Even If I Tumble Fall
Vince is on his second agent when E finally comes out to LA. He's had a couple of uncredited bit parts on crime shows, a few commercials and six months on a soap opera in which he got maybe one line a month. Eric thinks he could have done better in New York but the stage isn't really where Vince works, put a camera on him though and he shines. But at least New York is home and they can always crash at various relative's houses if they run out of money. Here in LA, they hang on by the skin of their teeth. Johnny gets day player work, Eric finds a Sbarro's happy to have him, and Turtle deals some of his homegrown and goes back to bookmaking and whatever else puts money in their pockets. Nobody talks about how they're hanging everything on Vince. Eric is the only one allowed to worry out loud.
Agent number two gets him a part as the 'hot Black guy' neighbor in a sitcom called Fish Out of Water about a White family that moves into a Black neighborhood. Vince's part consist of mostly wandering around without his shirt on while the wife and daughter stare at him and everyone makes jokes about 'jungle fever'. It gets canceled after a couple of episodes, and agent number two gets fired because if Vince has to put up with shit like that, he sure as hell needs more than two episodes out of it .
Eric's mama tells him he needs to stop following 'that boy' around and learn how to say no, but since Eric was five years old, he's done his best to give Vince what he wants and Vince wants to be a star. So he puts up with the 'hip' slang that people talk at him and with the people that think he's stupid and the ones that think he's the valet and he smiles and hustles his way into anything he thinks will get Vince noticed. Eric hooks up with a model who calls him a 'spinner' and lets him know she can't wait to tell all her friends if the rumors about Black men are true, but she knows Freddie Lyme and he adds Vince to his next shoot.
Eric's been out here fifteen months and he's learned that pretty much everything his mother taught him about how to live and be a good person will get them jack and shit. He's never been the Jackie Robinson type, but out here he's learned to swallow his pride. Which is why he sits for ten hours on the sofa in Ari Gold's office, trying to look harmless and earnest. Ari Gold is the best and Vince wants him. He's been trying for over a year before Eric gets out there and can't even get a phone call back. Ari's assistant, Emily flirts with him a little and seems really sorry she can't get him an appointment. Eric's just glad she's not calling security.
Gold's glances at him turn from curious to dismissive to puzzled to irritated as the day goes on and he passes back and forth. At seven o'clock, he locks up his office and points at Eric as he passes. "You, come with me."
Eric hops up, grabs Vince's head shots and clips and follows Ari to the elevator.
"Okay, look, you're a tenacious little fuck. I actually admire that as long as I don't have to deal with that shit. You've got till I get to my car. Talk."
"My name is Eric Murphy. I'm Vincent Chase's guy." He holds out the portfolio, but Ari doesn't even glance at it.
"Yeah, Chase. He calls my office every few weeks. He send you to stalk me now?"
"He needs an agent."
"So find him one."
"He wants you."
Ari grins at him, slick and mean. "I'm Ari fucking Gold, baby, everybody wants me. Tell him to come back when he's famous. Reality check here, Brother. There are four Black actors that are gonna get their names above the title. Four. The same four it's been for the last fifteen years. Maybe a handful are gonna get 2nd billing. You want your boy to have a career out here, find him a niche and tell him to stick with it."
Eric grits his teeth, glad when the elevator doors open into the parking garage. Gold is a dick. It's not like he hadn't heard this, and it's not like he's going to give up but right now he needs to swallow the whole day he's wasted, swallow the look he's going to see on Vince's face when he gets back to the apartment.
Ari steps out and turns back to where Eric is still standing in the elevator. "What part of 'to my car' didn't you understand, Webster?"
Eric follows him through the parking garage and Gold stops at a car that costs more than the houses they grew up in.
He looks Eric up and down and then sighs. "Look, I'm going to give you Ari Gold's rules for making it in Hollywood. One--you run the talent, don't let the talent run you. Two--T.V. is for Not yets, Has beens, Never will bes and people with mortgages. Three--know who to go on your knees to. Four--figure out your line. You'll cross the hell out of it, but you better know what it is. Five, and this is the most important one. Hollywood is about who you know. Who you golf with, whose wife goes to the same spa as yours, whose pool you clean, who you fuck. If Emily hadn't decided she might want to order the dark meat today, you wouldn't be getting the benefit of my wisdom now."
He hit the alarm and stepped up to his car. "Tomorrow call the office and make an appointment with Adam Davies. Tell him I said get his dick out of the mail room assistant and do some work for a change. Don't say Ari Gold never did anything for race relations. Now get the fuck out of my life."
Davies isn't Gold but he's at least in the same agency, even if he does have to pretend to be his own assistant. He's kind of a douche-bag too but his eyes light up when he gets a look at Vince and they can work with that. Davies gets Vince some commercials, one of which is a surprise hit and he makes enough off the follow ups so that they can get out of the shit-hole they're in and into a semi-decent apartment.
Then Tyler Perry comes calling and it's not Vince's thing at all, but Eric thinks they've been waiting years for Vince's 'thing' and it's gotten them next to nowhere.
"What are you going to spend the rest of your career playing drug dealers and pimps, or thug number three, like Drama?"
"Nigga, please! That Melrose gig paid the rent on the fucking apartment you guys spent six months laying around on your asses in."
Turtle shoots him the finger, but Eric casts him an apologetic grimace. "Sorry, Drama but you know what I mean."
