The cast and producers of CBS' Rush Hour, premiering in March, know you have seen - and loved - the movies, which have grossed close to $1 billion worldwide and helped make Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan global megastars. But if you're expecting a by-the-book re-creation of the films squeezed on to the small screen, think again.
Rush Hour still follows two detectives -- the blunt, wise-cracking Detective Carter (Justin Hires) and the straitlaced martial arts pro Detective Lee (Jon Foo) battling bad guys while navigating their gaping cultural differences. But the similarities more or less end there. After all, Rush Hour the TV show is a weekly procedural, and redoing the movie would not be an option.
People who saw the pilot, producer Bill Lawrence said, commented that stars were too much like Tucker and Chan... and too different from them too. They had to go their own way in creating it. "It is a risky roll of the dice," he said. "The cool thing is, [Hines and Foo] brought their own voices to the show. We can't do the movie over and over for five years."
That's good for a number of reasons. A lot has happened in the nearly two decades since the original in 1998 -- particularly a heightened awareness of issues surrounding culture and race. Today, Chan's clumsy English speech and Tucker's jive-talk toe a line dangerously close to offensive, and while the pilot is closer in spirit to the film, the team is well aware people will be paying close attention to stereotypes as the series progresses.
"I am African-American, I'm a comedian and I crack jokes," Hires said. "This is the reality of who I am as a person. I do not think we are showing negative stereotypes at all." Referencing the range of characters on television today -- including Empire's Cookie Lyon, who isn't exactly a pillar of the community -- he said, "I think we're showing a truth about America. And part of that is diversity. I really think it depends your perspective."
Rush Hour plays up the detectives' personality clashes, more so than the fish-out-of-water element prevalent in the films. The show explores Carter's uneasy attitude toward law enforcement; a Hong Kong gang continually re-emerges as a thorn in their side. Women get more prominent play in this version, with television veteran Wendie Malick playing the guys' boss, Capt. Lindsay Cole, and Aimee Garcia paying a sexy, bad-ass cop. "I love that I get to be this all-American professional woman," Garcia said. "I get to kick butt in 4-inch heels."
The City of Angels is a character too, with many of L.A.'s iconic landmarks featured amid the giant explosions, car chases and fight scenes. From an abandoned zoo in Griffith Park to the Sepulveda Dam to the Disney concert hall, the sprawling city gives the action-comedy a believable bent. That's integral, since Rush Hour is, at its core, a procedural about solving whodunits every week.
Another integral addition: Page Kennedy, who plays Gerald, Carter's funny but slightly annoying friend. "I'm even more over-the-top than (Carter) is," he said. "I kind of make Justin my straight man -- he has to keep me in control. When I show up, the audience will smile."
Rush Hour premieres Thursday, March 31 at 10/9c on CBS.
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