Justin Hires knows what you think. If he wasn’t on the show, he might think the same thing. There have already been three Rush Hour movies, so why would there need to be a TV show? But since he’s the star of the new CBS TV version of the Rush Hour movie franchise, Hires has gotta believe that it will work. As he’s has been doing standup for almost the last decade, he’s certainly has an idea how to build an audience, but he admits this is the break his career was looking for.
“I knew if I were to land this role it could do tremendous things for my career,” Hires says. “I knew the appeal of Rush Hour. I knew the brand and I knew it could air internationally. I took into account all those things before I even stepped in the role to audition. I’m a fan of Chris Tucker. He’s literally one of the reason I got into this business after seeing Friday. I understood the magnitude of what this show could be.”
A Jacksonville, Florida native, Hires graduated from Clark/Atlanta University, although his acting training started in middle school. He was the youngest person and the only African-American in a local Shakespeare In The Park company. He says that early training gave him an advantage.
“When it comes to acting, I think it was essential to get where I am today. When you’ve bend doing standup and you’ve been acting and training, you’ve prepared yourself professionally to do these roles. What Chris and Jackie [Chan] did with those roles, they made those roles iconic.”
Tucker and Chan became even bigger stars after their roles in the Rush Hour movies, which ultimately became a franchise. Hires has been cast with actor John Foo, a British/Chinese actor trained in the martial arts, who is not widely known in the U.S. Like in the movies, Foo is straight man and Hong Kong police officer Lee and Hires is wise-cracking LAPD detective Carter. In real life, Hires says the two actors reflect their casting. Hires is even a black belt in karate.
“[John] was actually already cast I came around later in the process. I was somewhat of a last-minute audition. I give credit to John Foo – he allowed me to improve and play in the scene and really get an idea who Justin Hires was. He’s a natural introvert and I’m a natural extrovert. We have that natural combination of yin and yang. People will experience the same thing when they watch the show.”
Whether you watch the TV reboot or not, one of the great things about Rush Hour is that its a show centered around two leads of color. With all the chatter around diversity on television and in the movies (although the success of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and many other TV shows with diverse casts makes television less of an issue) Hires says he understands the import of he and Foo’s being at the top of the call sheet.
“Two minority leads on network television is extremely important and I don’t take this lightly,” Hires says. “The fact that we’re starting to see great deal of diversity in Hollywood is incredible but it shouldn’t be a big deal. It should be the norm. Especially in America. It’s a melting pot and it’s a diverse country that’s why you see a lot of shows with diverse casts that are doing well right now because people identify with it. That’s what they walk outside and see. If you don’t show it overseas, that’s what they become accustomed to. If you start showing it more, that’s what they’ll get used to. I’m glad that I can be part of the solution to see more diverse casts on network television.”
As for whether Tucker or Chan has given the TV Rush Hour a thumbs up, Hires doesn’t know. He has met his idol, Chris Tucker, though, and it was all love.
“I’m a fan of Chris Tucker,” Hires says. “So I want to make sure it’s done correctly like everyone else. I want to make everyone proud.”
Rush Hour debuts Thursday, March 31 at 10 p.m. on CBS