Chris Rock was named the host of the 88th Academy Awards months before the nominations were announced. In the interim, Rock went about business as usual -- filming promos, giving interviews, posing for photoshoots -- that is, until it became clear that this year's ceremony might be the most controversial in Oscars history.
After the nominations for acting failed to recognize a single person of color, sparking a national conversation and reviving 2015's hashtag about racial inequality in the film industry, Rock reportedly scrapped his plans for the opening monologue and canceled all press interviews, including a profile in The Hollywood Reporter.
Before the wall went up, however, the news outlet was given access to the comedian during the filming for the Oscar promos, providing some insight into Rock's mindset before he steps out on the Dolby stage.
"I told my agent I wanted to present because it's like, what's easier and better than presenting? You come in, do something really funny and get out of there," he told the magazine. "But it just seemed like a good time. I hadn't [hosted] in a while."
In between potential jokes for the promo -- "My favorite Disney memory? I became so rich and famous that I could skip in front of white people in line. Now you know how it feels to be black" -- Rock mentioned the increased attention surrounding this year's ceremony, considering at that point he was still two and a half months away from the big day.
"You could learn how to take out a pancreas in two and a half months," he quipped.
Rock had hosted the Oscars back in 2005, but looks to hosts of yesteryear, like Steve Martin and Ellen DeGeneres, as classic examples of comedic excellence.
"Steve Martin wanting to be funny is about as funny as a human being can get," he said. "And let's not get it twisted: I'm only here because Ellen said no."
After #OscarsSoWhite took over Twitter and big-name celebrities like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith decided to boycott the award show altogether, all eyes are on Rock to determine the tone for this year's ceremony. Will he skewer the nominees? Turn his monologue into an important statement about the lack of diversity? Or do a signature mic drop and just leave the stage all together?
The one thing we do know is that Rock never plays it safe.
The 88th annual Academy Awards airs Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
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