Kevin Hart on the changes that came with Fatherhood
The actor shows a more intimate side in Netflix’s Fatherhood (out now) — and explores his own growth as a parent.
For Kevin Hart, Fatherhood provided a chance to do something different. An adaptation of Matthew Logelin's book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love, about becoming a single parent after his wife's sudden death post childbirth, the film finds the comedian stretching his acting abilities in pursuit of making audiences laugh hard, cry harder. "I've been doing this for a very long time," the 42-year-old admits. "You have to find new ways to recreate yourself and find new energy and purpose within the craft. So in this direction that I'm going now, it's giving you baby steps. I gave you The Upside to give you a glimpse that, 'Okay, well, this guy can act.' And now in Fatherhood, I'm giving you a higher level of what I gave in The Upside."
While Hart is usually an electric comedic presence in his films, the Netflix project allowed him to tee up his co-stars Lil Rel Howery and Anthony Carrigan to perform the bigger gags. "I didn't want to be responsible for laughs, laughs, laughs. I felt that that burden should be put on another talent that can come in, knock the ball out the park where we want them to be knocked out and then I go back to doing whatever it is that I have to do," he shares. "When it was time for me to provide a laugh to some degree, it was done in a very tasteful manner. But, once again, never over the top for me. It was always subdued."
Hart's character, Matt, has also undergone a marked shift for the Paul Weitz-directed movie, since Logelin is white. "When it was presented to me, I felt like it was an opportunity to change the narrative and perception of a Black father, because it's very rare that you see a Black father portrayed in a positive light on screen," Hart, the father of four, explains. "As a man that prides himself on being an amazing father, being there for my kids, I would love for there to be examples of other men that do that on-screen."
The role may also change certain perceptions of his own life as a dad. In 2018, after Hart was named to host the Oscars, old homophobic tweets resurfaced, with the lowlight being one from 2011 that suggested that if his son tried to play with dolls, Hart would break a dollhouse over his head and scold, "stop that's gay." After stepping down from the gig, Hart said, "If you don't believe people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don't know what to tell you."
A signature part of Hart's career has been his personal growth manifesting in his work. His recent docuseries Don't F**k This Up (also on Netflix) tracked the comedian's understanding of his past behavior and how and why it hurt the people it did.
A subplot in Fatherhood, where Matt endorses his daughter defying gender norms-wearing pants to school instead of the required skirt-allowed Hart to display growth in his scripted work as well. On playing a father who's accepting of a kid subtly defying gender norms in those scenes, Hart says "At the end of the day, I think especially in the times today, what's not being discussed enough is parents simply loving and just supporting their child, parents trying to instill the confidence that they feel that their child needs to better go about their day." He adds, "As a parent myself, I would only support and love my child. That should never be in question, how much you need to love a child that's growing up and finding confidence to be themselves."
The story line was already in the book, but Hart found inspiration in its pages. "This isn't made up [to] implement something in a movie just because," he says. "This was this man's life. This is his real story. It was an honor to portray him and his story. And I hope that I've done it justice."
Fatherhood is now streaming on Netflix.