Close your eyes. Imagine experiencing the most emotionally draining work of your life, while simultaneously dealing with one of the roughest personal issues you’ve ever had to deal with… then getting a call telling you that you’ve landed a role in one of the biggest comedies of the year.
That’s exactly what happened to actress Edwina Findley, who appears opposite Will Ferrell in this weekend’s latest Kevin Hart comedy, Get Hard.
“I was shocked, amazed… I was dumbfounded honestly. I had just finished shooting the most intensely emotional role of my entire life,” says Findley. Producers cast her in the comedy as Hart’s wife. He portrays a struggling small business owner, husband and father propositioned by a hedge fund tycoon (Ferrell) on his way to prison. He elicits the help of Hart’s character, who he incorrectly assumes has street cred, to toughen him up before he goes on the inside.
Findley says she and Hart shared something extremely personal, which may have helped to bond them on set.
“I was watching OWN, and Kevin was being interviewed by Oprah. He was sharing how his mom passed away from ovarian cancer, and I got really emotional when I was watching because my mom was sick with ovarian cancer.
“And so when I found out that I was going to be playing opposite him, honestly one of the first things I did when I got to New Orleans [where Get Hard was shot] was give him a hug and let him know that I saw the interview and that I understand it very personally. And he called my mom on Mother’s Day. We were together down in New Orleans filming during Mother’s Day and he called her and it made her day. And unfortunately, while we were shooting If Loving You…, she passed away.”
That’s why the OWN actress calls landing this role in this film a “divine moment” that she will cherish forever.
In the trailer for Get Hard, Findley can be seen smacking her movie husband clean across the face when he tries out his tougher side and calls her out her name. It’s one of the funnier scenes in the film, one she says had her giving her own husband the side-eye.
“I was looking at my husband yesterday and I was like, ‘Baby, you see that movie? Don’t make me do it. Don’t ever get out of hand. Of course I would never ever ever in a million years hit my husband, but I can see it being a cathartic moment for the women in the audience.”
With a film featuring two of the biggest comedians of our time, one can imagine how hard it was to reel in the laughs on set while shooting. In one scene in particular, where Ferrell’s character has dinner with Hart and his family, Findley says she completely lost it.
“I absolutely, fully broke down in the middle of that scene,” she says. “There was a point where I had to start looking around for the cameras, because I was like, ‘I cannot be on camera at this moment.’ I was dying, literally. And you know what’s funny? You know how you laugh and you start making throat sounds like when you’re trying to control to not laugh? And then I started putting my hand over my mouth, but then I’m making nose sounds and all these sounds are coming out of my nose and there was literally a point in that scene where I was holding my nose shut and my mouth shut and just not breathing!”
But the film is called Get Hard, so we wanted to know when was one time in Edwina Findley’s life where she actually had to literally “get hard,” to toughen up?
“The Wire on HBO,” she says. “I literally had just come out of college. I had just graduated from NYU magna cum laude and then the next thing I know, I have a gun in my hand, living in Baltimore. And it’s like, I’m robbing drug dealers and a part of this gang, this Barksdale vs. Omar gang. So that was really one of the first times I was like, ‘All right Edwina, you’re an actress. You have paid thousands of dollars for drama school. Now’s the time to get hard.’ ”
When she’s not filming movies, Findley can be found starring in a leading role as Kelly on OWN’s If Loving You Is Wrong. So if you’re keeping count, including Edwina, Black women appearing in leading roles on television include Tracey Ellis Ross, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis.
How does Edwina feel about this? “It’s beautiful, it’s so incredible,” she says.
Speaking of Viola Davis, what you don’t know is that Edwina is actually her daughter’s godmother. Davis and Findley are very good friends. She says Viola Davis and her husband were what she refers to as her first introduction to Hollywood. She even slept on their couch when she was just getting her start.
Edwina Findley has been experiencing a steady climb in Hollywood. From her time on HBO’s The Wire, to roles in Red Tails and Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, to landing a show on OWN, to now appearing in Get Hard, her career path has been one lined with stars. But according to her, none of this is by happenstance.
As Edwina tells it, “I always say, and that was one of my mother’s favorite scriptures, ‘God works all things together for good for those that love Him and are called according to his purpose.’ And that’s definitely one of the mantras that I live by.”
Get Hard opens today, Friday March 27.
Crystal Shaw King is a seasoned TV, radio and online entertainment writer. She’s also a contributing editor for a social justice foundation in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @crystalamberbam.