, the whole cast, I couldn’t put together a more talented group of people.

JM: When can we expect Black Dynamite Season 2 to air?

Carl: I think sometime in July. I don’t have a date though. That’s not official, but I know I’m just looking at when we’re supposed to deliver the episodes to the network.

JM: What other show would you like to be involved with on Adult Swim or another network?  I would love to see you in something like Rick and Morty or China, IL.

Carl: Well I’ve done some voice over work on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I played this character named Zucotti Manicotti and he’s like a puppet master from outer space. I also did a pilot called Mars Safari for Cartoon Network with Steve Little and the guy that plays Master Shake on Aqua Teen (Dana Snyder). It’s a pretty funny pilot man, it didn’t get picked up, but then I heard it went to Adult Swim and they were considering it. It’s really really weird man, I played a chicken that rocked this gold chain and he hung out with this alien and a shark. I also did some voices for Thudercats too. They hired me for one of the main cats, and I auditioned for it doing James Earl Jones from Coming to America, I turned in my audition and I got the right, So when I came in, I’m there with real professional voiceover artists, guys who have been doing this shit for years, so I got a little intimidated. I get in there right and I’m doing my James Earl Jones Coming to America, and the voice director Andrea Romano she says, “Ok that sounds pretty good, but can you give me one that’s just a little more conversational, like the guys right next to you so you’re talking to him in kind of a soft voice.” I didn’t practice that one (laughs) I only do the big James Earl Jones Coming to America. So they were like “this shit aint working” and they fired me from that job, but they let me play some other characters in the show though.

 

Carl Jones Talks King Jaffe Joffer Impression

JM: Are there any people you would like to work with that you haven’t been able to link up with yet?

Carl: Yeah, I would like to work with Danny McBride, big big big fan of Danny McBride, huge! I would like to do something with Pharrell, he’s brilliant man, and MF Doom. I would love to do something with Eddie Murphy. He actually considered playing Bill Cosby in Black Dynamite, we got him the script and everything, but you know we can’t afford Eddie Murphy.

JM: Has there ever been a moment where you’ve been starstruck by someone you worked with?

Carl: Sam Jackson man. Every time, and I’ve worked with him several times, The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, and even the sketch comedy show we did with Affion Crockett and Jamie Foxx; he was also on that. Each and every time I work with him, I never get used to it. I’m still always like “It’s Sam Fucking Jackson!” He’s so so good man, he’s incredible dude, he’s one of the best in the business. I’m always so impressed by how great of an actor he is. When he’s in the booth he’s perfect, one take over, this nigga does not mess up, he does not stumble over a line, he goes straight through the script with precision. Every line is perfect.

He’s in an episode of Black Dynamite, we’re doing an episode called “Black Jaws”. He’s playing a Captain Quint character in our story so he’s like an old cantankerous guy that knows everything about sharks and shit.

JM: I kind of see where this is going, is there a reference to Deep Blue Sea in this episode (laughs)?

Carl: Yeah there’s little something something in there (laughs).

JM: Are there any other projects that you haven’t mentioned that you are working on or plan to be working on in the near future?

Carl: I’m developing a pilot for Adult Swim, I can’t really disclose the details yet. I developed a pilot with 50 Cent and Fox 20th and Imagine, that is also in the works, and that’s about as much as I can talk about right now.

JM: I’m glad you took the time out to talk with me about everything, I really appreciate it.

Carl: Yeah man, thank you for taking the time to do the interview, I appreciate you.

We would like to thank Mr. Carl Jones for stopping by once again and we hope you’ve enjoyed this interview.

Stay tuned to Junkie Monkeys for more information on Carl Jones’ future work.