To say that Kevin Hart is on a roll would be a serious understatement. Last year, the comedian-turned-actor starred in the box office smash Think Like A Man, wrapped up a massive 10-country, 80-city, sold-out comedy tour and inked deals to appear alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Just when it doesn’t seem like Hart’s star could not burn any brighter, his new “scripted fake reality show, The Real Husbands of Hollywood—which also stars Dwayne Martin, Nick Cannon, Boris Kodjoe, J.B. Smoove and Robin Thicke—is poised to make BET one of the most talked about networks on TV.
According to BET’s programming chief Stephen G. Hill, House Husbands—which pokes fun at other reality shows like Basketball Wives and Real Housewives of Atlanta—is “hotter than fish grease,” and he might just be right. ESSENCE.COM caught up with Hart at the TCA's Los Angeles to dish about his new show, his crossover success, and his plans to build an entertainment empire.
ESSENCE.COM: Real Husbands of Hollywood started as a skit on the BET Awards. How did it to become an actual show?
Kevin Hart: After we did the sketch [BET] received emails and tweets of people asking, “Was it real? Is this going to be a series?” People were just in love with the overall idea of it. At the time I didn't feel like it could be a show because, as I said, it was just a sketch, and after a while that sketch is eventually gonna get old, you know? But I discussed it with my writing partners and we said, “'You know, we probably could pull it off.' We would have to make this a fake reality show.”
ESSENCE.COM: So how did the cast come together?
Hart: They’re all friends of mine, and I called in favors. Everybody is so different as a person, so we can dip into everybody’s lives and make fun of so many different things, from Boris being the good looking guy; Nelly with the rap; Robin with the singing and the Black wife; Nick with Mariah; me, small but overcompensating with money; J.B. and the speech impediment but working; and like literally, everybody has moments where we can go and anybody can become a story.
ESSENCE.COM: What is the chemistry like on the set?
Hart: The chemistry is amazing. I think it’s major because we all put our egos aside regardless of who anybody is or what they’re doing. The task at hand was to make a good show.
ESSENCE.COM: I read some of the show is like slightly scripted, but a lot of it is improv. What is the balance?
Hart: Well, you have a script. You have a premise, which is an outline of what it is that you want to do. But, within that outline we just improv. We know the situation. We know what needs to be done. And, we find moments where we go off on a tangent and find magic and then get back on the story trail because we are telling a story, and it has to make sense.
ESSENCE.COM: This could be BET’s first big hit in a while. What does it feel like to be part of a show that could really bring that network back?
Hart: It’s a great feeling. This is the first time that BET has been able to get a cast like this of established actors and put them in an ensemble to be on a television show. I feel like [House Husbands] has the potential to do what The Chapelle Show did with Comedy Central; to bring something that’s different and possibly bring in a new audience. It’s groundbreaking, and that’s what The Chapelle Show was.
ESSENCE.COM: You’ve been able to bring in a lot of big stars like Jay Leno and Ed O’Neil to be on the show. How did you guys manage to do that?
Hart: Well, it’s often the relationships that I have. I’m good friends with Jay Leno, good friends with Ed O’Neill, Melanie Fiona and Russell Simmons.
ESSENCE.COM: Is Samuel L. Jackson coming back? He was hilarious in the skits.
Hart: He didn't do this one, but we are gonna get Sam. We are gonna get Sam! When you work hard and you treat people great, regardless of what it is that you’re doing, naturally people want to help and do things. My goal was to create a fun show and a fun environment that people would want to do. I think after seeing the first season people are going to want to be a part of it because it’s a funny, fresh show.
ESSENCE.COM: What was the most surprising thing about working on the show?
Hart: The most surprising thing is how, in any environment that we’ve created, we had no problems on set. None. We all got along, and on top of everybody getting along, we were literally grown men who didn’t turn into divos.
ESSENCE.COM: Was there a moment you guys said, “Oh, man, that was a little bit too far…“
Hart: One time Boris told Dwayne: “All you do is spend Tisha’s [Campbell] money,” and Dwayne was like, “So?” It was just improv, but it was fun. This all in fun, and we know that, so nothing is ever taken out of context or taken the wrong way.
ESSENCE.COM: You’ve been having a great couple of years with Think Like a Man and the sold- out comedy tours. You’re also working on a movie with Ice Cube…
Hart: We just wrapped it. It’s a called Right Along.
ESSENCE.COM: And the Will Ferrell film, is that actually happening?
Hart: Yes, me and Will Ferrell are about to do a movie together. I’ve also finished another movie called About Last Night co-starring Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant. It’s a remake of the original. I’m about to start a movie called Grudge Match with Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone in two weeks. After that, I do Think Like a Man 2.
ESSENCE.COM: With these projects you’ve been wearing multiple hats. I noticed you’re an executive producer. So what is that like working on both sides of the camera?
Hart: My business acumen is definitely growing. I have a company now, HartBeat Productions where I am producing and funding my own projects. Laughing At My Pain was a HartBeat Production. The goal is literally branding myself as a businessman, producer, actor, writer and putting people around me that can help me benefit within my own company by bringing projects and us becoming eventually what Happy Madison is.
ESSENCE.COM: Who are the people that you learn from as far as comedians? Who are the people you look at and think “Okay, I want a career like that, or I want to do more than that?”
Hart: I’ve taken a piece of everyone. But as far as really following a career path, Chris Rock’s career is amazing to me just because he wears so many hats: directing, producing, writing, starring. He’s done everything, so that’s definitely somebody that sticks out a little more.
ESSENCE.COM: You’re so busy. How you managing your personal life?
Hart: I don’t know. I don’t have time to go to the bathroom if I wanted to! [Laughs] My tour just ended on New Year’s Eve, so, right now that freed up a little bit of time for me. But I am about to start filming a movie in New Orleans, and in between I’ll be coming back home and being a dad.
ESSENCE.COM: So how does life feel right now for you?
Hart: It’s amazing. It’s great to be in demand, but I don’t sit and dwell in it, or roll over and say, “Oh my God! I’m getting big! It’s getting crazy! Look at me.” I think you get content that way. There’s so much more that I want to do. There’s so much more that I have to do. It’s a great feeling, but what happens after that great feeling’s over. You need more great feelings. I don’t want this feeling to stop, so I got to be focused.
Real Husbands of Hollywood premieres on Tuesday, January 15 at 10 p.m. on BET.