The Zookeep, The Mall Cop – Kevin James is known for his slapstick talents and not necessarily his emotional range. Yet, with his new project, the MMA comedy Here Comes The Boom, which he's written, produced and stars in, we see this different side of the King of Queens actor.
James tells the story of a grade school biology teacher turned MMA fighter, and If you thought this was just going to be Paul Blart transferred to the ring, think again, because this is something we've never seen James do before – be a straight guy. "It's a little bit of a different shift. It's a little bit more adult in the sense of it's not me falling all over the place," laughs James. "I'm proud in the way that it's a little bit of a different comedy – I'm more reactive."
In explaining what inspired him to take this material a tad more seriously than past projects, he credits all the great teachers he's had in the past. Throughout the movie, his character, Scott Voss, is raising money for the school's music department and simultaneously re-ignites his passion for shaping children's lives.
"I had some great teachers in my past. One was named Mr. Vetcher – like in the movie – he was such a great guy and influenced me in a positive way. I still adhere to some of his principles to this day. That's to show you how much a good teacher can influence," he explains.
As for his character's transformation throughout the movie, James says it's something everyone can relate with. "Everybody's complacent in their life in one way or another," he says. "It happens, whatever job you're in. It's certainly happened to me. And you need something to kind of wake you up, inspire you again and say, 'I wanna be a better version of myself'."
Of course, education wasn't the only thing fueling his motivation to make this movie. "I've been a fan of UFC and always wanted to make this type of a movie, where it'd be a real inspirational type of movie," says James.
In order to do the sport justice, he brought in professional fighters and personalities as opposed to actors to do the job (Joe Rogan, Herb Dean, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and more appear) and trained with MMA specialist Mark Dellagrote (who also makes an appearance) for over a year to prepare for his fight scenes. "I want to show the human side of fighting," says James, which is why he brought his longtime friend and MMA speicalist Bas Rutten aboard the project. And according to Rutten, working on movies is not so different from working with pro fighters.
"It's very close to comedy. A bunch of them are really funny guys, too. They're all cut from the same wood," says James, although he found the experience a tad different than the usual collaboration with actors. "After you fight another human, being there can't be any animosity. You just did it all and left it on the mat there," he laughs.
As for what James hopes people get out of this movie, he explains that he doesn't just want people to laugh (though you will, don't worry), but to shed a positive light on the often overlooked sport. "I've had a passion for this for a very long time," he says. "It wasn't just the fighting that made me so inspired – it was what they were inspired by that made them do this and finding out that they're regular guys, they're regular people." —Rebecca Hillary