Actor Kevin Hart arrives at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival Premiere of Screen Gems' 'About Last Night' at the Cinerama Dome Theatre on February 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California

Actor Kevin Hart arrives at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival Premiere of Screen Gems’ ‘About Last Night’ at the Cinerama Dome Theatre on February 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California

“About Last Night” stars Kevin Hart. The film comes out in theaters nationwide today on Valentine’s Day. 
With the statistics from your most recent film “Ride Along” showed that you received a tremendous amount of support from women. Talk about the importance of having a large female appeal. And also for the shirtless scenes, did you have to do a lot of preparation for that?

I did six thousand push up’s for the first shirtless scene, nah I’m joking! Listen, it’s good to have any type of support whether it be male of female. The studios go crazy over that  kind of stuff, but that’s not my particular way of thinking. For me thus far in my appeal whether it be film or standup show, it’s all about the content and putting out great content that the people can enjoy, I want to appeal to everyone and be universal. In this film I switched it up a little bit and you see my levels. Woman will appreciate it and men can relate to it because it’s real. For my character this man actually does exist. I took the part and I said I can make this part something special. You’ve never seen me like this in a movie. You see me get emotional and you see a charming side of me, you’ve never seen me like this. You’ll laugh, but at the same time we didn’t cut corners. I thank God that I had Regina Hall to play off of. She’s pound for pound one of the funniest women on the planet and I’ll stand by that. Regina did not miss a beat, and you don’t find that. She’s amazing in this movie.

There are four African American Leads, but this is not a black film. Can you talk about the evolution and the whole stigma of the “Black Film”?

I think the whole stigma of black movies is being lost. When you look at this movies that came out even in the past year they’re pound for pound just good movies that everybody is going to see and because of box office results you cant deny it, regardless of the color of the skin of the cast. The stigma that has been on certain films is slowly fading away. I think we did a great job of modernizing “About Last Night.” We could never recreate the original that was done with an all white cast. We made a film that is fit for the society and for today’s relationships. It’s a movie. I was blessed to do a movie. The stigma of black films, I just don’t use it at all. It’s just a movie. I’m getting ready to do a film with Will Ferrell, we’re not calling it a white and black guy movie. It’s just a movie and this film amongst other films that I’ve done are just great movies, plain and simple.

How was it working with Director Steve Pink? How was that process?

First if all I love Steve’s personality. Directors have one the toughest jobs on set. You have to control all these different personalities. Directors have a certain amount of time in a day to get a certain amount of shots done and that’s hard to do and to deal with everything and everybody and still keep a smile on your face while doing it means that you’re really good at what you do. Me and Steve’s rapport was amazing and you want that kind of dynamic with your director. Steve is amazing.

We see a different side of you and different layers to your character, what was it like preparing to bring that kind of muscle to the comedy and do you plan to doing more of that?

Whatever options are brought to the table that are best for my career, that show growth is what I plan to do. I would love to give you a great thespian story, about how I prepared and studied and read books on love, but I didn’t, I’m not that guy, I talked to the directors and gave them my take on it, I knew I could take it somewhere else so I had to see if they agree and they did. I read the materials and there were ways to elevate it. I pulled from past experiences in my life. I just try to make sure that it’s believable and make sure that it’s grounded and that people can relate, like that’s me. With Steve, I wanted him to make sure that I’m not too much. I always want to be on a realistic playing field and he did a great job monitoring it. I think it shows in the final product.

You have such a great twitter, and you’re really focused and very dialed in. How did you get to that level? Were there certain things that you experienced or lessons that you learned along the way to make you so dialed in and now you’re really ready?

I’ve watched my peers no need to name names. People who were in my position before. I’ve been doing this for 17 plus years and my just do is coming. Everything I’ve seen up to this moment has informed me. It’s the time for me to make smart decisions. It’s like now that I’m this guy “Kevin Hart” it’s like now that you’re here and they’re saying you’re the “it guy,” it’s like what do you do? Do you relax and stay grounded. Or do you use your position of muscle to create for you and your brand. I’m not just sitting back taking what’s given to me, I’m going out and getting stuff. I’m making sure that my team is in the kitchen cooking, so that when I finish one project we can move forward to the next now that the studios are already committed to. If you go all in you’ll get great results. When I say I’m focused, I mean as a producer and the CEO of Hartbeat Productions. It’s all about understanding the longevity of the entertainment business. You get out what you put in. If you go all you’re going to get a great results. It may take a year or ten years, but it will pay off and come full circle, I’m living proof.

