Larry Wilmore Steps Out of Character
On his new late-night show “The Minority Report,” which takes over Stephen Colbert’s old time slot on Comedy Central this month, the TV veteran and former “Daily Show” Senior Black Correspondent plays a very different role: himself
“The Minority Report” replaces the multiple Emmy-winning “The Colbert Report” this month, as Stephen Colbert departs to take over for David Letterman. How daunting does it feel to be stepping into Colbert’s time slot?
Well, luckily, there’s no way I can be Stephen Colbert, so I don’t have to worry about it. When you’re in the middle of making your show, you don’t have time to worry. You just make it as funny as possible.
What can we expect?
It’s a show that comes from the point of view of the underdog. In the spirit of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” it will be my take on world events, as well as having a panel component. It’s all me, not a character; it won’t be 30 minutes of Senior Black Correspondent. And the show is not all about race. We’re going to talk about racial issues, but we’ll also talk about everything else that’s going on. I consider myself a passionate centrist. That means half the time, I disagree with myself. I’m not out to prove a point.
You’ve had a hand in some of the all-time great African-American television series. You wrote for “In Living Color,” served as a producer on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Jamie Foxx Show,” and created and produced “The Bernie Mac Show.” How do you think the TV landscape has changed, race-wise, from when you started to today?
In terms of sitcoms, it’s gotten more dire. “Black-ish” [the hit ABC show for which Wilmore serves as executive producer] is the only black sitcom on [network TV] today. So that’s a bit problematic. I think in drama there have been a few more representations, especially with Shonda Rhimes. I don’t have time to watch much these days, but I’m a huge fan of hers.
You hired a woman, Robin Thede, to be your head writer for “The Minority Report.” Did you prioritize diversity, especially given the nearly all-white and all-male staffs of most late-night shows?
I’ve always had diverse writers’ rooms on my shows. It’s not an issue for me. I don’t need to say, “I have to diversify my staff.” It’s done. It’s how I view the world. It’s the other shows that have to think about it, not me. Please have this conversation, everybody else!
Last year on “The Daily Show,” your Senior Black Correspondent character said, “We’re never going to fix racism in this country.” Does the real Larry Wilmore believe this as well?
I don’t think you’ll ever remove these things from the world. All you can do is be a better society in how you deal with it. Just because people are racist doesn’t mean the laws have to be racist.
So what do you make of extreme examples like Donald Sterling, who was stripped of his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers after making racist remarks?
The Donald Sterling thing was hilarious on so many levels. He’s such a caricature. He owned a basketball team, but he thought he owned the players. This is not Django Unchained! I mean, as a comedian, it was fantastic. What a year in race 2014 was. I wish my show had premiered earlier. I may have to do a year in review.