Kevin Hart Explains Why His Role in 'The Upside' Is Different From Anything He’s Done Before

"A guy that got to show emotion on different levels, from heart to anger to vulnerability — he was real. He was just the realest thing I’ve read on page where I didn’t have to falsify or create to just have the funny," Hart said.

[Note: This interview was conducted before Hart stepped down as Oscars host.]

Audiences have always been used to seeing Kevin Hart in roles that are laugh-out-loud funny, but while his latest in Neil Burger’s The Upside, alongside Bryan Cranston, does bring its comedic moments, Hart explained to The Hollywood Reporter In Studio why the role of Dell is different from anything he’s done in the past.

“Dell gave me an opportunity to tap into a different level of acting on the big screen, and I felt that for the first time, I was approaching a piece of material that was layered,” he said. “A guy that got to show emotion on different levels, from heart to anger to vulnerability — he was real. He was just the realest thing I’ve read on page where I didn’t have to falsify or create to just have the funny.”

He added: “This was much more than funny. It was the first solid well-rounded individual that I got to take on from a material standpoint.”

The Upside, an adaptation of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, shows the relationship between a wealthy quadriplegic (Cranston) and an unemployed man with a criminal record (Hart) who is hired to help take care of him.

Director Neil Burger told THR how he wanted Cranston and Hart’s performances to be as “honest” and “real as possible," saying, “The story had, to me, such an important message, and was applicable to the real world. I wanted it to be real, real, real, and I wanted it to be honest. Bryan is playing a person with a disability [and I wanted it] to be as honest and respectful, and even with Kevin’s character, where he’s from, the world he’s coming out of, again, to be as true as possible.”

While the film does take a comedic look at the relationship between Hart and Cranston’s characters, the actor and director both stressed that the laughter comes out of moments that feel "personable" to the audience. 

“It’s funny because when we say comedy, it’s just a real performance with a real story because the laughs that you’re getting aren’t fought or sought after laughs," Hart said. "These are real moments that provide laughter because of how personable they are."

Burger added: “They’re really earned because you become invested in these characters over the course of the movie, so when they do something, or they change their rhythm, or they say something funny — whatever it is, it’s just a real release, and it’s honest laughter, which is a pleasure to see.”

Watch the video above to hear Hart and Burger discuss working with Cranston, how the film translates to today and more.