WATCH: Laurence Fishburne Talks Tackling Racist Industry Experiences And Becoming Doc Rivers In FX’s “CLIPPED”

The veteran actor discusses putting his personality aside and being of service to the wild story of the 2014 LA Clippers controversy

Laurence Fishburne has transformed himself into many roles, but was drawn to FX’s CLIPPED due to its story of justice (and revenge) served at the intersection of sports, race, sex, and social media.

The story follows the lead-up and fallout of the now-infamous recording of then-LA Clippers team owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks against the Black community surfacing to the public. The power struggle for control of the team heats up between Sterling and then-Clippers coach Doc Rivers, while the controversy plays for drama in the traditional media and social memes via Sterling’s internet-savvy “assistant,” V. Stiviano.

“I lived in LA at the time. I’m not a big sports fan, so I wasn’t really following it following it, but you couldn’t help but be aware of it” The Academy Award-nominated actor tells ESSENCE of his prior knowledge of the 2014 scandal that rocked the NBA. “I was not surprised that an owner of a basketball team like the Clippers would have some of these racist attitudes. “What I was surprised by was the fact that he was held accountable and responsible and that he subsequently had to sell his team. I thought that was interesting.”

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 16: US actor Laurence Fishburne arrives for the screening of the film ‘Megalopolis’ at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 16, 2024. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu via Getty Images)

When the script came across his desk, dealing with the incident and the events surrounding it in a uniquely hilarious way, Fishburne couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

“There’s this confluence of racism, sexism, money, power, wealth, fame, influence, social media, the whole gamut. It’s written is such a beautiful, intelligent, and humorous way, that I thought, ‘These are the things that I like talking about. These are the types of issues that I like to deal with in the stories I want to tell.’ So I was very excited to join.”

Audiences are likely to be most struck by just how much Fishburne looks like Doc Rivers in the narrative, despite not looking much like the famed coach at all in his day-to-day life. But beyond the physical similarities Fishburne was able to mold himself into to take on this role, the actor was able to note that he has faced similar situations in his own career – just as every successful Black American likely has had to.

“As a successful Black person, you have some challenges that are presented to you under the umbrella of white supremacy and racism, and you have to deal with those things,” he says. “I’m not a stranger to that in any way, shape, or form, just like Doc isn’t. I’m faced with those challenges as an actor, and have been since the beginning. You just figure out a way to deal with it. There’s no roadmap.”

CLIPPED premiered June 4 with 2 episodes, and new episodes streaming Tuesdays on Hulu.

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