Ahead of the release of "A Football Life: Chad Johnson", I spoke with the producers of the NFL Network TV show who spent nearly four months submerged in the life and football career of Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson. Jeff Larsen and Jeff Cameron were very forthcoming with their favorite moments spent with Johnson, what they were hoping to achieve with the episode and how difficult it was to include every laugh-out-loud detail that came out of Johnson's mouth into the 45 minute episode.
You can watch "A Football Life: Chad Johnson" on Friday, September 30, at 9:00 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
Cincy Jungle: What were you hoping to convey with the storytelling in the episode?
Jeff Larsen: Chad is probably one of the most entertaining and unpredictable characters in the history of the league. So from his endzone celebrations, to changing his name, we wanted our show to be just as unpredictable as him. So while they're watching they don't know what's going to happen next. And kind of like Chad, we wanted it to be fun, too. But, there was a lot of serious things that happened to him during the course of his career and I think we accomplished that.
Jeff Cameron: In the film, he actually says when he meets people the first thing they tell him is "you're nothing like I imagined," so we tried to do that with the film. People remember the marriage proposal touchdown celebration, but we wanted to highlight how good of a player he was.
CJ: What was it like working with Chad?
JL: It was amazing working with him. He's one of the best athletes to work with. I mean, he's totally open. He'll answer any question you ask him. He's not afraid to answer anything He has no walls. If you ask him anything on any subject, he'll answer. We did a bunch of things, going to his old neighborhood, soccer matches, a cigar lounge. When you get a player like that, I don't think there's a camera he doesn't like. As a producer, it's such a joy when you have someone willing to work with you like that.
CJ: What was your favorite thing you learned while working on creating the episode?
JL: I don't want to give too much away, but in the episode, you'll learn what his favorite celebration dance was, why he changed his name, what happened in New England and Miami. I learned a lot of things I didn't know. Like in the 2005 playoff game, everyone talked about the fight, and you'll hear from him, Hue Jackson, Marvin Lewis. And they'll tell you exactly what happened.
If you want to know stuff about Chad, this is the episode to watch.
JC: When he was drafted, it was interesting to me, how much he wanted to make that team relevant. Not all players want to do that as badly as he did and I think that shows you a lot about his character and also how hurt he was when the media started to turn on his antics and the off the field stuff toward the end of his career in Cincinnati.
CJ: What are you hoping NFL fans take away from the episode?
JL: How unique and interesting he was as a player. No one really is doing the kind of stuff that he did at the time. And besides all the antics, he was an amazing player for a stretch of time in Cincinnati. Just from his footage alone, defensive backs to this day still have a tremendous amount of respect for him. When you look at the footage, I just wanted people to remember how special and unique of a player he was.
CJ: What was the best part of filming and working on creating the episode of the show?
JL: When we went to his old neighborhood in Liberty City in Miami, he knew we were doing a show on him but at the time, not the extent of what it was going to be. He was like, "you really want to go to Liberty City? You really want to go here with me?" And he was like "wow" and at that point, it was kind of a tipping point of how serious he knew we were about telling the story of his life. We were going to go anywhere with him that he wanted to go and anywhere we could to tell the story of his life. The rest of the time we were shooting with him he was really open, involved and more than happy to give us anything we needed.
JC: What struck me was the luxury of the abundance of footage. He might be one of the most well documented people we've ever done on "A Football Life". He was on two seasons of Hard Knocks, there was so much footage, for every sound bite that made it, there were so many that didn't that were equally as funny.
JL: It's hard to think of a character that's as funny as Chad. When you meet him, he's just this comforting, laid back, cool guy, you don't know what he's going to say or do, but it's just a warm comfortable feeling. He's just a funny guy. You can't help but smile when you're hanging around Chad Johnson.
CJ: Is there anything else you think Bengals -- and football -- fans would want to know?
JC: He had so much going on in his career, our goal was to not leave anything out. It's funny, youll see Ray Lewis in there, who's a division rival, and he's actually one of his closest friends. You don't just have to be a Cincinnati fan to like Chad Johnson. The stuff he did and the way he just made the game fun, it goes all around the league. At the end of the day, all he wanted to do was just play football and play it the way he wanted to play it. And that's kind of what he tells us in our show.
JL: It was one of the most enjoyable shoots to be on. When we were editing, we were laughing the whole time.
Here's a trailer for the episode, but I can guarantee, you're not going to want to miss the whole thing tonight!