By Josh Bell
It’s not easy to step in for an international comedy superstar, but that’s just what Mike Epps did in 2000 when he was tapped to co-star with Ice Cube in Next Friday, after Cube’s Friday collaborator Chris Tucker declined to appear in the sequel. Epps rose to the challenge, and both Next Friday and the 2002 follow-up Friday After Next outgrossed the original movie at the box office. Although he had already amassed a cult following as a stand-up comedian, Epps took his career to the next level, thanks to those movies.
These days, Epps has plenty of success on his own, and his comedy shows continue to draw big crowds while he finds time for roles in movies like The Hangover, Faster, Jumping the Broom and Sparkle. This year, he’ll be back in The Hangover Part III. He’s also been the host for the last three editions of the BET Hip-Hop Awards, bringing his stand-up style to a wider TV audience. Thanks to that initial big break from Ice Cube (who also teamed up with Epps in All About the Benjamins, between the Friday movies), Epps had a chance to showcase his laid-back comedy for the mainstream, and he’s stuck around since then thanks to the talent on display.