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Kevin Hart Talks Seeing ‘The Upside’ Of Controversy

The Philadelphia comedian discusses new film, teases his highly-anticipated collaboration with Chris Rock and gives fans advice on seeing “the upside” of controversy.

LOS ANGELES - DEC 11: Kevin Hart at the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hanger on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, CA

Kevin Hart’s first love may be stand-up, but the Philadelphia native is determined to cement his position as a major Hollywood player, and with the release of latest film, The Upside, he’s done just that.

That might be overlooked by those more focused on recent headlines than his craft but the funnyman isn’t worried in the slightest, knowing he brought his all to the film.

In an exclusive interview with EBONY, the comedian discusses his relationship with co-star Bryan Cranston, crafting his character with the help of close friends and why it was important to knock his first dramatic role “out of the park.”

The father of three also teases his highly anticipated collaboration with Chris Rock and gives fans advice on seeing “the upside” of controversy.

EBONY: Did you see the original french film, The Intouchables, that The Upside is based on before you began filming?

Kevin Hart: I sure did, yes indeed!

Did it affect any of your choices as an actor?

Not at all. I wanted to see it just so I could be familiar with it and understand what approach we were coming from. That way, before we made the necessary changes, I could see what the differences would be with our film.

How was it working so closely with Bryan Cranston on this film?

It was amazing. Bryan Cranston is an amazing actor and good friend. His talent really speaks for itself. To be on set with that guy every day, you have no choice but to learn. He’s just a real talented cat.

Though the film has some hilarious moments, it’s definitely one of your more dramatic roles. Was it challenging for you taking on a character so different from most of which you’ve played in the past?

I wouldn’t say it was challenging. It was something that was exciting for me; it was something that I embraced. I told myself that I would take full advantage of the opportunity at hand, step up to the plate and knock the ball out of the park.

I came in prepared, I came in ready. I just made sure that I was always on my A-game, because I never wanted to be the reason for any down slides.

What real-life experiences did you draw from while crafting the character of Dell?

A couple of friends that I’m close to, their experiences were very similar. Dell is a guy who was locked up and wants to do the right thing now, but isn’t sure that he can move ahead. He feels the system is keeping him back, which is a common mentality in today’s world.

I really just wanted to dive into that. How does that feel? What’s the reality behind trying to get ahead and do it correctly in an honest way while getting pushed back? What level of frustration would one have? You’re trying to put yourself in a better situation and it just seems like it’s not going to happen. Rejection, sometimes, can really beat you up, and he’s a beat-up man.

Outside of all the films you have coming up, have you been working on new stand-up material?

I’m always tossing new ideas around in my head, but my Irresponsible tour just wrapped up. I’m going to put stand-up on hold while I work on some movies. After that, come back, write some more material, and figure out the next tour.

Speaking of stand-up, I know you’ll soon be working with Chris Rock on a film. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Yes, I can’t wait for that. It was a story idea that both Chris and I were working on called Co-Parenting. After developing it and getting a writer that gravitated toward 
the idea and elevated the script even more, I told Chris he should direct it. I told him I would love for him to direct and I star in it. He said, “without a doubt, I’ll do it.” Now, we’re working on getting it done.

The Upside is largely about trying to find the positive in dark situations. Anyone who follows you on social media knows you’re all about spreading positive energy, even when you’re going through rough times yourself. What advice do you have for someone who is struggling to see “the upside” of controversy or general negativity in their lives? 

You mentioned the word positivity, which is something that will always be embraced by me. I feel positivity will always overpower negativity, and when we talk about the struggles that one may go through, the struggle is only setting you up for the big win. You just have to be patient enough to understand what’s coming. And when it does come, understand that it’s going to be more than worth it.

The Upside is in theaters now.

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