Chris Tucker is one of the biggest comedians in stand-up and film and a lot of his popularity would not be possible without his breakout role in Friday. The film jump-started the acting careers for both he and his co-star, Ice Cube, with both going on to do huge projects in movies and television.
After the success of the film, there were two sequels to Friday with a noticeably absent Tucker. A 2019 documentary reveals that Tucker walked away from the film for financial reasons and his desire to align himself with what he perceived to be bigger opportunities.
Chris Tucker bombed his ‘Friday’ audition
Tucker was an upcoming standup comedian before getting his first co-leading role. Prior to Friday, he starred in one of the House Party films alongside Bernie Mack. Rapper Ice Cube, and his writing partner DJ Pooh, saw Tucker in Def Comedy Jam and were immediately impressed. They contacted him for a role in the film.
Tucker almost did not get the role after a bad audition. The casting director, Kim Hardin, spoke on Tucker’s flop in an interview with Complex Magazine.
“I brought Chris in and the first time he auditioned for me, he was horrible,” she revealed. “It was a combination of things: he had just come off the road from doing a couple of stand-up gigs, hadn’t read the script, and at the time didn’t know comedians could improv, put their own thing on whatever the dialogue was. I knew Chris could do better…any other casting director may have been like, next!”
Despite not doing well at the audition, Tucker was given the role as the film’s decision-makers saw his potential.
Chris Tucker in ‘Friday’
Friday is a comedy film that was directed by now-famed urban cinema director, F. Gary Gray. The film was Gray’s directorial debut about two South Central friends, Craig Jones (Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker). Both are unemployed and owe a debt to a local drug dealer on a Friday evening. The story follows their attempts to collect the funds while smoking marijuana throughout the day to take their minds off of their troubles.
Friday was released in April 1995 to positive reviews from critics. The film was primarily praised for its comedic sequences, writing, and acting performances. Friday was also a commercial success, grossing $28.2 million worldwide at the box office.
The film obtained a large cult following and launched a franchise that includes Next Friday released in 2000, and Friday After Next released in 2002.
Why Chris Tucker did not appear in the ‘Friday’ follow-up films
Cube reprised his roles in Next Friday and Friday After Next but Tucker did not. Instead, he was replaced by comedian Mike Epps, who starred as Craig’s cousin Day-Day. Both films were popular amongst fans, but neither had the same impact as the original nor were received well by critics. Still, a final film, Last Friday, was in the works.
In a Global Grind interview promoting his film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Tucker was questioned on reprising his role in the final film of the installment.
“I was flipping through the TV and I was watching Friday. It was a moment in time, and I was a young kid and I was laughing through the whole thing too and I was proud of that – making myself laugh,” he said. “I don’t know if we can do another one. I don’t know if I can do another one because I was so young and it was a moment in time, but we’ll see.”
But, a YouTube Comedy Hype documentary reveals that Tucker did not sign on to participate in the sequels for other reasons. Cube revealed in a 2017 podcast interview with Drink Champs that it was Tucker who decided not to return.
Tucker hinted that money disagreements contributed to not returning to the franchise in his later comedy routines. “Cube got made because I didn’t want to do part two…I told him, ‘You didn’t pay me for the first one,” he said. “He gave me some CDs and some weed.”
Tucker’s Friday co-star, John Witherspoon, confirmed Tucker’s remarks in his 2018 interview with Vlad TV, telling the host, “He went with Jackie Chan to make Rush Hour and $20 million. I wouldn’t go back to Friday either.” According to Witherspoon, most of the cast from the original Friday were only paid $5,000.
Tucker also attached himself to bigger films, which he says was intentional as he didn’t want to get stuck in a box. He went on to become the highest-paid actor in Hollywood during the Rush Hour craze. Tucker also explained that his religious beliefs and becoming more involved in the church dictated his moves, turning away from raunchy comedy and the use of profanity.