The producer and a cast member of CBS’s Rush Hour reboot were put on the defensive Tuesday, after their show was accused of perpetuating racial stereotypes during the network’s Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Los Angeles.
Like the Rush Hour films, the new TV series pits black detective James Carter and Asian detective inspector Lee together as partners. Actor Justin Hires portrays Carter, who was originally played by Chris Tucker, while Jon Foo portrays Lee who, who was played by Jackie Chan.
Despite the show’s racially diverse cast, which also includes Hispanic actress Aimee Garcia, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, questioned whether the characters in the show are based on racial stereotypes.
“When the Rush Hour movies were out, they took criticism for being centered on two character who were really stereotypical,” said Deggans, adding:
Watching the pilot, I see you haven’t done much to change those archetypes. At a time where shows are really trying to have a nuanced discussion about race, these characters still feel very stereotypical to me. How are you going to try these archetypes a little bit so that they don’t feel so rooted in these longstanding stereotypes?
Executive producer Bill Lawrence fired back, and accused Deggans of “coming up [with a] negative angle.”
“It’s designed to put us on the defensive,” he said. “That’s your prerogative, you’re a journalist.”
Lawrence added: “The second thing is, if you’re talking about diversity on the show — I have a track record, I’m very proud of the diversity on the writing staff, I’m very proud of the diversity on the show behind the cameras, very proud of the diversity in the crew.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hires also defended both the show and his portrayal of Det. Carter, telling Deggans,“I am African-American. I am a comedian. I crack jokes. So it’s not just that it’s a stereotype. This is the reality of who I am as a person.”
He added: “I do not think we are showing negative stereotypes at all on this show. I think we are showing truth about what America is and who we are, and I think a part of that is showing diversity.”
Rush Hour will debut on CBS March 31.
Watch a sneak peek of the show below: