Kevin James Talks 'Zookeeper' Life Lessons

Columbia TriStar

The actor explains what he took away from his furry co-stars.

In Kevin James' new comedy Zookeeper, the actor takes on yet another lovable average Joe in desperate need of dating advice. Unlike his supporting role in 2005's Hitch, James' character finds himself relying on a bevy of zoo creatures for advice rather than the smooth-talking Will Smith.

The new film sees Griffin Keyes (James) being persuaded by his superficial girlfriend (Leslie Bibb) to pursue a more glamorous career path than the one he's on. Desperate to retain their trusty keeper, the zoo animals he cares for band together to teach him about life and love.

"Animals act on complete instinct, and in some ways it works and it's a lot better," James said during a press conference for the film. "Maybe we need to go back to that and just act on our instincts. But some of those behaviors can go a little bit off — like marking your territory or throwing poop.

"But it was just a fun world to be in," he continued. "Because animals don't play games; they don't pretend to be something they're not. They just go out and do it, and that's it. They might get killed or eaten or whatever, but whatever happens just happens, and it's completely natural. And that's the way I'm going to live from now on."

Though the film is intended to be silly, James insists that there are definite life lessons to be learned from the story.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I've tried in the past being someone I'm not to impress somebody and to try and be who I think they want me to be," he explained. "And ultimately it ends up being a mistake. I think when you find out who you really are and find someone who loves you for that, that's when it works the best. I think the movie is kind of about being yourself."

James added that although his character has a way with the animals, being on set was nerve-wracking.

"The bears were close to us (on set), and all I would do is plan my escape route," he said. "I know I'm faster than [Director Frank Coraci], and I know the cameraman's a smoker — I push him aside, and I'm out the door and already back in my trailer. That's the way I would plan it, and it was scary at times.

"But the lion was the one that was most intimidating," he continued. "You know, the bears were huge and goofy, and they felt sweet. But that lion came on the set and boy…"

Zookeeper hits theaters today.