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'30 Rock' Star Seeks to Turn Bronx Comic Book Store Into TV Comedy

By Eddie Small | November 3, 2014 7:31am

MORRIS PARK — Former “30 Rock” star Grizz Chapman, who played Tracy Morgan's tender-hearted bodyguard on the Emmy-winning show, wants to turn his real-life experiences as the part-owner of a Bronx comic book store into a TV sitcom.

Chapman came up with the idea after becoming part-owner of The Lair, a small comic book and collectibles shop at 1808 Colden Ave. about two years ago.

“One day, I was there. I was just hanging out and this particular day we had a lot of laughs,” he said. “All the kooky characters that come through the store are going to be involved.”

Chapman became involved in the shop through his longtime friend Jorge Rodriguez, who opened it in 2005.

The actor and self-proclaimed nerd is still honing the script.

"I’m pitching it mainstream, and if it doesn’t work mainstream then I’ll backtrack and go to the Internet," he said.

He compared his show to the hit CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," only with a broader perspective on what comic book fans look like.

"I want to show there’s an edgier side of people who love comic books," he said. "And there are people who don’t look like you and me who do read comic books and who love artists."

Laura Gómez, who plays Blanca Flores in "Orange is the New Black," has also signed on to the project.

Although Rodriguez, who will consult on the show but is trying not to get his hopes up about it getting picked up, said he is excited and flattered that his store inspired Chapman.

"It’s an opportunity for a small business like mine to be recognized," he said, "So it’s an honor to be the inspiration for something that big."

Despite the troubles facing bookstores nationwide — including the recent near closing of the Barnes & Noble in Co-op City — Rodriguez said business at his store continues to be strong, to the point where he is looking to grow.

"There is a plan to expand," he said. "Hopefully, in a year, we'll be a multi-floor store."

Inside the business are rows and boxes of comic books ranging from "The Avengers" to "Archie Meets KISS." Figurines of Superman hang from the ceiling and a giant version of Batman from "The Lego Movie" stands on a counter in the corner.

Chapman, who goes to The Lair about twice a week, said the store offered a welcoming environment and was a fun place to just come chat about books or movies.

"It's a place where you can come and talk to a bunch of people that are like-minded," he said.

Although comic books have traditionally been thought of as part of nerd culture, Chapman maintained that this was not a bad connection.

"Being a nerd is not always a bad thing," he said. "It’s actually cool to be a nerd. I’m the biggest nerd you know. I’m a nerd, I’m a techie and I don’t have a problem with saying it."