Stand-up comedian-turned-actor Mike Epps got his first big break performing on HBO's "Def Comedy Jam" (1992-97; 2006- ), and soon parlayed his popularity into big screen success with co-starring roles in Ice Cube features like "Next Friday" (2000) and "All About the Benjamins" (2002). Tall and handsome with a charming smile and wiseass demeanor, Epps stood out in a string of broad comedies before finally being tapped to play more substantial characters in meatier films like 2007's "Talk to Me." Epps also appeared in both "The Hangover" (2009) and "The Hangover Part III" (2013) before being cast in the title role of a TV adaptation of the John Hughes comedy "Uncle Buck" (ABC 2016).
Epps was born in Indianapolis, IN, on Nov. 18, 1970. Growing up between Indianapolis and the highly industrial Gary, Epps was one of nine kids to a single mother. From an early age, he discovered his ability to make people laugh, and with Richard Pryor as his main influence, Epps started hitting the stand-up stage when he was a teenager. Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep the obviously talented comedian out of trouble. He fell in with gangs, dropped out of high school, and served 18 months on drug charges. The time behind bars not only motivated him to focus on a career as an entertainer, the experience gave him lots of new material for his act. He returned to the comedy club stage in Indiana before moving to Atlanta, GA where he was a regular at the Comedy Act Theater. His success there gave him the confidence to move to New York City, NY where he was quickly picked up by Def Comedy Jam, touring as well as appearing on the HBO show.
Epps was well on his way to becoming one of the bigger names in stand-up when he made his feature film debut in Vin Diesel's "Strays" (1996). He continued with several more years of touring and making appearances on Def Comedy Jam when acting offers began to come in. He appeared in an episode of "The Sopranos" in 1999; the same year he learned that Ice Cube was looking to cast a co-star (effectively, Chris Tucker's replacement) in the "Friday" (1995) sequel, "Next Friday" (2002). Epps headed for Los Angeles, where he invited Ice Cube to catch his set at The Comedy Store. Cube was impressed enough that the rapper-actor-producer asked Epps to try out for the part of Day-Day, which he eventually landed after weeks of auditions. "Next Friday" opened number one at the box-office, and was a breakthrough for Epps, who was already familiar to much of the audience from his stand-up work, but still had a hard time winning over those expecting a Chris Tucker clone. Nonetheless, Epps gave a consistent, though often improvised, performance as ineffectual Day-Day, a smoked-out loser stalked by his obsessive ex-girlfriend (Tamala Jones) and her brutish younger sister (Lady of Rage). The new talent in town was tapped for two more movies that year, appearing in DJ Pooh's "3 Strikes" and supporting Jamie Foxx in the action comedy, "Bait."
In 2001, Epps lent his voice to the role of Sonny in the family comedy "Dr. Dolittle 2" and enjoyed a featured role in the blunt cinema classic "How High," starring Redman and Method Man. Epps reteamed with Ice Cube twice during the following year, playing the bumbling thief to Cube's bounty hunter in the action comedy "All About the Benjamins" (2002) before the "Friday" saga's latest entry "Friday After Next" (2002). After turns in the uneven musical comedy, "The Fighting Temptations" (2003) and the dreadful horror sequel, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (2004), Epps played Ed Norton to Cedric the Entertainer's Ralph Kramden in the rehash of the famed 1950s sitcom, "The Honeymooners" (2005). Though promising a fresh take on an oldie-but-goodie, the movie was blasted by critics who complained about a lack of chemistry between characters, a subservient bow to political correctness - particularly with Kramden's famous threat to send Alice "to the moon!" - and a dearth of laughs, despite overwhelming comedic talent.
In a remake of another classic, Epps also appeared in "Guess Who?" (2005), an updated version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967) that also hit number one at the box office. In probably his most memorable role of the year, Epps scored as a loud-mouthed garbage man in the '70s roller disco comedy, "Roll Bounce" (2005). He rounded out a busy film year with a return to HBO, filming the stand-up special "Inappropriate Behavior" before inking a deal to develop a sitcom based on his misspent youth, entitled "The Unsuccessful Thug."
After several years cutting his teeth on broad Hollywood comedies, Epps finally got a chance to branch out a bit with the 2006 romance "Something New," which was nominated for Black Reel, Image, and Black Movie awards, including Best Film. Epps landed his first dramatic role in the 2007 critic's pick, "Talk to Me," with a supporting role in Kasi Lemmon's biopic about controversial 1960s Philadelphia DJ Ralph "Petey" Greene. Epps was slated to appear in yet another installment in the "Resident Evil" series in late 2007, but audiences were far more anxious for the 2008 release of "The Grand." The film - a largely improvised Christopher Guest-style mockumentary about a poker tournament in Las Vegas - put Epps alongside some of TV's biggest comedians like Ray Romano, Cheryl Hines, and David Cross. Epps was handpicked by Richard Pryor to portray him in a feature film adaptation of his life, with production for the film slated to begin in 2007, but the project never got off the ground. (Epps went on to portray Pryor in "Nina" (2015), a biopic of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone.) His comedy chops were noticed by an even wider audience with his supporting role as "Black Doug" in the blockbuster hit "The Hangover" (2009), which he reprised in "The Hangover Part III" (2013). Epps continued working steadily, notching roles in the romantic comedy "Jumping the Broom" (2011) and the musical drama "Sparkle" (2012), a remake of the 1976 film loosely based on the story of the Supremes. Following a supporting role in the biopic "Bessie" (HBO 2015) starring Queen Latifah as blues legend Bessie Smith, Epps starred in the sitcom "Uncle Buck" (ABC 2016), based on the 1989 John Hughes comedy.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Began touring the Def Comedy Jam circuit
Featured in actor Vin Diesel's directorial debut "Strays"
Guested on an episode of "The Sopranos" (HBO)
Appeared in the Jamie Foxx actioner "Bait"
Had a cameo in "3 Strikes"
Starred as Day-Day, Ice Cube's emasculated cousin in the comedy sequel "Next Friday"; improvised much of his performance
Lent his voice to a character in "Dr. Dolittle 2"
Featured in the Harvard-set, marijuana-fueled comedy "How High" alongside rappers Method Man and Redman
Reteamed with Ice Cube in the action comedy "All About the Benjamins"
Made third collaboration with Ice Cube, co-starring in the sequel "Friday After Next"
Co-starred in the comedy "The Fighting Temptations"
Cast as Ralph Kramden's best friend Ed Norton in the big-screen remake of "The Honeymooners"
Cast in the romantic comedy "Something New"
Co-starred with Don Cheadle and Cedric The Entertainer in "Talk To Me"
Co-starred in Malcolm D. Lee's ensemble comedy "Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins"
Co-starred in action comedy "Next Day Air"
Appeared in comedy hit "The Hangover"
Re-teamed with Ice Cube in the comedy "Lottery Ticket"
Co-starred opposite Jordin Sparks in musical drama "Sparkle," a remake of the 1976 film loosely based on the story of The Supremes
Reprised his role as Black Doug in "The Hangover Part III"
Played Julius in Starz TV drama "Survivor's Remorse"
Played the role of Ron in "Fifty Shades of Grey" parody "Fifty Shades of Black"
Played the starring role in horror comedy "Meet the Blacks"
Starred in ABC comedy "Uncle Buck"
Played legendary comedian Richard Pryor in Nina Simone biopic "Nina"