Kevin Hart may appear to be an overnight success but he’s been honing his craft for the past nineteen years. He talks to the LA Sentinel about setting achievable goals, why The Wedding Ringer will exceed your expectations, as well as what black Hollywood is doing for the social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and beyond.
LA Sentinel: The writers of The Wedding Ringer, Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, wrote the script more than ten years ago and it was basically shelved during a studio buyout. The making of this film is a result of perseverance and resilience! You’ve worked in this industry nearly two decades, how have you continued to reassure yourself that this was the right path for you?
Kevin Hart: I think it’s what’s in you as a person. Some people have a hard time setting realistic goals. When you set goals that are achievable, once you’ve accomplished one thing, it motivates you to move forward and take another step. It’s incremental growth; everything doesn’t happen at once. It’s a long road to get to where you ultimately want to be.
If for example, you want to be a director, the first goal should be establishing yourself within an environment of other people that aspire to do the same thing. When you’re surrounded by people who share your same passion, you guys will constantly figure out ways to make each other better.
Get your own equipment and work on your craft. We live in a world where your content can go viral for free. If people like what you do, your fan base will grow on its own. 50 people watching turns into 500, 500 into 1000, and the numbers will keep growing. Once you have a product and numbers, you can reach out to people to be apart of what you’re working on. It’s that simple but so many people are afraid of the long journey in the middle. I’m nineteen years in; my last four years have been amazing but what about the fifteen years before that? People don’t see or understand that. That’s why I walk with my head held high because I’m happy. I stayed true to what I believe in.
LAS: What are some misconceptions in people thinking that you’re at the height of your career?
KH: (Laughs) That I’m at the height of my career! I’m 35, in my prime, doing what I love to do to the best of my ability and because of that, the projects and the opportunities only get bigger and better. I’m honestly excited about my future and what’s to come. I’m challenging myself and taking on projects that can propel me to a different level. People should understand that I work hard for a reason. The ultimate goal for me is to become a mogul. You can’t do that or become that by sitting down and being complacent. You have to constantly be moving forward.
LAS: In The Wedding Ringer, are you really acting? Or are you just being yourself? How do you prepare to be a fake best man?
KH: (Laughs) I love this question. Of course, I’m acting, I’m reading lines from a script and it’s my job to make those lines believable. It’s my job to make my character real. What I do is put myself into a situation and think how would I act? How can I come across differently? How can I show levels? How can I be personable and vulnerable? How can I drive the story?
I think at this point, people have to acknowledge the fact that Kevin Hart can act a little bit. We’ve seen him in different projects where he’s different people. Ride Along, Think Like A Man 1 & 2, About Last Night, just to name a few. In all these films I’m a completely different version of myself than I am in the Real Husbands of Hollywood (BET). Unless I’m being asked to play a role in 300 or a period piece where I have to say, “Thy form cries out thou art.” (Shakespeare) I can be versions of the characters I create for myself which is dope because you just show levels.
LAS: In light of current events where unarmed African American males have been slain and protesters have been subject to police brutality, many people are saying black Hollywood isn’t doing enough. How do you use your platform to raise awareness and create change?
KH: I think the assertion that “Black Hollywood isn’t doing enough” is unfair. You do what you can and what’s within your power. The power many of us have is through social media. We draw attention to the news and show support by posting and retweeting statuses and videos. When we give our opinion it helps other people do the same, it’s a trickle down effect.The recent marches have become massive because of the “word of mouth” that is social media. I don’t think people understand how powerful and effective that is.
My perspective is in 2014 with all of the problems that occurred with young black men and the police, I think we as people took a step back. I don’t like the race wars, black men-white cops, it hurts my heart because I love people and I want us as people to do better. We’re capable of doing better. These incidents have drawn light to a situation that needed to be brought to the forefront of our attention. Now that it’s a focal point, law enforcement has to be cognizant of the way they carry themselves and handle civilians. You can’t be as reckless as you once were because of the situations that have happened.
You have to be able to find the positive in every negative. I think the positive is that moving forward, we aren’t going to be seeing these issues happen as frequently because of the effect that they’ve had on us as a culture and as a society. With that being said you want to see people be respected as individuals. In a perfect world these race and color barriers wouldn’t exists. Lets love and appreciate people for being what they are, human beings. That’s what I love and stand for. As a talent, that’s what I’ve been put here for. I’m a multicultural entertainer, I appeal to everyone. Not just to a specific race, but everyone. I want people to understand in Hollywood, people expect a lot from entertainers in general. But are you sure Black Hollywood isn’t involved? Don’t say we aren’t being proactive. I saw J.Cole in Ferguson. I saw Russell Simmons, Nas and Lebron James speak out. Nearly every basketball team in the NBA has worn the “I cant breathe” t-shirts. People need to reflect and see how things have been amplified where they are.
LAS: You were also in Chris Rock’s latest movie, Top Five where Rock’s character struggles to be seen as a serious actor instead of being typecast as a comedian. You’ve said The Wedding Ringer is your “first hard ‘R’ film”. Do you feel, not necessarily boxed in, but that people only expect certain things from you as a comedian?
KH: That’s a tough question because the answer to that is yes and no. I think as a comedian, people fell in love with the fact that I’m funny on stage and now it’s transferred over to films. You want to see that version of me that you see on stage, you want to see that guy and I have yet to be that guy in a movie. [The Wedding Ringer] is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to be that version of me that’s not only funny but edgy, raw, uncut, no holds bar.
With the exception of About Last Night, I haven’t had an edgy R-rated film where I’ve been the lead. This is the first one and that’s why this is such an important movie for me. With the title The Wedding Ringer, people will assume one thing but I guarantee you it’s not what you expect it to be, it’s so much more.
LAS: How do your two children influence your career? Are you planning to have any more?
KH: I want another baby. I’m engaged and I know my wife to be wants a baby. I live for my kids. I work as hard as I do for them. I’m building a legacy for them. I want them to have every opportunity I didn’t. I want them to see what their dad does and how much hard work, blood, sweat and tears I put into my craft. I want to show them what they should do. Follow in my footsteps whether they want to become entertainers or not, I want them to know how much passion I have for everything that I believe in. I believe in accomplishing what I set out to do which is always said in my household. If you start something, finish it. If you do something, what’s the outcome and how do we make it happen? That’s what my kids are learning now at a young age. They understand that daddy is very much in control of what he’s doing and they know why I’m doing it.
LAS: In addition to acting and producing, what does the Kevin Hart brand consist of?
KH: Right now, Philadelphia is very important to me. I’ve donated large sums of money to educational programs and to youth facilities in Philly. I’m trying to help the city where I’m from prosper. After loosing my mom to cancer, I’ve donated a lot of my time and money to cancer research. Chris Paul (LA Clippers) is a big humanitarian who’s always giving back. He and I are also working on several charity projects.
I’m all about being positive and showing the youth that guys like myself care. Our time is valuable but what’s more important is showing other people that you too can become whatever you aspire to be. Anything that I can be apart of, I am. In terms of starting my own foundation, it takes about a year to get it going and where you want it to be. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right. I don’t want to half ass it. So I’m patiently waiting for that right time for me to do the right thing.