The Upside Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart and Director Neil Burger on the set of THE UPSIDE David Lee/Photographer

“My name is Kevin Hart and I WORK HARD!!!” reads Kevin Hart’s Twitter bio. One would be hard-pressed to find a more apt description for the megastar actor, who seems to pop up in blockbusters at a superhuman rate.

Hart frequently interacts with his fan base through social media, promoting positivity and commitment to moving forward in one’s life. Hart has held fast to an unwavering belief in himself—a trait that can be traced to his youth, during which his mother, Nancy, championed the perspective that enables one to do whatever one puts one’s mind to. “She embedded that in my head all through my teenage years,” he says. “And since she passed away when I was in my 20s, it’s something that I live by.”

Hart’s latest film is Me Time, in which he stars alongside Mark Wahlberg, playing a dad who takes full advantage of a little alone time… with messy results. In honor of the new release, we’re resharing his January 2019 interview for our Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker series, which has recently featured Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen and Barry Levinson. Our talk with Hart was pegged to the release of his role in Neil Burger’s The Upside. Hart starred with Bryan Cranston in the film — a remake of the popular 2012 French dramedy The Intouchables — and played ex-con Dell, who’s tasked with caring for Phillip (Cranston), a wealthy quadriplegic. Though the interview was more than three years ago, Hart’s peerless work ethic hasn’t changed.

— As told to Caleb Hammond

The Upside Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in a scene from The Upside. Courtesy of STXFilms and Lantern Entertainment

1. Don’t be a talker, be a maker. The successful moviemakers of tomorrow are the ones who are not just “creatives,” they’re the ones who are taking those creative ideas and make them reality. With any goal, of any size, you need to follow through with the same high level of want, need, and ambition.

2. Don’t digress—always go forward. Surround yourself with cast and crewmembers who can teach you how to make each project better as you move from one to another. I love to win. I love to succeed. The biggest thing to look for in a collaborator is someone who shares your passion about the profession. If you can do that, you’re both going to get the desired result.

3. Don’t step onto the set with any lingering feelings of discomfort. All of those things should always be worked out before. I don’t think I can point to any problems with any working relationship I’ve had, and the reason why is because we go into each project with a positive attitude and all the kinks worked out. Remember that the best way to get along with anybody is to just be yourself.

4. An actor’s relationship with the director should be another friendship. It should be open, with a high level of communication, without any insecurity. You’ve got to understand and trust that the director has your best interest in mind. That comfort level has always been a major plus in my work environment. I accept that my directors are always giving me information that’s for the betterment of the project.

5. The most important thing when approaching a scene is control. Understand the subtext of each scene. Ask: “What are we trying to establish?” That way you’re not going into it willy-nilly, all over the place. When you have that kind of clear direction, it’s much easier to get the result you’re after.

6. Even improv is about control. Directors can see some truly amazing colors in your performance when you embrace improv, but it has to be there to make a scene better. It’s always fun—as long as you smoothly transition back into the story.

7. Some things are more important for others than they are for you, but don’t look at those things in a negative light. I’m not a big rehearsal guy; I show up to set prepared and I know the work that needs to be done. But some people like to rehearse, and I understand that it’s for the comfort of the director, who wants to know that we’re going to get off to a good start. Embrace it—understand the reason behind it.

8. Stay high on life. As a working actor, understand that your life doesn’t have to be so fortunate. Don’t be in down spirits about the biggest blessing that you could possibly have. My energy level is only where it’s supposed to be because of my gratitude and appreciation.

Also read: Martin Scorsese: Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

9. In such a crowded industry, patience is of the essence. Nothing will happen overnight, but the light at the end of the tunnel is bright if you’re willing to wait for it. The world never hears from the ones who quit. You need to stick with it. It may sound a cliché, but those who are willing to stick with it are the ones who come out on top.

10. If you could go back in time, don’t give “early career you” any advice. The mistakes you make ultimately help you become the person that you’re supposed to be. Let “early career you” follow the same road, do the same things, make the same fuck-ups. MM

Main image: The Upside, starring Kevin Hart, courtesy of STXFilms and Lantern Entertainment. Featured image: Kevin Hart and director Neil Burger on the set of The Upside.