“I was the guy that constantly wanted to challenge,” says the “Think Like a Man” star of his past relationships. “’What you got an attitude for?! You’re stupid! You’re mad, [but] you don’t even know why you’re mad!’ I’m not going to do that anymore.”
Hart plays Cedric, the “happily divorced” member of a group of friends (including Romany Malco and Jerry Ferrara of “Entourage”) who discovers that their women (including Meagan Good, Gabrielle Union and Taraji P. Henson) are using Harvey’s tips about men against them.
At the W Chicago Lakeshore, the 33-year-old actor talked about what men will never understand about women and vice-versa, the benefits/downfalls of being short and whether or not men are dogs. Hart, who also appears in “The Five-Year Engagement,” said he expects to have a Chicago arena performance in September or October.
It’s interesting that the movie’s based on a book giving women guidelines about men, since most would agree women are much more complicated than we are. What would you want in a guidebook about women?
Here’s the thing about the complications of women. We can tackle it two ways. [Laughs.] You can either want to figure it out, or you can just understand that you’re never going to figure it out. [Laughs.] That’s where I am.
You say that you’re married; I don’t know what makes your household go better. But I do know that in my current relationship—when there’s attitudes and there’s depressions or mood swings, I used to be the guy, “What’s wrong? How can we fix it? What can I do?” There’s nothing you can do! There’s nothing you can do to make it better. It’s a woman in their own realm. It’s what they do; it’s what they go through.
Sometimes you just gotta learn to take a little step back and say, “Hey, do what you do. I don’t want to battle.” That’s where I come from with it. I’ve tried to be the other guy. I’m currently divorced, so for me being the other guy was a completely different ballgame for me.
Aside from those situations of conflict, is there anything else about women you think guys will never understand?
It’s hard to understand a woman’s false sense of reality at times. And the reason why I say a false sense of reality—women want a lot. Their needs are really needs. As men, we don’t need that much. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. A sandwich and a TV and a couch, that’s kinda heaven. We don’t really want much. But a woman requires so much time. “Not only time, but we want to talk. Not only do we want to talk, we want to know what you think about what we talked about.” There’s so much, and it’s hard for women to understand why men don’t want the same thing or can’t do the same thing to the level that they want you to do it.
Is that what women most frequently misunderstand about men?
Of course. Because they take it as [if] we don’t care. That gets misconstrued for, “You don’t care! You don’t love me!” It’s the button that’s pushed automatically. “That’s not true, I just don’t want to talk right now.” And that is where problems I think escalate and where things tend to get blown out of proportion when taken from small things like that. Like I said, that’s a different sense of reality. The reality is, men aren’t as emotional and open as women are. It’s just the nature of a man. So you do have a certain amount of men that can be that way at times but as men in general, we’re really not that person. And it’s very difficult for women to understand that.
True or false: Men are dogs?
I’m going to go with true. The reason why is because a dog wants to see everything, wants to do everything. Wants to have his nose in whatever he can have his nose in—until he learns not to put his nose there by getting popped or by getting beat or learning a lesson from sticking his nose somewhere where it shouldn’t be.
How often do you get smacked in the face with the newspaper?
I’ve been smacked quite a few times. This day and age I’ve learned from my past smackin’s. I’m not smacked as much. But I definitely at one point in my life, had my nose everywhere. I wanted to see; I wanted to know. I was curious. That’s what dogs are. It’s not that they’re bad; they’re curious. They want to know what this is and what happens if they go over there or get on that or go see what that is. That’s what men do! We’re curious.
Being divorced, what was it like for you to play a happily divorced guy, and what is the most appropriate way to celebrate a divorce?
[Laughs.] For me, being divorced, A. the happiest thing about divorce is when it’s finalized. That’s the happiest thing. Going through my divorce, it got ugly for a period, and playing this guy Cedric in the film actually gave me an opportunity to take the energy that I had when I was going through my divorce and put it to use. Everything in life happens for a reason. I went through my divorce at a perfect time, and I wind up playing a divorced man. And me doing that, I had so much that I was able to add to my character, which made my character real. You believed him. You believed that he went through the things that he went through and was going through the things that he was going through. You take my process away, I probably wouldn’t be able to pull off some of the stuff that I pulled off in there. But as far as celebrating when it was over, I don’t really think it was a celebration for me. It was more of just, (sighs), just like, “That monkey’s off my back; I can now relax.”
You didn’t, like Cedric, round up your boys and rent a party bus?
