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Kevin Hart: The Next Rom-Com King?

The comedian talks about his turn in Think Like a Man and why Trayvon jokes are off limits.

Kevin Hart (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

At Le Parker Méridien hotel in New York City on Wednesday, comedian Kevin Hart was all smiles. Although he's small in stature, his presence -- and excitement about his projects --  is not, perhaps confirming the truth in the tongue-in-cheek title of his 2009 stand-up special, I'm a Grown Little Man.

The reason for his cheer? The Five-Year Engagement, a film in which he co-stars with Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival's opening night later that evening. He's also celebrating the release and good reviews of his other new film, Think Like a Man, which is based on Steve Harvey's best-seller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.

"This is my first solid, good movie," Hart says of the latter in a comment that is part jest, part seriousness. "I've been part of a lot of movies, and I can't say that I have tons of good movies under my belt. I'm about 20 movies in the can, but this is just a good film."

Now, on the cusp of what could be his breakthrough into the mainstream rom-com milieu, Hart spoke to The Root about his foray into romantic comedies, why Think Like a Man is not a black film and why you'll never hear him joke about Trayvon Martin.

The Root: In Five-Year Engagement, you play Doug, a Ph.D. student who studies the psychology of masturbation. Was playing a student a stretch for you?

Kevin Hart: Yes. Here's why. I am a product of a two-week community college education. So my college experience is very minimal. [To play] Doug, I had to do some research. I had to study to get my terms and verbiage down. I wanted to come off educated.

Not only was Doug smart and intelligent, but he believes in his theories and his studies. I didn't want to come off as Kevin Hart, the silly guy with so much energy. I wanted to play the nerd side, you know, because Doug is really into books.

TR: If you were to pursue a Ph.D., do you think you would take up some of the same subject matter as Doug?

KH: I don't need to take it up as a theory. I've proved everything I need to prove to myself. Doug is different. He wanted facts and proof. I already know what it's about, what it can do and different ways to get it done, so I'm well versed in that area.

TR: You've heard the criticism of Steve Harvey's book. What do you say to those who say that the entire notion of acting like a lady but thinking like a man is sexist?