Don Cheadle isn’t insane; he just acts like he is, really well, on Showtime’s Black Monday. On the Wall Street dramedy about the 1987 stock market collapse, Cheadle has made fun of the AIDS epidemic and snorted cocaine off of a video game accessory as Maurice “Mo” Monroe, star trader on the show. As offensive as Mo is, Cheadle joined the cast after he “read the pilot, it made me laugh and I thought it was insane…in a good way,” according to the actor speaking with VIBE.
The 54-year-old Grammy-nominated director wasn’t rocking the Jheri curl and polyester threads like his character does in the show when the actual 1987 stock market crash occurred. At that time, he was a broke, struggling actor who admittedly could fit all of his worldly possessions in his car. Black Monday lets Cheadle experience the cocaine binges, robot butlers, and Jheri curl juice he never had in his past. But, fake or not, Cheadle doesn’t want to be on camera saying all of the absurdities Black Monday creators Jordan Cahan and David Caspe think up.
“Jordan and David are always pushing it and it’s often up to us to say, ‘Yeah, that’s a bit too far. If you’re going to say the line on camera, that’s fine. I’m not going to say that on camera’ (Laughs).”
With VIBE, Cheadle recasts Black Monday’s lead roles with rappers, talks smuggling blackness into a show about Wall Street, and why he doesn’t back down from Twitter exchanges with trolls.
VIBE: What are some things you share with your character Mo?
Don Cheadle: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I know I’m nowhere near as intense as he is. I’m not as ambitious at all costs as he is. My sense of humor can kind of be on that level. But, never in public. You know how you could go in with your friends and be like, ‘Please don’t ever tape this’ (Laughs).
One of the characteristics you two share is being confrontational. Do you ever worry that your personal opinions on Twitter could affect TV ratings?
Naaaahhhh. I’ve never had anybody of any position come to me and say, “You’re really risking something and you got to knock that off.” No employer has ever said anything to me. There’s a lot of bots on there, for one. A lot of people — presumably people — that come at me and say stuff like, “You just lost a fan.” I’m just like, “You were never a fan. Let’s be real.”
On the show, Mo and Regina Hall’s character, Dawn, are the only prominent Black characters, yet their blackness has yet to be the focal point of an episode since the series’ premiere. Was that intentional and will the show explore blackness in the ‘80s?
It comes up in the second episode when they’re in the store. Mo is telling her, “Those white boys will f**k you, they’ll date you, but they won’t give you a spot.” We want to pepper that stuff in, kind of smuggle it in and not lead with it. That’s not something the characters talk about every day. They know who they are, they know what they’re dealing with, and it comes in and out of the show. It’s not the focal point of the show, which I like. They are black and it is front and center, but it isn’t the subject matter.
The second episode has the classic back and forth negotiation scene between you and Dawn. Were there ever scenes where you and Regina couldn’t get through it because y’all kept making each other laugh?
We would crack each other up a lot. Both of our desire was to always get it on camera, so we never really lost it during a shot. Maybe once or twice. But, most of the time we would get the take and then we would crack up. I’d always be like, “When you said this line.” She would be like, “When you said this.” We kind of improv a lot on the show and some stuff gets in there. When she said, “Who wants to titty f**k Keith” [in the series premiere], Regina just improv’d that.
So it was all Regina Hall’s idea to mount Paul Scheer and thrust in the air as if she was titty f**king him?
Yes, that was her (Laughs).
The third episode starts with the most ‘80s scene we’ll probably see on television this year: you snorting coke off of a Nintendo Duck Hunt gun while talking about Michael Jackson and Brooke Shields dating.
Are those moments intentionally put into the show to show that Black Monday is set in the ‘80s?
I think, absolutely, we’re trying to juxtapose that time period to now and see the things that remain and the things that change, and see how far we’ve come in some instances and how far we still have to go. Absolutely, all of that cultural stuff is very fun to play with. We always want to make it a part of the show. We don’t want to full out do something that has no bearing on anything just to make fun of the ‘80s.
The music for the show has been great. Knowing what you know about Mo and the ‘80s, what would be his morning playlist before a day of kicking a** on Wall Street?
Oh, he would definitely listen to Run-DMC. I think he’s into all of that early hip-hop with [Big Daddy] Kane and LL Cool J. He’s deep into that. He probably also listens to some of the stuff that was coming out of Europe at that time. Stuff like the Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, a lot of that stuff. UB40 (Laughs). At one point in the show, he’s like, “Don Henley’s coming to play. I don’t really f**k with his music, but he’s number one, so I’m listening to it.” He likes what’s popular.
You once said you wanted to cast Kendrick Lamar for the role of Junior in the film Miles Ahead.
If you had to cast the roles for Dawn, Mo, Blair, and Keith with rappers, who would they be?
Oh, wow. Who would Dawn be? I think Dawn might be Queen Latifah. I like Dawn as Queen Latifah. I don’t think Keith and Blair would be any rappers (laughs). I can’t think of any rappers Keith and Blair would be. Not that there aren’t some. I mean, they might be 3rd Bass. Who would Mo be? That’s a good question. Who do you think Mo would be?
Mo is so out there I was thinking…
Ol’ Dirty Bastard?
Or a really animated Leaders of the New School Busta Rhymes.
Yeah. Definitely, a young Busta Rhymes. Kool G Rap also.
If they’re going to be doing as much cocaine as Mo does on the show then it has to be someone from Wu-Tang.
(Laughs) It has to be O.D.B.
I did a little bit of IMDB digging and saw that Kevin Arnold is listed as your stunt double for 5 episodes of the second half of the season. Is Mo about to get crazier in the second half of the season?
No comment (Laughs). Things get crazy.
With a show titled after and centered around an event that it appears will be reached by the season finale, is there any way this show could come back for a second season?
Fingers crossed. I think the jumpoff is Black Monday, and the show is still going to still be about the stock market, Wall Street. That one day was just what started a lot of stuff. Things kept going on from then and are still going on.
Catch ‘Black Monday’ on Sunday nights at 10p/9c on Showtime.