With a speech that’s boastful in tone, but humble in soul.

Garvia Bailey’s description of Chris Tucker’s rapid-fire speech is dead on. Smokey’s head snapping monologues, Ruby’s perfectly delivered microphone hype and Detective Carter’s not so subtle prejudice.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) presented a special evening with Tucker. Situated in Toronto’s affluent Yorkville area, the event far suppressed a typical film screening. Patrons maintained a classy dress code as if attending a swanky dinner and the small red carpet buzzed with camera flashes and chatter. Even the theatre ushers seemed to put on their brightest smiles to greet the masses of fans that were anxious to see the legendary comedian.

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Tucker has managed to make more of his career by doing less. “What I’ve become by not doing so many movies, I became somebody different than if I had just been making movie after movie and became this movie star… I’m way happier,” he shares. The celebrated stand-up comedian and actor has always chosen his roles and media correspondence carefully, which is why it was such a treat to get a chance to hear him interviewed by the CBC’s Bailey.

Garvia, who has interviewed the likes of Jimmy Cliff and John Singleton, did a spectacular job of covering Tucker’s work. She got him to elaborate on his higher profile relationships with Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy and took an interesting angle when discussing his diverse roles. Highlighted by clips from his movies, Garvia delved into his preparation, execution and reception of each role causally, but with a timing that made the interview incredibly conversational — starting from his breakout role as Smokey in Friday to the hilarious Detective Carter to his most recent and highly acclaimed role of Danny in Silver Linings Playbook.

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The approach highlighted a side of Chris that is rarely explored. The thoughtful, almost measured responses, the calm demeanor and the dedication to the art form were all aspects of the man that rarely receive much light. “This is me,” he says. “I’m a serious person who can be funny, but I’m not trying to be funny all day long. Some people meet me and they’re probably like you’re too serious.”

Chris briefly touched on his humanitarian work. As a young boy his mother brought him to church with such regularity he had to ask, “Momma can’t the preacher come here sometimes? We go see him every Sunday.” His religious upbringing and travels throughout the world broadened his view, but it has also strengthened his acting chops. He’s able to pull from those experiences and use them to bring his characters to life.

And although serious, Tucker kept things equally entertaining. He shared how much Smokey actually smoked on set (not much, as it was too difficult to smoke and act) and proved he could still dance to “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” (jumping up from his seat to deliver an impromptu performance). The night ended with Tucker being presented with a Lego art piece to which he said, “Who’s this? Chris Tucker? Why does he talk so fast?”

Words By. Sean Watson + Photos By. Martika Gregory