Light Mode

“Next Friday” Cast Interview

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Dec. 16, 1999 — It’s Friday again.

Nearly five years after the urban comedy “Friday” became an unexpected hit, Ice Cube brings it all back for the sequel, “Next Friday,” which, like the original, he produced, wrote and stars in.

“Next Friday” begins where the original left off — in south-central Los Angeles, where a jobless Craig (Cube) still lives with his parents. When the local bully, Debo (Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr.), who Craig defeated four years ago, breaks out of prison, Craig’s father (John Witherspoon) fears for Craig’s safety.

- Advertisement -

He is shuttled him off to live with his Uncle Elroy (Don “DC” Curry) and cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps), who recently won the lottery and now owns a big house in the suburbs. Despite the new environment, Craig manages to get into trouble, whether it’s with the next-door neighbors, Day-Day’s angry ex-girlfriend or Debo, who is hell-bent on tracking Craig down.

The original “Friday,” which cost a scant $3.5 million and grossed around $27 million, launched the career of Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour”) and director F. Gary Gray (“The Negotiator”). Although neither returns for the sequel, it’s Cube’s show again, despite the fact that he has multiple other projects to juggle. Among them is a solo rap career (his next CD, the “Peace” disc of his double album “War and Peace,” is due out in January) and a possible reunion with his old group N.W.A. A notable acting career (the critically acclaimed “Three Kings” and “Boyz N The Hood”). There’s also a record label, Lynch Mob Records, which he founded with wife Kimberly, and a directing career, which began with 1998’s “The Players Club.”

“I prioritize all of them,” Cube says of his many hats. “I give all of them time. If I’m working on an album, I give myself a certain amount of time, and it’s gotta be done and out the door because if it’s not, this other project is gonna intrude.”

It seems quite a big load to shoulder, but Cube doesn’t mind it one bit.

“I love it all,” he says. “I have a lot of learning to do, but I love them each, and I give them all time … that way I can keep everything in perspective, but also keep everything as well as it can be.”

One of his new jobs, it seems, is that of talent scout. Cube was attending a show at a comedy club when he spotted Mike Epps, the comedian who would eventually beat out 250 others for a role in the film.

- Advertisement -

“I saw him … and he was the perfect Day-Day,” Cube says of his co-star. “Not only the jokes … but he has that natural ability to be funny without trying to be. So I was just hoping he could act and pull that part off. From the first time we tested him, he didn’t know it, but he had the movie before he knew he had the movie.”

Epps, who was performing on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” around the time “Friday” was released, seems dazed by his sudden fortune.

“It was a miraculous leap,” Epps says. “[Cube] gave me the opportunity to do this movie, and it was good to me. … I give all praise to God, sitting with The Cube now, doing this.”

But Epps came somewhat prepared, having spent his career in front of audiences.

“[Stand-up comedy] helps you work out your visual plan before you get in front of the camera,” Epps said. “It gives you a chance to work on your creativity. What you think — in the studio for [Cube] and what I think on the stage — I can project it in front of the camera.”

Witherspoon, who plays Craig’s father, is also a stand-up veteran who stars in the television show “The Wayans Brothers.” But it doesn’t mean he isn’t also amazed by the original film’s success.

- Advertisement -

“I think when we finished the product and I saw the screening, I thought this would be a really big hit,” the actor said. “I didn’t think it’d be as big as it got, but if it was a big hit I knew they would make a sequel. … It’s not the Hollywood shuffle where one story is finished, and it’s over. This is about a Friday in a neighborhood.”

So Witherspoon anted up again for the sequel, even though it required him, at one point in the film, to walk around with dog manure stuck to his rear end.

“I knew I fell in some stuff, but I didn’t know it’d stick on my pants for the duration of the movie,” Witherspoon says. “But I don’t care. People do that; it’s on the bottom of their shoes, or the bottom of their pants, depending on how you fall.”

“Next Friday” opens Jan. 12.

- Advertisement -