What did you learn working with Stallone and De Niro?
You learn different approaches to the craft. These guys are very professional—from the way that they wake up, to the way they go over their material, to them knowing the business inside and out, knowing where the camera should be, knowing how things should be lit, the shooting order. It’s not just about coming in, knowing your lines. Sylvester Stallone makes movies—from writing to producing—that’s his world.
A lot of critics are blown away by Ride Along. It feels like a Beverly Hills Cop moment for you.
Ride Along can catapult me into a different level of stardom. First and foremost, Ice Cube is amazing in the movie. Our chemistry is amazing. It’s a great movie for the both of us. Tim Story, Will Packer. Universal had a concept and allowed us come in and bring what we felt we should. I’m excited about it; January can’t get here soon enough. I think this movie is going to exceed expectations. I’m trying to get what the Will Smiths and Eddie Murphys of the world got. I want to do it to a point where I understand the business. I want to be in a position where I own my material. This is a movie that can put me in a place to accomplish a lot of things.
Do you have any experiences with everyday racism?
Even if I did, I don’t give it the attention. I don’t welcome negative energy. The time
it takes to harbor, reap, bitch and complain is time that you can be doing something else. Have I gotten into situations with people that could have been racist? Of course, I am human. I’m a young black guy in Hollywood. You chalk it up and you move on.
Know any funny racist jokes?
There was a meme on Instagram of a black man lying on the curb with a bucket of fried chicken and grape soda, with a bag of Cheetos at his feet that said, “Black Man OD.” I thought that was pretty funny.
If you had to name three potential black presidential candidates who would they be?
Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson and Marion Berry. Just to shake the world up.
Why do so many Black comedians seem plagued with personal problems as opposed to white counterparts?
A lot of these people had a hard time adjusting to success, fame and attention. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad people. It’s not just black people, white people too. I feel like you go through these problems because your surroundings change. Those who are true to their surroundings and themselves can maintain a sense of normalcy. I made my mistakes, my divorce was primarily my fault, and I take that on the chin. I take my negative moments and find positive ones.
Do you think your divorce was a byproduct of your success or was it just relationship issues?
That was just not knowing how to say, “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore,” and trying to continue a relationship while I was outside of it doing other things and trying to justify it. Then maturing and having enough balls to say, “I don’t want to do it.” When you can do that, it should make you a better person. But for some people it’s a different effect. Bullshit happens, and the spiral of bullshit takes them down a further road of bullshit. You have the drugs and drinking and that other dumb shit. I got a DUI. Am I an alcoholic? Hell, no. Have I jumped behind the wheel of a car after having a drink? Yes. Have I been drunk? No. I’m not doing it anymore. It’s stupid. I realized how many people’s lives were at risk over one dumb decision, so I invest in a driver. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Some people don’t have the same thought process.
How about the actual lifestyle change?
It’s only a lifestyle change if you want it to be. Do I have cars? Do I have good shit? Yes. This is a Sprinter. It’s customized, but am I in it in a lavish way? No. This was built for my kids. It’s a mobile office. I have a nice house; it’s practical; it’s a home. You have to check yourself.
What’s on the horizon for you, career-wise?
As a businessman, my company HartBeat Productions is growing, and it’s doing it from an independent standpoint. I’m the financier and the money that we have coming in is all self-evolved. It’s all generated through Kevin Hart. That’s a great thing, but my goal is to see that grow even more and be an engine that runs with or without me. From a movie standpoint, there are tons of movies coming out. Seth Rogan and I sold a movie together. It’s a period piece about two cops from the ’50’s but they’re the first black and white team to ever be in partnership. It was a funny idea, it’s unique and it’s definitely pushing the envelope. We have mutual respect, a good friendship, so naturally all the pieces fall into place. I’ve got to start working on my next special and figure out when I’m going back on the road.
When is there time for all this?
You’ve got to make it. You’ve got to prioritize. I’m pretty good with my time. Right now, because of my TV schedule, my days end around 6:30, 7. The rest of that day goes to my kids. Some of those days are late nights in the office. Now, my weekends go to promo for Grudge Match, Ride Along, About Last Night. After that, I should be going to film Ride Along 2. Two thousand thirteen was a great year—2014 is shaping up to be even bigger. In my mind, I’m like, “How do I top it in 2015?” I think that’s where me as a brand, a mogul and CEO comes in. Stand-up is what runs my life, so as long I continue to grow in that entertainment world, the Hollywood world is going to get even bigger. I just have to stay true to what I know and grind.
Read the full story when it hits newsstands in winter.