You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kevin Hart Details Art of the Casting Call in Exclusive Book Excerpt

In his stand-up act, Kevin Hart has built a reputation for being honest with audiences. From divorces to family issues to fame, he puts it all out there. He’s taking the same approach with his memoir “I Can’t Make This Up,” on sale June 6 — and exclusively excerpted in Variety. The book takes readers from his childhood in Philly to his struggles to break into Hollywood. “I wouldn’t change anything that happened,” says Hart. “I’m happy about the problems I had and the shit I went through, because I learned from it.”

Liars Get Lied to Too

I was too young, too old, too good-looking, too ugly, too urban, not urban enough, or “just not what we’re looking for in this role.” I couldn’t seem to get any work.

Pamela Littky for Variety

Dave had connected me with a talent agency, UTA, and one afternoon, the agents there called me in for a meeting. The room was full. It seemed like everyone in the company was there, talking about all the new movies they were going to get me auditions for: “King Arthur,” “The A-Team,” “The Hulk.”

I finally said something:

Me: Wait a minute, “The Hulk”? They want a five-foot-four-inch black Hulk?
Them: Well, who knows, look at Tom Cruise—
Me: You guys got me going out for B.A. Baracus in “The A-Team”? I’ll never get that. There’s nothing Mr. T–like about me.
Them: Well, you know, I can really see you reinventing Mr. T for today.
Me: Look, man, ain’t nobody putting me in none of them damn movies. Y’all don’t have to Hollywood me.

The agents seemed taken aback by what I was saying, as if no one had ever called them out on it before. But I was starting to understand that auditions were less about nailing the part and more about nailing the cast- ing agent. Some of those parts weren’t for me; in other cases, they already had someone they liked in the part. The goal was to shine and to win over the casting agent, so that when the roles that were right for me came along, and I was further along in my career, they’d remember me.

“I learned what I shouldn’t be doing from what my dad did.”
Kevin Hart

“Just get me in rooms with the right people,” I told them, “and I’ll take care of the rest.”

That talk, and that realization, changed my career. I started going to auditions with the intention of not getting this role, but the next role. To make an impression, I’d pop right away: “Hey, guys, what’s happening? How’s it been going so far? Am I the first black guy you’ve seen?”

Later I might say something like, “When I’m done, I’m gonna leave my phone here accidentally, with the recorder on, so I can come back for it and find out if y’all said I was good or bad.” Or I might point to the guy who was lowest in the pecking order in the room: “If I don’t get the part, I’m blaming it on Ray right there.”

The goal was to break the tension and get them laughing, but without trying too hard. I’d still work to embody the part. Even if the role wasn’t for me, I wanted them to see how prepared I was and what I was capable of. I’d mix it up and play the character in ways that weren’t right for the film, just to show them that I had different levels.

Illustration: Ben Mounsey

I almost always got a callback, and to this day, I’m still close with a lot of those people. The leading actors in Hollywood may change, but the players behind the scenes often remain the same. Even though they didn’t give me parts at the time, some of them ended up giving me great roles later.

Though people say to live in the moment, each moment leads to other moments. So treat each moment like a seed, and care for it so that something beautiful can grow from it. That Ray kid you joked around with when he was just starting out may become a studio head ten years later, and will remember that you noticed him and treated him special.

Excerpted from “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons,” by Kevin Hart, which hits bookstores June 6. Published by arrangement with 37 Ink/Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2017 by Kevin Hart

More Biz

  • BMG Posts Strong Earnings for 2018

    BMG Posts Strong Earnings for 2018

    BMG announced solid earnings for 2018 — its tenth year since the “new” BMG opened for business after its previous incarnation merged with Sony Music — as part of parent company Bertlesmann’s results Tuesday. According to the announcement, despite “negative exchange rate effects,” BMG’s revenues increased by 7.5 percent to €545 million (around $644 million), [...]

  • Rahm Emanuel

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Calls Jussie Smollett Deal a 'Whitewash of Justice'

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision by Cook County prosecutors to drop charges Tuesday against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. Flanked by Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Kevin Graham, the president of the Chicago police union, the mayor said the decision sends a message that high-profile people will not be held accountable for their [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    Viacom Shares Spike on DirecTV Deal, Renewed CBS Merger Chatter

    Viacom shares soared 10% on Tuesday after the company reaffirmed financial guidance for its media networks wing on the heels of sealing a hard-fought carriage renewal agreement with AT&T’s DirecTV. The stock gain underscored the importance of maintaining its presence on DirecTV and other AT&T channel bundles. Viacom on Tuesday reaffirmed its guidance of affiliate [...]

  • Grammy Awards60th Annual Grammy Awards, Press

    Grammy Eligibility Year to Close One Month Early for 2020 Awards

    The eligibility year for the 2020 Grammy Awards will close on Aug. 31, one month earlier than usual, the Recording Academy announced today in a letter to members. The change is due to next year’s telecast taking place on Jan. 26, around two weeks earlier than usual (although the 2018 awards took place on Jan. [...]

  • Electronic Arts Logo

    EA Laying Off 350 People, About 4% of Staff

    Electronic Arts is laying off about 350 of its 9,000-person staff, CEO Andrew Wilson announced in a blog post on its website Tuesday. In the brief, open letter, Wilson noted that the move was made to “address our challenges and prepare for the opportunities ahead,” and to “better deliver on our commitments, refine our organization [...]

  • Jon Platt Martin Bandier

    Read Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida's Memo Thanking Martin Bandier, Welcoming Jon Platt

    As outgoing Sony/ATV chief Martin Bandier (pictured above, right) finishes up his final week on the job, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida thanked him for his 12 years of service and welcomed incoming publishing CEO Jon Platt (above, left) who joins from Warner/Chappell. The letter, obtained by Variety and under the subject line “Warm wishes to [...]

  • iHeartMedia Strikes Multi-Year Deal With LiveXLive

    iHeartMedia Strikes Multi-Year Deal With LiveXLive

    iHeartMedia today announced a multi-year agreement with LiveXLive, a digital media company focused on live entertainment. According to the announcement, the deal combines content, production, distribution and promotion. The newly expanded partnership gives LiveXLive exclusive global livestreaming rights for 17 iHeartRadio marquee events this year, including iHeartRadio’s ALTer Ego, iHeartCountry Festival, iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Daytime Stage at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content