On Aug. 9, 2008, the world of comedy lost a legend, Bernard McCollough, better known as Bernie Mac. The stand-up comedian, actor and voice artist’s joyous spirit captured the hearts of millions with his performances in an eponymous TV series “The Bernie Mac Show,” classic ’90s flicks Friday and The Players Club, and later Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, Pride and Soul Men, where he played alongside Samuel Jackson and the late Isaac Hayes. An original King of Comedy, Bernie Mac left a legacy and an extensive body of work for fans to enjoy. The Bernie Mac Foundation is dedicated to helping those suffering from the disease that took his life, sarcoidosis.
Tonight at 8 p.m. EST, TV One will shed light on his remarkable journey as a comedian on prime-time television during a brand new segment of “Hollywood Unsung: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Mac.” Chris Rock, Cedric the Entertainer, Joe Torry and D. L. Hughley are among those interviewed on this fascinating episode. Rolling out had a chance to chat with the Mac’s beloved widow, Rhonda McCollough, on how she is coping with the loss of her husband, keeping his legacy alive and her thoughts on the episode.
Peep the highlights below:
How are you? How is the family?
I am wonderful and the family is doing well.
TV One is airing the “Unsung Hollywood” episode about your husband tonight. Have you seen the episode? What did you think?
I saw a rough draft of the episode and I thought it was done very well. I am just happy and honored that they thought enough of him to do the show. Now people can see what was happening in his life. My husband was really at the peak of his game, but he was just taken too soon.
Would he be pleased?
Absolutely, I think he would be pleased with the show. I know he would without a doubt in my mind. He was always very appreciative of anyone that would speak highly of him. He was always very humbled by it as well.
Did you have any hesitation when TV One reached out to do a profile on your husband?
I am always a little hesitant when I get a call, but once I understood what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it I was totally on board.
What do you hope fans will learn about your husband that they likely didn’t know before?
I think for the for the most part they will see that he was a man with a strong sense of family and friendship. Those two things were the most important to him. They will also truly get to see the love for comedy that he had for his craft. He lived and breathed comedy. Viewers will be able to take away from the episode that comedy was really his passion. For him to be able to live his dream and work it every day was his reality.
How have you managed to cope since his death?
Well, in the beginning it was very difficult, but I do have a strong religious base in my life and a wonderful group of family and friends. I must say through the help of God and m strong support system I was able to make it back on the happy side of life. I had to realize that we are not here to stay forever. I began to understand that God took him away, because it was his time and even though he has left me here I must still live on and enjoy my life. That is pretty much how I have been getting through it.
How do you keep his legacy alive?
A couple of years before he passed away he started a foundation called the Bernie Mac Foundation for sarcoidosis. Back in the late ’80s he was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which is a disease involving abnormal collections of inflammatory cells. These cells are called grandulomas and they form in multiple organs. For my husband, they formed in his lungs even though they can form in any organ. When he was diagnosed he didn’t have a lot of issues with the disease, expect maybe a little shortness of breath. For the most part he kept it moving, but I think as he got older and having a hectic schedule of traveling back and forth all the time took a toll on him. His lungs became extremely damaged and so did his immune system, so he wasn’t able to fight off the typical infections line pneumonia and common colds. If he did get sick it was really detrimental for his health. I plan to continue to keep his legacy alive through the foundation and we also have a clinic in Chicago opened in his name at the University on Illinois that treats patients for various types of lung diseases and auto immune diseases.
What are some of Bernie Mac’s one-liners or lessons that have stayed with you that still make you smile when you hear them play back in your head?
Oh my gosh! Let me think about it because there are so many [laughs]. OK. I got one. Whenever he saw someone and especially females that he thought were acting ghetto; he would always say, “Those girls need to get so “CL” for that a– [giggles]. That was something he would say that would really tickle me. He would always say the funniest things. He also use to blurt out all the time, “You don’t know who I am? You better ask somebody!!” I can still hear him say these things in my head till this day. I would always wonder where he would come up with these crazy analogies he was always coming up with. He was just a very funny man.
What advice would you give to women who have lost their significant other and are struggling to move forward with their lives?
As I am coming up on the seventh year of his death, I realized that he is gone and is never coming back. I have all these wonderful memories to look back on and remember him, so I keep that near and dear to my heart. I have heard people often telling me that things will get easier. As you go on it doesn’t really get easier, but you come to accept it more and accept that this is your life and that is the truth. Every day that goes by I think about him and he is always in my head and my heart. Sometimes during the night when I’m sleeping I see him in my dreams. What I would say to them is to just make sure you have good people around you and know that your hear to live. You have to go on and that is what your love one would want. They wouldn’t want you to feel all sad and depressed that their not here with you. Life does go on and you just have to live it and remember what they were to you. It’s a very hard thing, but with the love that you’ve had and the years that you’ve shared will always leave you with a lifetime of beautiful memories. A lot of times the family will get together and laugh at all the things he use to do and say and just remember what a great man he was.