You’re such a great business man, I read that you want to own your very own building down the line for Hartbeat Productions along the lines of a Warner Brothers for example. As a young entrepreneur watching you I’ve seen how strategic you’ve been in putting out steady, solid work and projects as well as placing yourself in a position to finance your own projects as well. What advice do you have for young artist and entrepreneurs that are looking to you as an inspiration? Advice that you can share about your story and some of the things that you’ve done on your journey to success? 

You’re a product of your environment and more importantly your surroundings. I love and praise my city every chance I get, but I’m speaking about my surroundings, you have no choice, but to become what you’re seeing on a day to day basis. I’m surrounded by people who make decisions, who take meetings and position other people in a way that best suits them to get them what they need. I’m always around motivated and driven by people. I can go to studio heads at Lionsgate and Warner Brothers, people in great positions, people who started off as entertainers. When you surround yourself with motivated people like Puff, Jay-Z, and Tyler Perry. Businessmen, some of which who started off as entertainers like Judd Apatow who’s now the face of comedy, if it’s a Judd project then it’s an automatic go. I applaud people like Jay-Z, that’s my boy, my friend, he’s one of the people that gave me one of my first starts! It’s like what is your excuse to not want to be great? There’s no scientific process, I don’t understand how people are comfortable with seeing other people be great. You can be happy for them, but what is your excuse to not want to be great, too? They say hey, I want to do this and then they go out and they do it. It starts as just a thought, at first. I’m figuring out how to do it. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t do it right, but then you just learn how to do it better the next time. When I step into a room and the conversation pertains to business I want to be great and I want to be respected, that to me is better than anything else. There’s no reason why I can’t be a mogul. You can sit down as talent, or as talent with a business acumen and they’ll say, what do you want? Then it’s a different ball game.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave now that you have so much more influence and you’re doing all of these great things. So many artists say that they want to inspire young people or to change the industry in some way. What kind of influence do you hope to have long term?

I’m showing comedians of our generation that it’s more than just being funny. There so much more to success. It’s about building a brand. Your perception can eventually become your reality. It’s all a building block, it’s not just about going out there and making people laugh for two seconds. What is your plan? What’s your set about? Are you trying to show that you can be a TV show? Are you trying to show your acting chops? What is your plan? And in doing so, as you get closer everything has come back full circle. I treat everyone with respect and I’m always a pleasant guy to meet and then later becomes a partnership conversation. The first thing people say is I remember you. Do what you want, but have a plan. Don’t just do it, to do it, or to say you did it.

How do you deal with rejection? In this business you never really know how things will turn out. You’ve been in the business a long time and you’ve encountered some upsets along the way yet you’ve overcome and proved a lot of people wrong. When you encounter adversities or rejection, how do you deal with it and keep from burning yourself out?

How thick is your skin? That’s the fucked up thing about acting. You never know. Man I have stories. Casting Directors have taken the paper out of my hand during an audition. It’s a serious, serious business. My show “Big House,” I’m about to step onstage at up-fronts and someone taps me on the shoulder to tell me Kevin, no your show didn’t get picked up. We need to get you back to the hotel and on a plane. You have to have a thick skin. Some people are blessed with it and some people aren’t. It can be a serious smack in the face business and either you can take it or you can’t. I remember this guy named Lucien at one of the comedy clubs told me, “yeah you’re just not that funny, I don’t like your approach” I didn’t give up, I just went to another comedy club. From thinking you’re going to get the movie of a lifetime, to not actually getting it, there are just so many levels to it. You have to ask yourself, are you doing it for other people or are you doing it for yourself? I work for me and I’m my own brand, I do it because I’m happy, I’m having a good time.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a film with Will Ferrell. It’s a chase within a chase film called “Get Hard.” I also have a film coming out called “The Wedding Ringer” and “Think Like A Man Too”, It’s an exciting time! I’m also working on touring again with another stand up show by the end of 2015, beginning of 2016.

Thank you Kevin, Congratulations on your success!

-Chasity Saunders (@itsmechasity)