Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Everybody Hates Chris

Since the early '90s, the entertainment industry has had a lot of success in releasing shows centering around stand-up comics going about their fictional everyday lives. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, and Tim Allen all became a part of this trend. Chris Rock decided to join the movement in his own way by producing a show inspired by his teenage years.

"Everybody Hates Chris" ran for four seasons from 2005 to 2009. Set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1980s, the series focuses on the titular Chris (Tyler James Williams), a perennially down-on-his-luck teenager who struggles to win the favor of his friends and family. Much of the comedy of the show comes from Chris' interactions with his family and his classmates at the largely Caucasian school he attends. 

The '80s culture that "Everybody Hates Chris" replicates struck a nostalgic chord with audiences from the start, as did the show's mixture of sharply observed humor and genuinely tender moments between memorably fleshed-out characters. After wrapping up with its fourth season, "Everybody Hates Chris" continued to find new fans worldwide on reruns and is considered a cult classic sitcom. Here are some facts about the show's creation you might not be aware of.   

Filming at top speed

"Everybody Hates Chris" didn't have a massive budget like "Game of Thrones." This meant that the showrunners had to efficiently manage everyone's time and availability to ensure the episodes were filmed on time and within budget. But this sort of cost-effectiveness also came at its own cost. 

Since Tyler James Williams was very young when the show was being filmed and had to work hard to finish each episode in time, specific instances of working on the show and day-to-day happenings on set aren't easy for the actor to remember years later. Williams admitted as much in a Twitter thread he made to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of "Everybody Hates Chris."

"In my memory bank it's all one big episode," Williams explained (via Showbiz Cheat Sheet). "I can recall pieces, but not specifics [of individual episodes. W]e only shot 4 seasons in 4 short years. 88 episodes. We were done by 2009." The actor also points out that one reason "Everybody Hates Chris" feels it went on for longer than it actually did is because the series received a huge boost in popularity after filming ended in 2009, which is when a lot of new fans found the show.  

Too much attention

The central focus of "Everybody Hates Chris" was on Tyler James Williams' leading character Chris, a kid from a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn who's just starting his adolescent years. The makers of the show launched a massive hunt to find a child actor to embody the character of Chris with the right amount of humor and vulnerability. 

The search ended when they found 12-year-old Williams, a budding child star who had already done a short stint on "Sesame Street." After a few bit parts, his role on "Everybody Hates Chris" was the biggest opportunity in Williams' fledgling career at that point. Suddenly becoming the center of a hyped new show did have its drawbacks for its tween star, however.

"[The publicity surrounding the show] was kind of traumatic in the sense of, like, I just wasn't used to that many eyeballs," Williams told Yahoo about seeing his face plastered all over New York in the run-up to the release of his new show. "At 12 you just feel [all that attention] as you're walking through a crowd." Fortunately, Williams was able to manage the attention without getting overwhelmed and went on to become a well-adjusted adult actor who continues to be seen in major roles on television.

Tyler Crews is still inspired by Julius

One reason "Everybody Hates Chris" is still fondly remembered today is because the cast is so memorable. One of the breakout characters from the show is Terry Crews as Chris' father Julius. After a string of supporting roles as the muscle-bound, threatening guy, Crews got to show a whole new side to his character on the series. 

Julius is a hard-working, blue-collar man devoted to taking care of his family. Normally soft-spoken and reasonable, Julius gets triggered whenever he encounters the wastage of money in any shape or form. Julius' extreme penny-pinching ways not only became a running gag on the show, but also ended up inspiring Crews for many years. 

In an Instagram post (via Essence), Crews revealed that he still has a picture of Julius in his wallet frowning disapprovingly at his family's extravagant ways. "I keep this pic of myself in my wallet," the actor explains in the post's caption. "So I can see it when I'm about to waste money on things I don't need lol." It actually sounds like a pretty effective way to limit your spending to always have a reminder of a stern parent keeping a close eye on your every purchase. 