He looks back at Vince. "This is a chance to get out of the background. It's a movie, Vince. "
"Plus it's an ensemble, Vince. There might be a part in it for me too." Johnny held up his hands in a frame. "Can you imagine that, the Chase brother's on the big screen together?"
Turtle finally chimes in his support. "And hey, Vin did you see this guy's last movie? He puts some fine ass women in his flicks. You know you can hit some of that."
The movie isn't good exactly, but Perry's got a built in audience and enough people see it that suddenly Vince isn't just that guy from the commercials anymore. Davies practically comes on himself when he tells them they want Vince for a part in the new Ben Affleck movie. It's just a riff off the Perry role, Vince as the suave lady's man, but his name is on the poster and Turtle gets laid off of that for six months.
Eric has a deal with the gym. He slips them free pizzas and they let them work out there after hours. When he finds the script under a bench in the locker room, Ari Gold's voice drowns out his mother's in his head and he takes it home. It's called Queen's Boulevard and the thing is fucking perfect for Vince.
Davies hems and haws about it, tells them he'll put feelers out to see if there's a part for Vince, and he almost manages to hide his wince when Eric tells him they don't want a 'part' for Vince, they want the lead.
He sees Ari Gold in the elevator sometimes. Eric thinks he goes out of his way to make sure they meet. He's not sure why since Gold usually insults the hell out of him, but he gives E tips too. After Head On, Eric actually gets a semi approving smile. Personally, Eric thinks he's doing it to fuck with Davies. Gold is still end-game and Eric thinks he wants to make sure it stays that way. Just in case. When he sees him the next week, Gold says
"Queen's Boulevard huh? You sure you want to take your boy that route?"
Eric doesn't doubt himself, not on this one. "Yeah. This is Vince's part."
Gold nods. "Scott Wick is producing. He likes nothing better than pretty boys. Preferably riding his cock but I'm sure he'd settle for in his movie. "
Vince's looks aren't swaying Scott though and it's not until he finds out they're holding when most of the town is dry that he offers more than the wistful leer in Vince's direction. They take the business meeting from the restaurant to Scott's car and everything is going fine until a police car pulls up behind them. Scott is freaking out way more than a little weed deserves, especially since they just finished the last of the joint. He babbles something about probation and Eric pulls out his cell ready to hit Johnny on his speed dial. He has a feeling this is going to be fucked up.
The cop bends over, shining a light in the car. "Are you alright, sir?"
Scott is all smiles, nervous enough that Eric can see them on the next episode of Cops and it's not exactly the kind t.v. role they want for Vince. "I'm fine officer, what's the problem."
Eric tries not to flinch as the flashlight travels over his face.
"Just trying to make sure everything is okay. You know you're parked in a no parking zone right?"
"No, sorry. We'll move."
"Hold it. The two of you keep your hands where I can see them. Sir, please get out of the car."
Eric can hear Scott's breathing ramp up.
"What? No, look everything is fine officer .We were just discussing some details about our upcoming movie."
The cop frowns at them sceptically. "You're actors?"
"Well, I'm a producer, but Vince here is an actor. You saw Head On right?"
Eric doubt he even knows what it is, but it's Hollywood and saying you didn't see someone's movie is violating the eleventh commandment out here.
"He played Ben Affleck's partner."
"Oh, yeah, I remember you."
"And he was Will Smith's brother in Bad Boys. I know you remember his death scene right ? It was amazing. "
"Yeah, yeah. Sure. You're great dude. Mind if I get an autograph?"
Vince signs the ticket sheet, flashing the grin that got them out of trouble eight times out of ten back home. It works this time too. The cop smiles back and suddenly he's their best pal.
"Thanks! Hey, you guys need to find somewhere else to talk business. This ain't the best neighborhood."
"We will officer, have a good night." Scott starts the car and the cop takes off with a wave.
Vince leans back against the seat and Eric can tell he's still buzzing. The adrenalin had completely killed his high but Vince never worried about anything after a few hits.
"You know I wasn't in Bad Boys, right?"
Scott shrugged. "Yeah, like he's going to know the difference."
Eric leaned forward. "Hey, fuck you!"
Vince just grinned at Scott. "We don't all look alike you know."
"Yeah, and us fags aren't all in parks and bathrooms on our knees. Who gives a shit. Now, about that weed."
And like that, they have a meeting with Billy Walsh. Eric checks out his stuff and the guy's brilliant, but he hears rumors that he's a lunatic too. When they show up at the hotel, Billy seems to prove at least one of those things is true.
"You're Black." Billy says it in some strange combination of horrified, delighted and speculative and already, Eric doesn't like him. That doesn't matter though because Vince is smirking at him with his usual cocky flirtiness, and Billy's expression becomes more intrigued.
"Scott was right though, you are very fuckable in person." He nods and circles Vince. "Yeah. Oh yeah, I can do this. What do you think about renaming the movie Jamaica Avenue?"
"Does that mean he's got the part?"
He glances over at Eric. "Suits come in all colors I see. Just sit tight, Suit." He throws an arm over Vince's shoulders. "Come on Vince, I'll let you buy me a drink. You know they don't serve forties here though, right?"
Eric hears Vince's laughing 'fuck you' and he swallows his own, along with the desire to knock Billy on his ass. It's not worth losing Vince this part and it's not like that's the worst thing that's been said to and around them. In New York, Eric would have snapped a long time ago, but L.A. is about Vince and this is all part of the game, and if Eric has anything to say about it, Vince is going to win.