TIF­FANY HAD­DISH

MAL­COLM D. LEE’S ‘NIGHT SCHOOL’ BRINGS TO­GETHER THE PO­TENT COMBO OF KEVIN HART AND TIF­FANY HAD­DISH

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Star­ring Kevin Hart and Tif­fany Had­dish, “Night School” fol­lows a class of mis­fits de­ter­mined to get their GEDs. “It is very funny, and of course, the two stars on it could not be hot­ter right now,” said Orr. “Kevin Hart and Tif­fany Had­dish are just as hot as it gets in com­edy and en­ter­tain­ment, pe­riod, around the world.”

When Kevin Hart came up with the idea for “Night School,” he con­ceived of it as an adult ver­sion of John Hughes’ clas­sic “The Break­fast Club.” “The idea came from me just think­ing about how funny it would be to place adults back in a high school-like at­mos­phere,” said Hart, who co-wrote and stars in the ilm. “What made ‘The Break­fast Club’ so spe­cial was that it only fo­cused on those ive char­ac­ters (so) you re­ally got to dive into each one of their sto­ries.”

Rather than group de­ten­tion, “Night School” bands to­gether a dis­parate class of seven stu­dents seek­ing to pass the GED exam. The mot­ley group in­cludes Teddy (Hart), a schmooz­ing sweet-talker whose re­cent ca­reer change de­mands a high school diploma or equiv­a­lent; Jalen (Ro­many Malco), re­cently un­em­ployed due to ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy and still touchy about it; Big Mac (Rob Rig­gle), a dad seek­ing to in­spire his teenage son to in­ish high school; and Theresa (Mary Lynn Ra­jskub), a hard­work­ing mom go­ing back to school to gain some in­de­pen­dence from her dom­i­neer­ing hus­band. Al Madri­gal (who plays Luis, a Mex­i­can im­mi­grant with a per­sonal vendetta against Teddy), Anne Win­ters (as Mila, who was given a choice be­tween night school and ju­vie) and Fat Joe (as Bobby, an in­mate who Skypes into class from prison) round out the cast.

“The movie is about a di­verse group of un­der­dogs who are look­ing for a sec­ond chance. None of their lives have gone the way that they thought they were go­ing to go,” said pro­ducer Will Packer. “We wanted to make sure it was a re­ally di­verse group of folks from var­i­ous back­grounds and per­spec­tives.” While in­d­ing the right en­sem­ble could make or break the ilm, Packer re­mem­bers the cast­ing process as rel­a­tively seam­less. “It wasn’t an ex­ten­sive au­di­tion process,” he said. “We kind of knew who we wanted. Th­ese were es­tab­lished co­me­di­ans for the most part. We wanted to go af­ter some of the best in the busi­ness and folks that could do a va­ri­ety of things.” “We wanted to go funny,” agreed Hart. “And we wanted peo­ple that could im­prov. Peo­ple that could bring the ma­te­rial on the page to life and add a new lavour to it.”

In fact, im­pro­vi­sa­tion skills were in­stru­men­tal in de­cid­ing whom to hire. “You can’t have a movie like this and not (im­prov),” said Hart. “That’s why I went af­ter Tif­fany Had­dish (who plays Car­rie, the night school in­struc­tor), that’s why I went af­ter Ro­many Malco. That’s why we of­fered it to Rob Rig­gle. Some peo­ple just got of­fers be­cause we knew what they could do.” And though the ilm’s pro­mo­tional push has fo­cused on stars Hart and Had­dish, the night school class­mates (as well as other sup­port­ing char­ac­ters) pro­vide some of the big­gest laughs.

Com­ing off the break­out suc­cess of “Girls Trip,” Lee (and Had­dish) had ex­pe­ri­enced irst-hand what a dif­fer­ence one movie can make in an ac­tor ’s ca­reer. And the di­rec­tor jumped at the chance to work on a project that gave even more op­por­tu­ni­ties for sup­port­ing play­ers to make their mark. “I would say they’re all scene stealers in their own right,” Lee said of his “Night School” cast. “And for me, it’s al­ways great to put great co­me­di­ans, ac­tors, im­prov peo­ple in the arena to­gether. They can play with one an­other and go with their dif­fer­ent styles of com­edy and you get some­thing mag­i­cal when that hap­pens.”

The ilm­mak­ers credit each of the ac­tors for find­ing idio­syn­cra­sies in their char­ac­ters that added tex­ture to their sto­ries and si­mul­ta­ne­ously di­aled up the hu­mour. “Some of it was in the script, and some of it we found as the ac­tors started per­form­ing and re­ally started to be­come their char­ac­ters,” said Packer. “Ro­many is a good ex­am­ple. We had Jalen writ­ten on the page as this char­ac­ter who doesn’t trust tech­nol­ogy and what Ro­many did was just ratchet it up a notch. He made him this cere­bral con­spir­acy the­o­rist which was a re­ally, re­ally funny way to go with that char­ac­ter.” Be­tween Al and Ro­many, I feel they both steal the movie.”

The ilm’s strong cast ex­tends be­yond the class­room as well, with Ben Schwartz as Teddy’s long­time friend, Me­ga­lyn Echikun­woke as Teddy’s high-pow­ered iancee, Yvonne Orji as her pro­tec­tive friend and Keith David and Bre­sha Webb play­ing Teddy’s fa­ther and sis­ter. “Satur­day Night Live” vet­eran Taran Kil­lam, who plays the school’s strict prin­ci­pal and Teddy’s for­mer high school ri­val Ste­wart, also con­trib­utes some of the most mem­o­rable jokes of the ilm. “The whole idea be­hind the prin­ci­pal was that he was such a fan of ‘Lean On Me,’” said Hart. “I said the fun­ni­est thing in the world is to have a white guy that em­braces Joe Clark. So that’s where the bat came from, that’s where the ‘I’m go­ing to whip this school into shape’ per­spec­tive on ed­u­ca­tion came from.”

Hav­ing es­tab­lished him­self as one of Hol­ly­wood’s few re­main­ing bank­able com­edy stars with hits in­clud­ing “Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence,” “Ride Along” and “Ju­manji: Wel­come to the Jun­gle,” there’s no doubt­ing that “Night School” is a Kevin Hart ve­hi­cle. But the star ac­knowl­edges that al­low­ing oth­ers a turn in the spot­light only served the movie over­all. “You want peo­ple to have the conidence to be the best ver­sion of them­selves,” said Hart. “So we es­tab­lished a high level of com­fort from the be­gin­ning. We wanted to give ev­ery­body mo­ments to score, which is why I can openly say I’m not the fun­ni­est per­son in this movie. I’m the straight guy for the most part.”

Tif­fany Had­dish, (left), and Kevin Hart in a scene from ‘Night School.’

Tif­fany Had­dish

Kevin Hart

Mal­colm D. Lee

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