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Kevin Hart Talks About His New Children's Book

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, you know Kevin Hart as a comedian whose standup shows fill stadiums around the country, as an actor and producer whose films like "Jumanji" fill the theaters, and as a pitchman starring in commercials on 24/7. And now one of the hardest working men in show biz has another title to add to his resume, kids book author, with his new title aimed at the middle school set. It's called "Marcus Makes A Movie," and Kevin Hart is with us now to tell us more about it. Mr. Hart, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

KEVIN HART: Oh, thank you for having me again - excited to be here.

MARTIN: Well, you talk about your kids a lot. I mean, you have four. So why this book for this age group? What was the inspiration?

HART: I think the most important reason for me is that I'm in a position now in my life, in my career where you want to make sure that you are doing your part in giving back and providing information. And, you know, the story of Marcus and Marcus's journey towards making a movie, it's all filled with self-belief. And, you know, when you're talking about this younger generation, I think that that's something that we need to make sure that these kids really have, just the self-awareness and understanding of what they truly are capable of, and putting their mind to anything, they can achieve it and just win - right? - and become the best versions of themselves possible.

MARTIN: Was this your quarantine project?

HART: It was before. I started it before. So I've been working on this for quite some time. Of course, it bled into the quarantine period because we were shut down for a while.

MARTIN: Well, how did you manage it for somebody as restless as you are, who works all the time? Were you going crazy?

HART: It was a gift and a curse. You know, I mean, COVID was real. People lost lives because of it. And, you know, we had to take it serious. But it put me in a position to really spend time with my family and be present in ways that I wasn't in the past. And I needed that. I needed to be home. I needed to be with my wife and kids. And I needed to have that time. And it was one of the first times that I got to relax and just be creative. As the time kind of went on, I got creative and ended up doing a standup special and a TV show, "Celebrity Game Face," with my company and my partners at Big Breakfast. But we kind of figured it out and - just likely (ph). That's all.

MARTIN: I love how you dropped in a, oh, yeah, well, I created a TV show, so yeah - like, OK, sure. Like, that's what we all did. Some of us just, like, reorganized our closets. I'm just saying.

HART: (Laughter).

MARTIN: But anyway - so let's hear about the star of the book, Marcus. He's a skinny kid. He loves to draw. He's got a character who's - his superhero character is kind of his alter ego. Tell me a little bit more about Marcus. And how did he come to you? And did the kids give you some input into - your kids give you some input into the character?

HART: Well, my kids were definitely a part of this development process because, you know, that's who I'm closest to. So seeing the world through their eyes now is - it's a fun thing. It's a fun thing because I remember the times when I was their age, and I get to equate my then to their now.

And, you know, one thing that a lot of kids go through, and I did as well - you know, when you go through tough times, there's the whole, if I was this type of person, I would do this, and this would never happen. Like, that's - it's like that wishful thinking of what else you could do if you had or if you were. And we kind of create this alter ego as kids. And I felt Marcus being that kid that, you know, was having a tough time with kids in school, whether it was being bullied or dealing with some version of that, it was about what that alter ego would do to those guys.

And that's where Marcus - that's where he found his niche. His niche was in creating these comic books with these characters. And Toothpick was a character in a comic book, but Toothpick was ultimately - it was ultimately Marcus. It was who Marcus turned into to defend himself against the difficult kids that he had to encounter. And that's one thing that can keep a kid occupied. It's creativity. It's allowing your mind to roam and be free. And what you put on that page is what you ultimately believe can become a reality. And that's what he did. Marcus wanted that world to become a movie. And when he found out that it was possible, there was nothing that could stop him from doing it.

MARTIN: But what I also love about it is that Marcus realizes he isn't the answer to every question, you know? He has to learn to trust other people. He can't do it all by himself.

HART: Absolutely.

MARTIN: And I was just curious about that.

HART: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Like, why was that an important message for you?

HART: Because that's me in my workplace. Now, I mean, I'm CEO and the chairman, et cetera, but I had to get to a space of comfort in knowing that hiring these different individuals can only make the thing that I believe in, that they believe in better. And that's one thing that he has to realize. You know, he thinks that he knows it all. He thinks it's his way or the highway. And he realizes that, yo, you know what? I need help. And he goes and taps on those friendships. And, you know, those close relationships put him in a place where he can help develop and create the thing that he truly wants to do.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, you know, this has been a rough year for - year and a half for, you know, a lot of people. A lot of people are telling us it's made them see things differently. Is there any way in which you think it changed you?

HART: Well, I think the biggest change for me is just realizing that we're not in control, right? Like, we're not in control of the unknown. And this was a major unknown. So for me, that was the eye-opener. It was like, if this were to happen again, what would I want to have in place so that, you know, me and my family are prepared, secure and OK? It just put me in a place where I was asking myself a lot of those questions after seeing what we saw so many go through.

MARTIN: Well, Kevin Hart, thank you so much for talking to us. Kevin Hart is an actor, comedian and producer. His latest book is for the young adult set. It's called "Marcus Makes A Movie," and it is out now. Kevin Hart, thank you so much for talking with us.

HART: Thank you. I appreciate you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.