Nailing her first audition ever

While the adult cast of "Everybody Hates Chris" sees many seasoned veterans in the lead, the child actors were still very new to the entertainment industry. This helped make the child characters feel similarly fresh and without any of the affectations you often see young actors indulge in when they face the camera.

Imani Hakim played Chris' younger sister Tonya. Despite her diminutive size, Tonya feels like an outsized presence due to her extreme confidence in the face of any adversity — and her habit of telling on Chris to their parents at the drop of a hat. Hakim feels completely natural in her role on the show, despite it being the first acting job she had ever done.

"Everybody Hates Chris was Imani Hakim [sic] first audition," Tyler James Williams wrote in a Twitter thread (via EW). "Very rarely does this happen first time out the gate. It speaks to how great and naturally built for this she is." Williams also goes on to give a shoutout to the current show Hakim was a part of at the time, proving that the real-life relationship between Williams and Hakim was a lot warmer than the frequently contentious relationship between Chris and Tonya. 

Tichina Arnold gave the show its theme song

Fans of "Everybody Hates Chris" remember Tichina Arnold as Rochelle, Chris' mom, who terrifies everyone in the house and whose strict approach to child-rearing is a perpetual thorn in Chris' side. While playing Rochelle was Arnold's most important contribution to the show, she is also responsible for another famous aspect of the series that few fans notice. 

While the show does not have a proper theme song with lyrics, it does has the single line "Everybody hates Chris" that can be heard as a refrain in the background to bookend scenes where Chris' ever-present bad luck catches up with him in an episode. Arnold sings this line along with members of her singing group; in fact, the refrain is part of an entire song they recorded for the series. 

"My first love is singing," Arnold revealed in an interview (via YouTuber Patrick Star). "And I was like, 'Wow, the show got picked up. They're gonna need a theme song.'" And so Arnold called her friends, went to New York, and recorded a theme song that she had written in seven minutes. When the actress presented the song to the showrunners, they decided to keep its main hook after making some changes to the tune and background music. 

Many familiar faces

"Everybody Hates Chris" is often praised for not only having a strong main cast, but consistently coming up with memorable supporting and minor characters played by gifted comic actors. Thanks to such characters, the neighborhood Chris grew up in comes alive as its own little ecosystem of quirky but hard-working men and women trying to get by in life as best as they can.

For fans of '70s and '80s television shows, the actors who frequently pop up in major and minor roles on "Everybody Hates Chris" can provide an entertaining game of spotting familiar faces. Before Tichina Arnold played Chris' mom Rochelle, she was best known for playing Pam on "Martin" starring Martin Lawrence. Similarly, Todd Bridges, who plays Monk, first shot to stardom playing Willis on "Diff'rent Strokes."

The handsy funeral director Mr. Omar from "Everybody Hates Chris" is played by Ernest Thomas, best known for playing Roger 'Raj' Thomas in both "What's Happening!" (1976) and "What's Happening Now!" (1985). Then we have "Good Times" (1974) actor J.J. Evans playing Rochelle's father, and "Starsky and Hutch" (1975) alum Antonio Fargas in the role of Doc. A number of other noted Black performers also cameoed on the show, including Whoopi Goldberg, J.B. Smoove, Wayne Brady, and Chris Rock himself.

An overdue apology

"Everybody Hates Chris" is a comedy show, and due to the premise of the series, the fact that the lead character gets constantly ridiculed, bullied, and abused is played for laughs. While the show does a good job of finding the humor in individual situations, it is often heartbreaking to see the teenage Chris being given such a tough time at school through no fault of his own.

One of the biggest sources of grief in Chris' life is the fact that he goes to a mostly white high school. The students and faculty at the school range from well-meaning but clueless racists to actively hostile racists. Chris is constantly excluded, mocked, and bullied at his school. The show is based on Chris Rock's real-life experiences at a majority-white school. When one of Rock's old teachers saw the show, she finally realized how badly the comedian had been treated. 

