By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Tuesday, March 29, 2016
The track record of films turned into TV shows is not encouraging. It’s littered mostly with failures (e.g. “Minority Report,” “Starman,” “Bad Teacher”) mixed in with the occasional hit (e.g. “M*A*S*H,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Fargo”) that gives networks hope.
CBS, which already has a TV version of “Limitless” in its lineup, is jumping into the movie pool again with “Rush Hour,” an adaptation of the trio of popular “Rush Hour” films starring martial arts legend Jackie Chan and Decatur native and comic Chris Tucker.
Clark Atlanta grad and 30-year-old stand-up comic Justin Hires takes Tucker’s role as James Carter, paired with British martial arts expert and actor Jon Foo.
In an interview in Atlanta recently, Hires admitted taking on this role is almost a thankless job. Will he be able to make the character his own or will he just feel like a less manic imitation of Tucker’s distinctive rendition?
“My goal was to be myself as much as possible,” Hires said. “I knew the success of this show depends on people seeing Justin Hires as Detective Carter, not Chris Tucker. Nobody wants me to impersonate Chris Tucker. His Det. Carter is iconic. Nobody can replace what Chris and Jackie did. I’d be a fool to attempt to try to do that. Over time, I think people will see and appreciate the differences.”
Critics have been chilly. Variety magazine says it “unavoidably traffics in hoary stereotypes.” Deadline.com’s headline: “CBS’s Adaptation Stuck in Traffic Jam of Banality.” Entertainment Weekly: “We get more bland network-procedural action.”
Hires said he has met Tucker a couple of times over the years. The first time happened while he was attending Clark Atlanta and was shooting the film “Stomp the Yard.” “Chris came on set,” Hires said. “I stood next to him. I told him, “I just want to let you know I’m standing next to you. I hope your aura will make me funnier.’ ”
Tucker laughed and said: “Hah! You’re a pretty funny man.”
Hires said he treasured that moment. A few years later, Tucker showed up at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles while Hires was performing. “Fortunately, I was having a great set,” Hires said. Afterwards, Hires told him, “You’re literally one of the reasons I got into stand up. I love you!” Tucker responded: “Hah! I love you too man!'”
Will Tucker love Hires in his “Rush Hour” role? Hires can only hope.
The pilot changes the plot from the original film to enable Lee – who came from Hong Kong – to join Carter on the LAPD. Another added reason for Lee to stick around: his baby sister had joined a bad gang in L.A. and disappeared
Foo “is a natural introvert,” Hires said. “I’m a natural extrovert. We have that yin and yang chemistry. We come together and make a great team.”
If the show gets a second season, Hires hopes his character can learn some martial arts from Lee. “I’m a first-degree black belt,” Hires said. “I definitely made them aware of that.”
The show’s biggest comedy name is Wendie Malick, who is best known for her roles on “Just Shoot Me” and “Hot in Cleveland.” She plays Carter’s supportive but occasionally exasperated boss. “She’s the veteran on the show,” Hires said. “She encouraged us. She kept us uplifted on those long nights. She just led by example.”
While Hires was in Atlanta, he interned at V-103 with the Frank Ski and Wanda Smith morning show as a college senior. “I used to tell her that I was going to make it someday,” he said. When he returned to the station to promote the show, she told him she was proud of him.
“Rush Hour,” 10 p.m. Thursdays, CBS