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Chris Tucker, Chris Messina and Jason Bateman Talk ‘Air’, NBA Playoffs & More – SXSW 2023 Interview

Air is now playing in theaters and leading up to its release, Geeks of Color had a chance to chat with the cast at the SXSW premiere.

The cast of Air is filled with stars, including Viola Davis, Matt Damon, and director Ben Affleck. However, the list of top-tier talent doesn’t just stop there. Chris Tucker, renowned for his comedic performances in films such as Friday and Rush Hour also stars in the film alongside Chris Messina (The Mindy Project, Sharp Objects, Birds of Prey), and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development and Ozark).

While Tucker has taken on more dramatic roles in recent years (such as in the acclaimed film Silver Linings Playbook) and Messina’s performances have been praised for their depth and nuance, audiences can still expect plenty of humor and heart from this trio of in Air.

Bateman takes on the role of Rob Strasser, Nike’s VP of Marketing, and Tucker delivers a memorable and hilarious performance as Howard White, an ex-player and Sonny’s colleague and advisor. Lastly, Messina portrays David Falk, Michael Jordan’s agent. 

Check out the interviews with Chris Tucker, Chris Messina & Jason Bateman for Air Below: 

This wasn’t just another role for Tucker; he actually knew Howard White before starting the project. When I asked Tucker what drew him to the project, he said, “It was definitely Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. But then they offered me the part of my good friend Howard White, and with Michael Jordan, sports, and the story, it’s just a great story. So I was inspired in a lot of ways, and it’s just a fun movie.”

When I asked Tucker what he hopes people take away from the film, he said, “Taking away ownership, owning the stuff you create, owning what you work hard for, and believing in yourself. Because like Michael said, the Jordan Brand wouldn’t be the Jordan Brand today if he hadn’t won all those championships and done what he did on the court. So that’s what I hope they take away: hard work pays off.”

Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, & Jason Bateman Talk 'Air', NBA Playoffs & More - SXSW 2023 Interview
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

With the NBA playoffs finally here, I asked Tucker which team he was rooting for. He said, “I’m running with the Hawks because I’m from Georgia, but I love Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and all the guys who inspire me when I watch them on the court. They make me say, ‘Man, he really wants to win.’ Kobe, LeBron James, Giannis, all of them.”

To wrap up our conversation, I asked Tucker when we could expect an update on Rush Hour 4. He said, “You know what, they’re talking about it and I’m willing and able and ready to do it – me and Jackie, so we’ll see what happens.”

Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, & Jason Bateman Talk 'Air', NBA Playoffs & More - SXSW 2023 Interview
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Messina shared details about his character and why he joined the project and said, “I play David Falk, Jordan’s agent. I loved the script because it was a lot of fun. But ultimately, any chance to work with Matt, Jason, Viola, Chris Tucker, I was like, ‘I don’t need to read it.’ This is my third film with Ben that he’s directed me in. The only problem with it is you’re spoiled when you go on to the next job.”

When I asked him about working with Affleck for the third time, Messina said, “More and more confidence, you know. He hires the right people in front of the camera and behind the camera, and he kind of lets you do your thing. He really trusts who he hires. So it’s an awesome, awesome experience.”

Lastly, Messina shared his connection to Jordan: “I grew up a Knicks fan. I got to watch the Chicago Bulls and Knicks when they were real rivals at the Garden. So I had a lot of fun doing that. And as much as I wanted the Knicks to win, I was like, ‘Michael Jordan’s incredible. Look at him.'”

Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, & Jason Bateman Talk 'Air', NBA Playoffs & More - SXSW 2023 Interview
(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Bateman revealed that he was immediately drawn to the project and said, “I didn’t really need to read the script. Just hearing who was involved and what the story was, it was a quick ‘Yes!'” 

Since Bateman is no stranger to directing, I asked him what it was like to not only star alongside Affleck but also see him direct. Bateman said, “He’s just so experienced and loves the process so much. He’s got a real love for the crew. And I do as well, I kind of dork out on all that stuff. So, watching him work and seeing how comfortable he is on set and being so knowledgeable about the process itself and how to make fake life, it’s kind of more complicated than you would think. And he’s great at it. So, there were no complicated days. It was very easy.”

Air is now playing in theaters.

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