The teacher was so moved that she sent Rock a letter of apology. "[The letter] was like, 'I have to apologize for everything that happened to you while you were in school,'" Rock told Contactmusic.com. "'I knew it was hard on you but I had no idea. If anything happened to you because of me, please forgive me.'" Rock also revealed that the abuse Chris undergoes at school on the show is very similar to what he went through in real life, including getting beaten and called the n-word almost every day.

The end was pre-decided

Despite its popularity in recent years, "Everybody Hates Chris" only ran for four seasons before wrapping up. This is despite the fact that successful sitcoms can easily run for 10 or more seasons. While some of the blame for the premature end of "Everybody Hates Chris" lies with its initial ratings, the show's creators felt that it was never meant to keep going indefinitely.

When the series began, the titular Chris, based on the real-life Chris Rock, was a kid just starting high school. For four seasons, audiences followed Chris through coming-of-age moments that would eventually transform him into the comedian Chris Rock that the world knows today. The show had always been intended to end once the transformation of little Chris to grown-up Chris was complete. 

"The day [Chris] walks into a comedy club, the show's over," the show's co-creator Ali LeRoi told NPR. "Because that's when he began his journey as the guy that we know. This show is about everything that led up to the point to make that decision to become the other guy." True to LeRoi's word, the show ends just as Chris decides to drop out of high school and strike out on his own path as an adult, a path that would one day lead to him becoming a world-famous comedian.   

The Longest Yard connection

Before "Everybody Hates Chris" came along, Terry Crews had established himself as an actor who could convincingly play menacing tough guys with a hilariously unexpected comic side. It was in this capacity that Crews found himself playing a supporting role in the 2005 Adam Sandler movie "The Longest Yard" about a group of prison football players. 

Chris Rock was also a part of the movie, and while Crews played an antagonistic role in the film, Rock took notice of Crews' real-life personality between takes. "Chris took notice of me [on set]," Crews tells GQ. "He said he noticed that I was a father and that I had my kids on set. He also noticed how I was around other women and other people." Crews' real-life personality struck a chord with Rock, who sent him the script for "Everybody Hates Chris" soon after. 

Upon reading the script, the actor immediately fell in love with the show's ethos and writing, and Crews says he was the first person to be cast on the show, as well as the only one to be named after a member of Chris Rock's real family, his father Julius. Crews also mentions that Rock's family members have reached out to him to thank him for representing their father on the show in such a heartfelt manner.      

A fictional version of home

The main source of both support and strife on "Everybody Hates Chris" is Chris' own family unit, comprising his mother Rochelle, father Julius, younger brother Drew (Tequan Richmond), and little sister Tonya. In real life, Chris Rock's family was actually much bigger, and certain members had to be combined to create a single character on the show. 

"I have six brothers and sisters," Rock explained in an interview reported by IGN. "So we had to combine people." That wasn't the only deviation from his real family that Rock and his co-creator Ali LeRoi wrought for "Everybody Hates Chris." In the same interview, Rock explains that, in real life, all his siblings were bigger than him and would defend him from outside threats. Additionally, Rock opined that his real sister was a lot less bratty than her on-screen counterpart and that the fictional Chris was a much cuter kid than he had been. 

As for the parents, Terry Crews' Julius was a much larger man than Rock's father in real life, but the latter did seem gigantic in Rock's imagination as a child. Rock also noted that Rochelle closely resembles his real mother, explaining, "My mother's not that crazy, but she would definitely quit jobs at the drop of a hat."  

Wrapping up the show

The show ended with the Season 4 episode called "Everybody Hates the G.E.D." After many torturous semesters at his high school, Chris is finally ready to graduate when he discovers he'll need to repeat the year. Hating the idea of going through another year of torture, Chris decides to drop out and get his G.E.D. to find a job. 

The last scene of the show is modeled after the finale of "The Sopranos," as Chris' family gathers around him to find out if he passed his G.E.D before the screen cuts to black. This abrupt end to the series dissatisfied many fans. But the show's creators believed it was the right point at which to end the show. In an interview with TV Guide (via Canceled TV Shows HQ), Terry Crews explained that, by its fourth season, the series was starting to line up with real-life Chris Rock's transition from everyday guy to budding comedy star, which was the point at which the show was always meant to end. 

For his part, Rock agrees with Crews' assessment. "If it ends [with the Season 4 finale], we ended it the right way." Rock says in the same interview, "It might not be a bad way to go." So what happens to Chris after the screen cuts to black? Tyler James Williams wrote on Twitter (via Shadow & Act) that, "[Chris passes his G.E.D.] and drops out [of school]. This starts the journey to comedy." 

Everybody hates the Santa episode

In recent times, "Everybody Hates Chris" has come to be seen as one of the few sitcoms with zero haters. The show's humor and genuine warmth make it feel like comfort food for audiences yearning to spend time with a family who, despite their frequent clashes, love and protect each other in the face of all obstacles. 

But one particular episode mars the reputation of "Everybody Hates Chris." In the episode "Everybody Hates Christmas" (Season 1, Episode 11), Tonya finds out from Drew that there is no Santa Claus. The plot point had a lot of parents up in arms, which caught the show members by surprise.

"I get a call from [the studio] press," co-creator Ali LeRoi explained in an interview reported by IGN. "[They said] 'This thing is bubbling up about you killing Santa Claus.'" While LeRoi dismissed the criticism as "trying to make something out of nothing," Tichina Arnold stated that they never expected the episode to provoke such a strong reaction. Meanwhile, Terry Crews lamented that critics overlooked the heartfelt message of the episode, which is that it's okay to not get your dream gift on Christmas if your family cannot afford it but they still love you.

Difficulties with growing up on set

At the heart of "Everybody Hates Chris" lies the family dynamic between Rochelle, Julius, and their three children. While Rochelle and Julius were played by adult actors, their three kids were played by actors who were not yet even teenagers when the show began. The experience of the child actors on the show was very different from the adults, and not altogether pleasant. 

Tyler James Williams has spoken in interviews about the long working hours and breakneck speed of filming episodes for the show. Looking back on the whole experience, Williams admits he does not really miss filming the series. "It's kind of like high school," the actor explained in an interview reported by CW Atlanta. "Nobody ever wants to go back to high school. You appreciate the time for what it was, but nobody ever wants to go back."

Tequan Richmond echoed similar feelings about his time playing Drew on the show. Talking to Interview Magazine, Richmond remembered having no social life, no friends, eating lunch alone, and feeling tired all the time. Imani Hakim looks back on the experience of playing Tonya more positively, telling xoNecole that she felt "very lucky" starting her career with the show, and faced greater challenges after it ended while trying to transition out of her "child actor" phase. 

The planned reboot

Despite the creators of "Everybody Hates Chris" often saying that they felt satisfied wrapping up the show after four seasons, fans strongly disagree. As the show's popularity has grown around the world, there have been repeated calls to bring the series back in some shape or form, either through a reunion episode, a continuation, or a reboot.  

Studios took note of the interest, and it was announced recently that MTV Entertainment Studios is going to create an animated version of "Everybody Hates Chris." Chris Rock will be returning as an executive producer alongside Ali LeRoi and "South Park" producer Sanjay Shah. It remains to be seen how many of the original cast members will return to voice their characters for the animated reboot. 

Meanwhile, Tyler James Williams has stated that there have been many points at which a reunion episode of "Everybody Hates Chris" was planned, but the cast was unable to work out a unified schedule. "I want to say 2019, we got close [to a reunion episode]," Williams told Collider. "We got close. And then it just kind of... People keep getting other jobs and it gets harder to get done." Still, Williams continues to hold out hope that fans will eventually get to see a proper live-action reunion episode of "Everybody Hates Chris."