Actor Mike Epps personally reached out to Richard Pryor's widow before agreeing to play the comic legend in a new movie, TMZ has learned -- and it might've been the smartest thing he's ever done.
Jennifer Pryor tells TMZ, she was touched by the gesture -- saying, "That was very sweet and respectful that he called me first. I am happy that they picked him. He is a real good guy."
FYI -- Epps is slated to appear as Pryor in the new film about jazz legend Nina Simone.
But Mike Epps wasn't just being polite, he also made a real smart move ... because Jennifer tells us, thanks to Epps' courtesy call, she's now considering the comedian to play Pryor in an upcoming Richard Pryor biopic.
The Pryor movie is still in development, but Jennifer -- who's acting as a producer on the film -- says she believes Epps is one of the few actors capable of an "authentic portrayal" of Pryor.
As for the one person she does NOT want to play Pryor ... his name rhymes with Schmeddy Burphy.
Jennifer tells us, "Having Eddie Murphy play Richard Pryor would be like having Al Jolson play Malcolm X." (Jolson is an early 20th century white actor known for his blackface performances.)
We literally have no idea why Jen's got a thing against Eddie Murphy, but she says Pryor would NEVER have wanted Murphy to play him -- "He would want someone authentic like himself."