Although Charlie Murphy has appeared in countless films since the late 1980s, toured in many countries, and even gained a name for himself after his appearances on The Dave Chappelle Show, there’s no denying that there are still people out there who think of him only as Eddie Murphy’s older brother.
But the truth is, most people aren’t aware that Charlie Murphy actually got into show business before his baby brother. At the age of 9, Charlie Murphy was cast in the major motion picture The Landlord, starring Beau Bridges, Lou Gossett Jr. and Pearl Bailey.
It might have ended there, but Charlie Murphy evolved over the years from being known for his famous brother Eddie to paving his own path toward a successful career in entertainment.
He’s had many television and movie appearances in Roll Bounce, CB4, Jungle Fever and Harlem Nights, while continuing with a successful stand-up career. He will take the stage at the Helium Comedy Club in Center City from Nov. 16 to 19.
Raised on Long Island and born into what he calls “an extremely talented family,” 52-year-old Murphy acknowledges that his little brother was the only family member who went on to become famous for his talents.
As a young man, Charlie Murphy went into the Navy, and by the time he got out, Eddie had already skyrocketed to fame, having parlayed his success on Saturday Night Live into starring roles in 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop.
Later, it was his little brother who gave his big brother a job making more money than he had ever made in his life.
“I became one of Eddie’s security guards, but you can’t be an effective security guard for a sibling,” he says. “I think it just didn’t work out because of our relationship. Really, it just didn’t work out for me. I wanted to do something where I felt I was contributing, not just standing on the sidelines. When I realized this was not what I was meant to do, I stopped.”
So Charlie Murphy decided to do some writing instead and took some courses, learned film structure, and started writing well enough to come up with a script to sell to Paramount Studios.
“But I didn’t realize just how hard you have to work to produce a script, and that there’s a ‘good old boys’ club that exists out there, and that most things that are produced are written by them.”
But Murphy was never discouraged and never sat idly by. His acting skills came to the forefront as he began performing and working with such actors as Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Danny Aiello, Queen Latifah and others.
And later there were more chances to prove his writing skills, such as the time he collaborated with his little brother on a film titled Norbit.
Murphy explains that Norbit was Eddie’s idea.
“He hired me to help co-write it. He didn’t have the time or the discipline, so we wound up writing it together,” he says. “It made several million dollars, but no floodgates opened after that. But I really liked working with Eddie. And I realize that he didn’t write the script with me because I’m his brother — he wrote Norbit with me because I’m a good writer.”
Now in the process of touring and developing what he hopes will be his own TV show, Murphy remains very busy. “And that’s just the way I like it,” he says.
As far as advice for others, he says he has none except for two words: “Be tough.”
“I see people in this business who are famous although they have zero talent,” Murphy says. “That’s the reality of the business. So just keep going and never give up. That’s all I can say.” ••
For times and ticket information, call 215-496-9001.