Kevin Hart is back on Netflix. Only this time, it’s like you’ve never seen him before. That’s because this week marks the premiere of True Story, a rare dramatic turn for the actor as he plays a conflicted comedian who has to deal with the possibility that he killed someone. That one death leads to a trail of murder, betrayal, and fear that will change Kid’s (Hart) life forever.
The limited series is instantly gripping, one that smartly darts between high-energy drama and pained introspection at a moment’s notice. Ahead of its premiere, Decider spoke to series’ stars Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes as well as showrunner Eric Newman about Hart’s switch to drama, the complex relationship between these two brothers, and that gasp-worthy ending. Spoilers ahead for True Story‘s finale.
It all started with Kevin Hart’s love of Narcos. That’s what prompted the A-list celebrity to approach Narcos and Narcos: Mexico showrunner Eric Newman about his own deeply dramatic and morally complex saga.
“When you watch Narcos, the most intriguing and interesting thing about it was he made Pablo Escobar a good guy. As bad of a guy as he was and as bad as the thing that he did, on this show you found yourself rooting for Pablo Escobar,” Hart explained. “That was because of great character portrayal, the stuff that was put on display. I can show you the bad, and I can show you how angry he gets while doing it, but at the same time, I’m going to compromise your feelings by showing you his heart, by showing you his good as well. I’m going to give you the decision. I’m going to let you make the decision.”
It was this audience-first storytelling that spoke to Hart and led to him approaching Newman with an interesting proposition. Kevin Hart wanted to kill someone.
“The reason why I started the conversation off with ‘I want to kill somebody’ is because I wanted to get his attention. I wanted to get Eric’s attention in a different way. He was waiting for me to laugh, he was waiting for the joke, and I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to kill somebody. And I’ve got to figure out how to do that. I think you can help me in figuring it out,’” Hart said. “He said, ‘Give me a little bit of time to sit on it.’ And he took the idea and came back to me and gave me this world where he felt like we could get there. The world was based off the conversation he and I had, and I was blown away. And then we just ping ponged. We just took that thing that he brought back, that structure, that elevated skeleton, and we amplified it to a point where we felt that we had a story.”
That story is a complex one. After a night hanging out with his brother Carlton (Wesley Snipes), mega-famous comedian Kid (Hart) wakes up next to a dead woman. Over the course of seven episodes, Kid has to do whatever it takes to secure his fame and fortune. On one level, it’s about two brothers who are struggling with the reality of their changing relationship. On another, it’s a tale about the extreme measures people take when they fear their lives are on the line.
Nailing this incredibly complicated sibling dynamic was essential to making the tension of this series feel real. “Honestly, it’s a dynamic that you find in the inner city amongst siblings quite often,” Snipes said. “Carlton’s character, he did a lot for his little brother when he was young and was the big dog on the street, big dog in the house. Certain things that he did helped launch that catapult, at least opened the pathway, for his brother to become this superstar. And now the little brother is the big dog.”
Snipes may not have any personal experience with Kid and Carlton’s specific relationship, but he did find inspiration in his life. “I didn’t grow up with my brother, who I love. We didn’t have any fights or anything like that. So some of the dynamic of the relationship was a little bit far away from me, but I’ve seen it with others,” Snipes said. “I’ve seen the dynamic of having friends that ride with you when you’re poor, broke, and lonely, and then when you come up, tensions arise. And it’s natural.”
Though True Story marks one of Hart’s first dramatic roles, the comedy superstar wasn’t afraid to confront the material. “When you talk about the side of dramatic acting, that’s not a challenge for me. I had that. I know that I had that and that I could do that,” Hart said. “It’s just making sure that we connect the dots of story because you can have great acting with a horrible story, and the great acting means nothing, right? So just from a creative process, it was making sure that Kid’s trajectory and journey lined up properly. How does he get to the place he got? And how do we keep an audience engaged? How do we do that? That’s the part where I can say that was a challenge was making sure all those dots connected.”
“What Kevin was willing to do, and I think what Wesley helped him do as an actor, was go all the way there. Really invest in that dynamic, that character. Feel both the benefits and the deficits that come with being a celebrity and being famous,” Newman said. “What proved to me that Kevin could do it was his absolute, total commitment to doing it. It’s not always going to be enough because talent enters into it. But I’m assuming we can get to a certain place, Kevin’s gotten to a certain place. Talent’s not the issue. It would be about commitment, and he really did it.”
“I knew Kevin was committed when he was crying and doing those crying scenes and boogers started to run down his nose,” Snipes added.
Snipes was instrumental in honing Hart’s skills as a dramatic actor. The Blade and Demolition Man star’s biggest piece of advice to Hart was to put down his phone. “Phone down so that you can learn and absorb the world of the character, so you’re not just playing yourself. And then, take the time to focus. Push everybody away, go stand in the corner, go stand off to the side. Isolate, mediate, get centered, and then treat it like that. Don’t treat it like you’re just going to come in and do the scene and then pop out,” Snipes said. “I think he did a fantastic job. Dramatic acting is hard. It’s not easy. So many people long for it. They reason that they don’t have it because it’s hard. Not everybody can do it. Not everybody is committed to doing it , not everybody has the personality and the temperament to release themselves and to go that deep and to go that far into it. Bravo, Kev.”
That very commitment is what makes the final episode of True Story soar. After six heart-pounding episodes following Kid and Carlton as they dig themselves deeper and deeper into trouble, Kid learns that the dead woman he woke up beside was never dead in the first place. Instead, she was paid by Carlton to fake her death so that he could extort his brother. Realizing that the lives he’s taken and the lies he’s told have all been for nothing, Kid shoots his own brother in Episode 7, pining this entire bloody saga onto the troubled Carlton. In the end, Kid walks away as the triumphant victim. It’s a crown he wears eerily well.
“[Kid] was always going to exploit it as part of his story,” Newman revealed. “That was the thing for me as someone who’s been in the business for a minute, I’ve seen the exploitation of tragedy a million times, and I don’t even judge it at this point. But in the case of Kid, this is going to be good for him. And not just because he’s come to terms with his relationship with his brother and gotten some truth there, but he’s going to sell a lot of tickets. He’s going to go on some victory lap. He’s going to go on Oprah. He’s on Don Lemon at the end of the show talking about this loss. And yes, there’s a loss. Clearly he was betrayed by his brother but there’s something deeply narcissistic about our ending, you know? I love it.”