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Chris Tucker appreciates being celebrated for his work.
In an interview with PEOPLE, the Rush Hour actor and comedian, 52, opened about his decades-long career, his brief hiatus from Hollywood and his feelings over being called “a legend.” (He’s currently touring his stand-up comedy show The Legend Tour across America.)
“It feels good,” he says of the moniker. “It’s something that is bestowed on you. Usually it’s the younger generation that says those things. A lot of younger people come up to me, ‘Man, you’re a legend,’ or people my age say, ‘Man, you’re legendary.’ It goes in one ear and out the other, but you accept it and you appreciate it because people appreciate it, what you’ve done and what you’re going through. It’s great.”
Tucker is best known for his role as Detective James Carter in the blockbuster action-comedy series Rush Hour — the first of which came out in 1998. Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3, which also starred Jackie Chan as Inspector Lee, were released in 2001 and 2007, respectively.
He also stars as highly flamboyant D.J. Ruby Rhod, alongside Bruce Willis’ Korben Dallas in the 1997 sci-fi film The Fifth Element. Also that year, he captivated audiences in hit films such as Money Talks and Jackie Brown.
In the 1990s, Tucker became a favorite on Russell Simmons’ HBO series Def Comedy Jam and rose to fame in his first starring role in the 1995 film cult classic Friday starring alongside Ice Cube.
By 2006, the actor had also founded the Chris Tucker Foundation, “a non-profit organization dedicated to making a positive impact on youth and families through implementing innovative programs and funding life-changing programs,” its website says.
Tucker later went on to star in feature-length titles such as 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 2016, before making his return to movies in 2023.
After a seven year hiatus from Hollywood, Tucker made his comeback by portraying Howard White, vice president of the Jordan Brand, in the Nike drama AIR, which debuted back in April on Amazon Prime.
The actor tells PEOPLE that his time away was all about waiting for the “right role,” and that even though White wasn’t even in the original script of the Ben Affleck-directed film, he was approached to play White, someone he also considers a friend.
“And it wasn’t even in the script,” Tucker says. “Ben [Affleck] came to me, came to us and said, ‘It’s not really a part there, but you can do whatever you want to do and we’ll write something in there.’ Thank God I knew Howard, so I was able to do a lot of research and get a lot of stuff, and I wrote all my parts in that movie … I wrote all six scenes.”
Tucker says he has often done improv and written his own lines in his previous films, allowing him to put his “stamp on it” and make the characters his own.
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Now, Tucker is leaning into the “legend” praise, saying it means “everything” to have fans come out and support him on The Legend Tour, a series of stand-up comedy shows that will take place in 30 cities across the U.S. this fall. Although he took a step back from Hollywood, he says he has not stopped doing stand-up comedy and is delighted to connect with his nationwide fans again.
“They either love what I’ve done and follow me through my whole career or they’ve been introduced or heard good things about me, they want to come and experience that,” Tucker tells PEOPLE. “It’s all love, it’s all good and it’s just a good time, so it’s awesome.”
Tucker also considers some Hollywood names to be legends, primarily those who “came before” him, including Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, the Wayans family, Robert Townsend, and Rich Hall.
“I think if you can inspire other people or you bring some kind of joy or happiness to them that makes you legendary,” Tucker says, adding Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston to the list.
Additionally, the actor underlined the importance of finding a balance between one’s public and personal life by “making time for yourself.” Now, Tucker says he’s looking forward to the next steps in his career.
“I think the best is yet to come,” he tells PEOPLE. “Greater work is yet to come, and I’m just excited about the future.”