Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg are probably the two busiest dads in America. There’s the work — acting in five movies this year alone between them, not to mention each producing over half a dozen movies and TV series, plus Hart's best-selling Reality Check stand-up tour. There’s the gym schedules that these movie-star-fit men need to follow, with the guns to show for it. Let’s not forget the kids — eight children between the two of them (four each), ranging from age 2 to 18. How these two dads find time for all of it and still find time for themselves — well, it’s a magic trick we want to hear about.
So what’s their secret? Their new Netflix comedy might provide a hint. In the buddy movie Me Time, Hart and Wahlberg not only bring the laughs but a real sense of parental honesty. Watching the movie gives you a glimpse of who these guys are, but talking to them in person reveals another layer.
In Me Time, Hart plays Sonny, a devoted and somewhat square stay-at-home dad. Walhberg plays Huck, a freewheeling old friend without kids who still thinks he’s a young buck who can throw all-night ragers. Sonny is probably the more familiar mode of these two dads. As director John Hamburg tells Fatherly, Hart plays a character he understands.
“I don’t think Kevin [Hart] makes school lunches. I don’t think Kevin is head of the PTA or is as cautious as Sonny,” Hamburg says with a laugh. “But, I think Kevin connected with it because he is a completely devoted parent and devoted family person, so I think emotionally he could relate to someone who does everything for their kids.”
Though Huck shares Wahlberg’s “tough guy with a heart of gold” persona, he’s otherwise playing against who he really is: a serious businessman devoted to a large, close family. But, this isn’t to say Huck isn’t 100% the anti-Wahlberg. “Mark has a persona of this sort of tough guy, super strong, but he’s also such a sweetheart,” Hamburg explains. “That, I think, is what he connected with in Huck.”
Through Huck, Wahlberg delivers a fantasy that all dads have at some point. What if … we never settled down? Or at least, what if we got a chance to live that fantasy of not-settling, if only for a weekend?
Me Time answers the question outrageously — bank-breaking parties, vengeful loan sharks, tortoise hijinks, and duets with Seal abound — but the movie sometimes gets profound, too. We all make our own time as parents, as people, as men. But are we making the most of it? For Hart and Wahlberg, all signs point to yes. In an exclusive sit-down with Fatherly, they let us in on some of their dad-secrets to having it all.
You're both parents, and although you're A-list actors and not exactly stay-at-home dads like Sonny, are there parts of Me Time that you really related to as dads?
Hart: I think a lot of it. Being able to just be hands-on with your kids, to get that time in, to be a part of their biggest moments. That's what every dad should hope for, should want. I know as actors, talent, business guys, et cetera, sometimes that's the gift and the curse. That's the compromise. Prioritizing our kids is what's become the priority.
Fatherly really likes to celebrate cool dads, and coolness kind of comes from confidence in who you are outside of your relationship with your family, and can help make you a more holistic parent. How do you personally balance the two?
Hart: When you say we celebrate cool dads, I just wanna say there's no such thing as an uncool dad. Cause the uncool dad is the perfect dad. I think the “cool dad” is the dad that's unafraid to be the uncool dad. Embracing the awkward and not taking yourself too seriously and knowing that your responsibility is simply providing and being there for your newborn. That, that new life that you're trying your best to provide for, that's the coolest in the world.
With that being said, let me answer your question. [Laughs.] Well, I don't think they compromise, right? You have to learn to be yourself with your kids. I try not to be a hypocrite. I try to ground myself in a realistic perspective. When you're telling a kid what you expect from 'em, it shouldn't be nothing that you didn't expect from yourself. Don't shy away from things that you know, that you didn't do right. I know what I was, so I can't expect you to do the things above and beyond what I did when I know my blood is in you.
Walhberg: I want to be a good example for my kids. I don't want to bark all these things out when I'm doing the complete opposite. Right. But I hope they gravitate towards my faith and their faith. We just want them to be happy. Successful at whatever they decide to do, but I just want them really to be happy. I've tried to push it in the direction that I wanted to go and realized that that's not, that's not the thing to do. They're their own individuals.
Let's say the two of you have some time to yourself. What do you do? Is it together? Is it separate? Are you getting into trouble like Huck or are you just hanging back and catching up on movies and TV?
Hart: Low profile, man. Low profile.
Walhberg: We'll have a nice little beverage and chill. We'll chat and we'll talk. But that's always, for me, it's enough. I just like spending quality time, whether it's over a meal or having a drink and just talking. The nightlife and all that stuff is well behind us. I'm curious what it looks like, but that door’s closed.
Hart: Take a peek in the door. You don't have to go in there. You just look in there. Wow. Look at that.
I spoke to John Hamburg yesterday and he said that I should ask you, Kevin, why Huck calling things “stupid” made you crack up so much.
Hart: It's the best line in the movie. There's not a better line in this film than Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Huck and Huck saying, “Shut up, stupid." He's so passionate when he calls people stupid. You're so stupid. It's so childish.
Walhberg: [In that scene] I was just messing with the lady. I was just improvising. She comes out of the vet's asking, "Who left the turtle there?" She was complaining. And I was just like really trying to get her to focus on helping the turtle. Focus on the task at hand, the turtle is in trouble!
Speaking of trouble, have your kids ever really taken you down? Like, have your kids ever mocked you so hard that it kinda hurt?
Hart: All the time. That's how kids do. They're the most honest and they're brutal. I think that's the beauty of the relationship. You know, my kids tear it up. "Oh, dad. Dad, stop. Nobody thinks that's cool. Dad, stop. That's corny." Like, that's that their natural instinct is to be cooler, be better, and you wouldn't want it any other way.
Is there a lesson that either of you learned about parenting in the past year, specifically?
Wahlberg: Now that we've, we've moved, my daughter's getting ready to tour colleges, my son now starting a new high school. You're constantly growing and you know, that saying, "Youth is wasted on the young”? It's so frustrating because there are all these things that you wish you could go back and do differently. You don't get that opportunity. So you try to help your kids by explaining to them sharing mistakes that you've made and things that you've done that you regret. And hopefully, they don't have to go through those things.
Me Time is streaming now on Netflix.
Photographer: Art Streiber
Set Designer: Enoch M. Choi
Talent Bookings: Special Projects