Why Chris Tucker Didn't Want To Appear In The Friday Sequels

Before 1995, Ice Cube was solely a rapper, Chris Tucker was a stand-up comedian, and nobody knew who Felicia was. But all that changed when "Friday" burst onto the scene.

The movie itself is iconic and widely recognized as a cult classic. Almost 30 years later, celebrities are still reenacting scenes on social media, and a little phrase Craig utters once — "Bye, Felicia!" — is all over the internet. The low-budget movie that has become a huge hit introduced the world to actor/screenwriter Ice Cube and the improvisational genius of Chris Tucker. Cube went on to star in and produce two more "Friday" movies, but Tucker would never return to the franchise.

The young comedian's hilarious portrayal of Smokey, the chaotic stoner friend, was a huge part of the film's success and led to a fruitful acting career for Tucker. A lot of people questioned why he wouldn't want to return to the role that made him famous. He has given two reasons for this over the years, and fair warning, one of them might crush the hearts of stoners everywhere.

He wanted to keep moving

"Friday" had huge potential for the struggling stand-up comedian and he knew it at the time, saying "I was so happy I got that movie because I knew how it was going to help my career," and it did. The film showed off Tucker's ability to improvise, which won him the life-changing role over guys like Tommy Davidson and Chris Rock. 

Although he never returned to the franchise, Tucker still believes Smokey is "a great character," and he appreciates the low-key experience he had making the film. Unlike Hollywood blockbusters, Tucker said, "[There weren't] big distractions [on that set] ... that movie was just a camera and me and Cube on the porch and magic came out of it." And that magic still captures fans' attention today.

Tucker knows audiences continue to love the movie because "they always bring it up," and he is grateful that so many people fell in love with Smokey, but he saw the character as a stepping stone towards something bigger. He "never really wanted to do [a sequel]" because he had faith that the small movie would draw the eyes of a wide audience and bring him larger opportunities. He told The New York Times that he wanted to make the character great and "let that just live on" while he explored other roles. 

At first, it makes sense that such a talented actor wouldn't want to play the same character over and over again, but then you remember he did just that in three "Rush Hour" movies. So, in the immortal words of Smokey, "What kind of s*** is that?"

It turns out, and you might want to brace yourself for this, Tucker isn't a fan of weed.

I know. I know. There, there.

The weed

It can be hard to separate entertainers from the roles they play, especially when you grew up with their characters. It's almost impossible for me to look at Tucker and not think of him as the hyper, directionless Smokey, and if his voice raises into that familiar high-pitched tone, forget it! But, in reality, the actor and the popular character have little in common. 

Along with his drive to explore other roles, Tucker admits he wasn't crazy about being the poster boy for marijuana, saying:

"I don't want everybody smoking weed. I don't want to represent [that.] That's one of the reasons I said I didn't want to keep doing that character."

I appreciate his convictions, but I wonder if they've come a little late. I haven't seen "Friday" in at least a decade, but when I hear the word "stoner," my brain dips into its '90s archive and spits out a picture of Chris Tucker. I'm not the only one who struggles to separate the actor from his past even though he has portrayed other characters in successful movies.

After "Friday," he moved on to the "Rush Hour" franchise, and by 2007, Tucker's portrayal of Carter made him the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. He expected the movies to launch his career even further, but that didn't happen this time. He told The New York Times he kept getting offers for roles that were too similar to others he'd already done, and he felt they "weren't good enough." 

In the fifteen years since "Rush Hour 3," Tucker has only been in two movies. Neither of these recent roles earned much attention for the actor and we have seen zilch from him in the last five years. He dismisses theories that he has taken a break from show business, writing it off as an accidental hiatus, and insisting he's learned "to be more patient" and wait for good roles. His former co-star has a very different explanation for Tucker's absence from Hollywood blockbusters and "Friday" sequels.

He became religious

Ice Cube recently revealed on Twitter that Tucker was offered "$10 [to] $12 [million] to do "Next Friday," but he turned [it] down for religious reasons. He didn't want to cuss or smoke weed on camera anymore." Cube's explanation might also explain why the actor became pickier about his roles after Smokey.

Tucker became a born-again Christian after his breakout role in "Friday," which would affect his decision to return for a sequel. He felt like the swearing and drug habits of his "Friday" character no longer jived with his real-life morals, which made him lose interest in the part. In an interview with The Georgia Straight, Tucker discussed how his religious beliefs have altered his career and sense of humor. 

Although he admits he never told "raunchy" jokes, he didn't always think through "what [he] was saying because [he] was young" and he thinks his faith has changed that. While he has been absent from movies, Tucker still performs stand-up comedy here and there, but he doesn't swear or talk about anything remotely dirty, which he claims makes it more interesting. He appreciates that he can't default to raunchiness and that he has "to dig deeper to find something that's still funny." This explains why a comedy like "Friday," filled with jokes about sex and drugs, would no longer draw his attention. 

Tucker's devotion to his faith is admirable, and it couldn't have been easy to turn down millions of dollars, but it's hard not to miss his on-screen comedic genius. Although, for now, he's choosing to stay out of the spotlight, there is still a possibility that he might return to Hollywood with a character that aligns with his newfound beliefs, and I have no doubt he would still draw an audience.

In the meantime, Tucker has left us with plenty of characters and moments to enjoy. It will always make me laugh when Carter impersonates Michael Jackson as he directs traffic, and, much to Tucker's chagrin, when Smokey lectures me on the finer points of weed-smoking rotation.