With over a decade of credits in films such as “Soul Plane,” “Death At A Funeral,” “Fools Gold” and a role in the “Barbershop” TV series, actor, comedian and businessman, Kevin Hart has finally reached the A-list. The father of two is enjoying star power with recent blockbuster roles in “Think Like A Man,” “Grudge Match” and “Ride Along” (No. 1 for three weeks). This month he stars in the ‘80s remake “About Last Night” (No. 2 opening weekend) opposite Regina Hall, Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant.
Q: In “About Last Night” you have a swimming scene against Michael Ealy, who said you were part of the famous swim team featured in the film “Pride” (starring Terrence Howard), what happened there?
A: Yes, I swam all my youth and that movie was based off my real swim team. I made it to the junior Olympics and everything. But my mom made me do it and because I didn’t like the fact that she made me, when I got old enough to stop, I was like “I’m not swimming no more.” It’s weird. I was a dumb kid. Maybe I got lucky and made the right decision.
Q: What sets you apart from great standup comedian/actors who came before you?
A: I’m universal. When you’re universal it means you appeal to everyone. From my standups you’ve seen me get married, have kids, go through a divorce and become a single dad—It’s all one big evolving story.
And my stand up movies I did on my own. “Laugh At My Pain,” I spent $750,000 and made $8M. I did “Let Me Explain” for $2.5M and that did $33M. And I own the rights - nobody else owns theirs – the studio owns it. That’s why I get looked at with a side eye – I’m just not afraid to take risks, I take my own money and flip it.
Q: How do you remain grounded?
A: You need friends that will tell you to sit down. You need friends that will tell you you’re doing too much. The reason why I’m not caught up in Hollywood is because I’m not part of Hollywood. I got my Hollywood friends I hangout with, but for the bulk of my days if I’m not with my kids, I’m in my office with guys working and trying to figure out whats next, or I’m at home. My office is around the corner from my house and my kids will come to the office and play. I have such a balance.
Q: To have worked for 17 years with little traction until now, how did you overcome rejection?
A: That's the thing about acting: you have to have a thick skin. Some people are blessed with it, some people aren't. I've done auditions where the casting director is taking the paper out of my hand in the middle of reading. When my show “The Big House” was picked up, they flew me to New York, I'm about to step on stage to announce it and a hand grabs my shoulder, "Kevin no, they just decided to cancel it." It's a serious smack-in-the-face business, and either you can take it or you can't. I remember this guy told me that he felt that I just wasn't that funny. He didn't like my approach to standup comedy, and this was the guy who judged you to get on stage. And I was like, ‘Alright.’ I just went to another comedy club. I wasn’t affected by it. Everything happens when it’s supposed to.