No, no no no. My boys actually didn’t care. They were like, “So what? Welcome to the club.” [Laughs.] “This not a daggone celebration. We in the same boat, man. Move on. Enjoy life.” So we didn’t do too much.
Despite those dramatic moments for Cedric, you provide a big heaping of comic relief in the film. What do you like and dislike about being a guy who frequently serves as that hilarious comic element?
I love being funny. I love being a comedian, and being a comedian sometimes puts you in a position where you can be the comedy relief in a film. When you’re responsible for laughter it’s always good. Laughter heals. That’s what people want to do. It also helps move a story along.
How much relief is there when you get on set or read a script and find, “OK, I’m more than just the wacky, wild guy who’s supposed to crack everyone up”?
When you have a character who literally has levels to him, where he’s funny but at the same time he’s depressed, at the same time he’s going through personal problems, it gives you so much to do because you want to be real. And sometimes when you’re just the wacky guy, you’re not real. You’re the wacky guy and people question, “Does this guy exist?” But when you’re funny and you have a sense of reality to you and you have your moments when you’re serious and you have your moments where you’re affected by what’s going on, and then you go back to being funny, it actually shows that you’re talented within your craft and you can act. So that’s the ultimate goal in acting: You want to show that you’re polished and this is what you do and you’re good at it.
You’re in Jennifer Hudson’s video for the song “Think Like a Man.” How do you stack up against Ne-Yo, and how would you set yourself apart from him if, like in the video, you were both competing for a woman?
Well, first of all, I’m much more attractive than Ne-Yo. I tell him that all the time. Second of all, I’m a better dancer. Ne-Yo only has three moves. You can literally Google this and you’ll see the same three moves. And I tell him that all the time, too. So basically I’m probably more of a catch to a female and that’s why they wanted me in the video. For sex appeal, to bring more women to the project.
Why are you keeping your sexuality and your musical abilities and dancing to yourself?
You have to make choices. At the end of the day, there’s two roads to go down. There’s the comedic road for me, and there’s the road of modeling and sex symbol type work. For me I want people to know me. I don’t want to be looked at for just my body and my face. There’s so much more to me, so that’s why I chose the road of acting. Here’s the thing, if that ever goes south and I can’t do it, I’ll always have modeling to fall back on.
Neither one of us is especially tall in stature. What do you think is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of your height?
The biggest advantage of being small is I’m a great cuddler. [Laughs.] That’s a small guy trait. The biggest disadvantage is going to the supermarket with women taller than you and having women get things off of shelves that you can’t reach. [Laughs.]
Why is the supermarket the place that causes the problem?
’Cause that’s the only place where I gotta get stuff off shelves. Any place else it’s cooler ’cause people gotta get stuff for you.
In the movie Cedric rubs his feet and smells his hands. What’s something about you that for someone to be with you, they have to accept it and not try to change it?
Probably me rubbing my feet and smelling my hands.
That was taken from your life?
That’s taken from my personal life. That’s me when I come home and take my socks off. I don’t want to do it; I don’t mean to do it. It’s a habit that I can’t break. As soon as the sock goes off, middle finger goes in between one toe, and there’s a slight sneaky (sniffs finger) and I just put my hand in my pocket and wait for that smell to get off my finger.
Did you even know they were shooting?
Honestly, I think I was really reading the paper and they said “Action” and I didn’t hear ’em. And that’s why there’s a delay. If you watch that scene, there’s a delay. That was me being myself right there.
What he thinks about when people talk about Chicago: “Cold. Not being able to get out the airport when it’s time to go home. Snow. Slush. Ice … [It’s not that I’m a] warm weather fan, I’m just against Chicago’s weather. There’s cold, and then there’s Chicago cold. It’s different levels of cold. I’m from the east coast, but this, it gets downright disrespectful here. It’s almost not real.”
Tips for Steve Harvey when he moves here: “Dress warm. Trenchcoat. Scarf. [Laughs.] No dress shoes here. Thick socks.”
On playing basketball on set with Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, Rasual Butler, Darren Collison and Lisa Leslie: “We had fun. It makes you respect their talent that much more because that day we played so much basketball. In between takes just playing with these guys you got to see how good they were. These people are good; they can really play. I played Shannon Brown 1-on-1; I don’t think I could get by him. He just kept putting his forearm out. He was that strong.”
Guilty pleasure movie: “There’s Something About Mary.” “Funniest movie in the world to me.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U