‘Air’ star Chris Tucker spoke about playing Smokey in Friday and reflected on the co-stars who passed away.
Tucker described the film as his first “co-starring role,” and a chance to let people know he could carry a movie. “Working with Gary Gray was great,” he said, referring to the director. “And the cast, with everybody… Tiny Zeus Lister, I don’t know if I mentioned him when he passed away. One of my good friends, the legendary Tiny Zeus Lister, who played Deebo. Casting him as like, the big villain coming like the shark from Jaws.”
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister Jr. died at 62 from hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, but he’s not the only cast member to have died in the almost 28 years since Friday debuted in theaters.
“The legendary iconic John Witherspoon,” Tucker continued, “and Bernie Mac. Those guys, comedy legends and gods, man. You had Reynaldo Rey, and Yvette Wilson. So many legends that was in this movie that passed away. I’m so, so honored to have worked with them.”
Witherspoon, Mac, Rey, and Wilson passed away in 2019, 2008, 2015, and 2012, respectively. Anthony Johnson, who portrayed Ezal in the film, also died in 2021 of multi-system organ failure.
Tucker recently made his long-awaited return to the big screen in Ben Affleck’s Air. Prior to that, his most recent film roles were in 2016’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. With the exception of the Rush Hour series, he’s also been notably anti-sequel and didn’t show up for 2000’s Next Friday. Ice Cube and a lot of the supporting cast, including Witherspoon and Tiny Lister, did return, though.
“I was looking at it as an artist, like let me move on to the next thing and do that just as good,” he told Frazier Tharpe in his GQ interview. As for the Rush Hour series, however, Tucker suggested Jackie Chan’s presence had a lot to do with it. “It wasn’t the money, but it was just, nothing else was on my plate,” he said, “And I love working with Jackie.”
Last year, Chan confirmed a fourth Rush Hour was in development, and last month Tucker indicated that he was still up for it.