Q: What’s it like joining the world of Ride Along?
A: Joining the world of Ride Along is like jumping onboard a fast moving train (laughs).
Q: Tell us about the character you play?
A: I play a man by the name of Antonio Pope who is almost the personification of this great, fabulous, wealthy city. He’s a celebrated citizen, clearly a successful businessman and a friend of politicians. He’s also a playboy, a man who has all the right toys and all the right clients. And we also learn quite early on in the film that he’s involved with certain illicit activities. But in his mind he’s just a good businessman. So yes, to play someone like that who lives in that kind of elevated layer of fine air, you know, and playing opposite Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, was a pretty great thing to shoot.
Q: You don’t usually play a character like this. Was that fun for you?
A: Absolutely. You know, the funny thing is I’m often the cop or the detective. So not only is it a first for me to be in an action comedy, it’s also a first to play this kind of villain.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in making it?
A: The trick for me as an actor was to not play it for comedy. That’s Kevin’s job and Ken’s (co-star Ken Jeong). I had to find the gravitas to bring to it. And this is something the director, Tim Story, and I talked about. The only way a character like this can work is if you bring that sense of danger and threat... That said, in the writing, there is also a kind of stylized approach to the character that you want to try to make real. He speaks in a certain way. He says certain things that are just a little off – things that make you think that here’s a guy who no one says no to and that he has to take things to a higher and higher and level to get the thrill. He might just be a little bit of a freak, you know (laughs).
Q: What was it like filming here in Miami?
A: The truth is you could have made Ride Along 2 in any city and made it work. But to set it here in Miami, you know, one of the most sexy, sensual, international cities in the country, it just brings that much more to the film. And I think it’s clear that the city itself emerges as one of the major characters in the film. You can feel that.
Q: What is it about the combination of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart that works so well on screen?
A: They’re a continuation of a long line of comedians who make this sort of dynamic work. And it’s as old as film comedy, really. Not to date myself, but you can go back as far as Laurel and Hardy… They’re part of that tradition of the eternal movie ‘odd couple’. There’s an ever present element of friction. They just don’t go well together. And yet you find underneath it all there’s a true care and love there. That’s the thing. As much as they don’t belong together, they can’t be apart. They ultimately care about each other. When you have someone like Kevin Hart who is a master comedian at the top of his game opposite someone who is as real and OG as Ice Cube, it’s organic.
Q: Do we see it again in the new film?
A: They created that alchemy in the first one. Here in the second one, all the stakes are elevated. The film is bigger. More action. The writing is more comedic. And their alchemy, their chemistry – they can answer each other’s lines without effort. I mean, Cube says more with a look sometimes than he does with a word. That comes with familiarity and spending time together. The good news for audiences is the banter is the star. The banter, the friction between them, is really what drives the films.
Ride Along 2 is out on Blu-ray and DVD now.