At first glance, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are an unlikely pairing. The former became famous as a hip-hop artist with the influential group N.W.A. The latter is a stand-up comedian, eager to pick on himself before anyone else gets the chance. Physically, Ice Cube is solid, imposing, and bearded; Hart is smaller and looser, a rubber band of a man with expressive, animated features. It’s natural, then, that the two would be cast as polar opposites in Ride Along. In an attempt to gain favor with his potential brother-in-law (Ice Cube), Hart’s character joins him for a day in the life of a cop—which, as expected, turns out to be anything but.
Ride Along is light, fun comedy, but neither Ice Cube nor Hart are lightweights. Both men have found a niche for themselves in film. Ice Cube has been starring in movies since the ’90s, and has three franchises under his belt as an actor (Friday, Barbershop, and Are We There Yet?) And Hart’s gift for physical comedy has landed him increasingly central roles in comedies like This Is The End and Think Like A Man. Both, too, have made it a mission to star in and seek out films with broader, more well-rounded roles for black actors. The A.V. Club sat down with them both on their press tour for Ride Along to ask a few questions about the industry; the differences between hip-hop, stand-up, and film; and just why Ice Cube did Anaconda, anyway.
The A.V. Club: What’s important to you about making a film that has a diverse cast or strong black characters?
Kevin Hart: When you’re doing a film and the majority of the film is cast black, for me, it’s most important to get people to view those movies as just movies, as just good movies. At the end of the day, regardless of the color of the cast, we’re all doing the same thing in this business, trying to make a good film. I think when movies do this—hence The Best Man, hence 12 Years A Slave—rather than calling them “black movies” or “African American-driven films,” it’s good movies.
[We] didn’t do Ride Along to do a huge black movie. We did it to make a movie that appealed to everyone. At the end of the day, we’re talented guys who want everyone to see our talent; we’re displaying it for everybody. The more things we do as black actors or actresses, the more that we get. We’re talented actors and actresses making good projects. Let’s take that stigma away.
Ice Cube: It’s a thing where the objective is simple, and it’s always the same: shoot a pretty movie. You know what I mean—make it look pretty, tell a good story, and entertain people. If you keep it that simple, then you won’t pass up the good stories, you won’t get caught up in trying to make these statements within a statement. There’s no way to make one. You know what I mean? You can’t force one, like, “Oh, I’ll do this to add on to the flow!”
I’ve done movies for certain reasons; I did Anaconda because the black man lives. Simple. The black man isn’t dead in the first three pages, like Jurassic Park. It’s like, “The black man kills the snake with a Latino girl? Damn! I got to do this.” I did Are We There Yet? because I wanted to do a movie for my fans’ kids. Black kids don’t really see movies on this budget for them, starring them. And there’s so many white kids that love that movie. They don’t care [about] the cast because the movie was shot well. It told a great story and entertained people; and that’s the objective.
AVC: Do you think Hollywood has become a better place for black actors since you started your career?
KH: Definitely. I don’t go that far back to speak on what’s gone on in the past.
IC: I can think of hearing about Melvin Van Peebles and what he went through; people like Leon Isaac Kennedy, people like Robert Townsend. Everybody gives me credit for finding [John] Witherspoon, but it was actually Robert Townsend—his specials—were the ones that introduced us. Dudes like Spike Lee, these were dudes that had real struggles, but they really cracked the door open. House Party was a big movie, Krush Groove was a big movie for my generation of actors to come through to have a more lubricated [Laughs.] road, so to speak.
AVC: Kevin, you came from the stand-up world. How does that translate into film?
KH: Stand-up can take you in so many different places, man. So many doors can be opened up from stand-up comedy, and the first one that was opened up for me was acting. But you can go from acting to being a TV personality to being a radio personality to being a writer to being a producer, to just being a visionary, to voiceover work. It all comes from comedy. Everybody loves to laugh.
But knowing that that’s the case, the beautiful thing about me is I can’t turn my back on what made me. So doing movies does not mean that I turned my back on stand-up comedy, and that I’m engulfed in this world. I’m about to shut down probably in a little bit, maybe in like four or five months, hopefully six, and it’ll be all about me building up another hour of material and preparing to tour in 2015.
AVC: [To Ice Cube] How is the hip-hop business different from making films? What do you keep in common, what’s different?
IC: Well with hip-hop, I can be self-made Kool-Aid. I can do it myself, I don’t really need nobody but my producer or my engineer, and I can really create and be a selfish artist, just do what I feel, fuck the world. You know what I’m saying? With film, I have to be a team player; it’s a whole different thing. I can’t just be a one-man show. I have to learn how to use people to the best of their ability and motivate them to be as passionate about the project as I am. We can do this as a team and a machine. We’re in a big building, and we’re all going to look back on it and be proud of it, you know what I’m saying? It’s just a totally different form of creating.
AVC: [To Kevin] Is it similar with stand-up, totally a solo act that you’ve created?
KH: Exactly. You just control that entity. It’s like he said; it’s your world.
IC: And we got to have that. [Kevin] doesn’t know that, yet. When you’re caught up in all these movies, everything is so planned. We are too creative to be in that box, to be sitting in that trailer waiting to go do a scene. We’ve got to have that outlet, or we’ll go crazy. I got to keep rapping or I’ll go crazy in Hollywood. He has to keep doing stand-up, or he’ll go crazy.
KH: It’s very true. That’s my drug. That’s a great point. That’s my drug, and I feel like the minute I stop is the minute I’ll lose touch with my fan base. I feel like I have an immediate connection with my fans for the simple fact that they’re there and I can touch [them]. I’m talking to you through social media, and it shows; I’m shaking your hands afterwards. I’m out in the community, physically out, and I feel like the minute you go into hiding, you are now reserved to the point where you can’t be seen and you can’t be touched and you can’t be talked to. You’re now stepping out and talking about things that people can’t relate to. “I just bought gold couches in my house! $2 million on the couch! Can you believe they didn’t give me a receipt?!” What the fuck are you talking about, man?!
KH: You lose touch. And I don’t want to be that, so stand-up comedy has to remain a priority to me. Like he said, I can see myself losing my damn mind. I’ll be out here, setting myself on fire.
IC: Can’t step from one movie set to the next. Only Samuel L. Jackson can do that. All us mere mortals can’t do that! [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you guys find each other through this movie? Had you been planning to work together before?
IC: We had been planning to before, and we’re both smart enough to know it’s not a forced thing; it’s when the right project comes along. That’s always better, and this is the perfect project. I’m glad Kevin didn’t start in the Friday movies, because this is about starting his own franchise. He has the same weight as I do in this franchise, and here goes this ride.
KH: We both are, literally, equally invested in this and not only does it show on-camera by our chemistry, but with our effort to push and make people aware of this film. Trust me, you don’t back a film to this power that you do not believe in, that you do not believe is good. We’ve thrown everything we got, everything with the kitchen sink. We haven’t slept in days!
IC: I think if you put all the hours together, I got like eight.
IC: If you put all the hours together. And that was on the plane!
KH: It’s going to pay off, man. [With] Ride Along, we have the opportunity to have a franchise. We have the opportunity to have a buddy-cop film that’s talked about in the same likes of Rush Hour, Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs. Literally, our movie can be talked about in that same group. You’ll see.