Cedric the Entertainer says ‘The Neighborhood’ is a ‘blend of culture and community’

Click to play video: '‘The Neighborhood’ trailer'
‘The Neighborhood’ trailer
‘The Neighborhood’ is a new comedy starring actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer as an opinionated neighbour wary of his new neighbours – Jun 4, 2018

The Neighborhood stars Cedric the Entertainer in a comedy about what happens when the friendliest guy in the Midwest moves his family to a neighbourhood in Los Angeles where not everyone looks like him or appreciates his extreme neighbourliness.

Dave Johnson is a good-natured, professional conflict negotiator. When his wife, Gemma, gets a job as a school principal in L.A., they move from Michigan with their young son, Grover, unfazed that their new dream home is located in a community quite different from their small town.

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Their opinionated next-door neighbor, Calvin Butler (Cedric the Enterainer), is wary of the newcomers, certain that the Johnsons will disrupt the culture on the block.

However, Calvin’s gracious wife, Tina, rolls out the welcome wagon; their chipper younger son, Marty, thinks the Johnsons could be good for the community; and their unemployed older son, Malcolm, finds Dave may finally be someone who understands him. Dave realizes that fitting into their new community is more complex than he expected, but if he can find a way to connect with Calvin, they have an excellent chance of making their new neighborhood their home.

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Global News sat down with Cedric the Entertainer to talk to him about the new show — which he also executive produces — his career, and of course, Barber Shop.

Global News: Tell me about the show.
Cedric the Entertainer: The Neighborhood is about when one of the friendliest guys in the world moves into a neighbourhood and has to meet the grumpiest guy in the world — me, Calvin Butler. It’s a show about when people who are supposedly opposite have to live right next to each other and they have to find a common ground to get along.

Tell me more about who Calvin Butler is.
Calvin Butler is a family man. I have two adult sons and a wonderful wife played by Tichina Arnold. I am a business man who’s been staying in this neighbourhood that’s been culturally ours for so long. Then, out of nowhere, this friendly guy from the mid-west moves in and just throws a wrench into everything. And that’s when Calvin blows up and we go on this journey to find a way where we can all live together in harmony.

Are you drawing on any real-life experience with neighbours?
There’s always some of those, you know. I remember having a neighbour we used to call “50 and the family.” We don’t know how many people lived in this house but it was a lot. It was one of those things where you would be very careful of going past because you didn’t know who you had spoken to already (laughs). So it was always just a general, ‘Hey everybody.’

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What are you most excited for viewers to see in the show?
I think the idea of how we blend culture, community and this opportunity to just see the humour that happens when people really get to know each other. And hopefully that will lend to the spirit that we can all get along better.

How has your experience been as an executive producer on the show?
That is one of the tougher parts. When you do a script like this, you have to really make sure that you’re sensitive to race, you’re sensitive to different cultures and what’s going on there, yet you’re looking for the funny and the way to push an audience and gain an audience all at once and finding that big cast that’s going to pop on screen and that everyone enjoys. That’s a big thing that you have to watch as an executive producer in this circumstance. You have to make sure that you have a brand of comedy that feels like it could transfer all over the world and at the same time not be afraid to push the button a little bit.

How is the atmosphere on set with the entire cast?
It’s all great. We are moving a few cast members around but in general it’s a very loving spirit, it’s led by their captain which is me. (Laughs) I am the Tom Brady of actors, everyone loves me, and we’re going to just keep winning championships (laughs). It’s that thing where you try to come in with a great spirit, work ethic and attitude and that usually carries over and we try to have fun on the set. We try to be accommodating to choices people want to make on set and see if there’s anything the actors want to try differently in scenes. That leads to a very cooperative and collaborative atmosphere.

I have to ask because I’m a huge Barber Shop fan, what was your favourite one to work on?
Probably for me it had to be the first one. It was the one where I discovered the old man character. I didn’t really know which voice I was going to use. I made that character up like I had a choice. A guy who is a great friend of mine — he was doing my security at the time — I gave him two choices and he said do that one. And that’s the guy I did with the, ‘Wait a minute, hold on.’ It was just based off of a couple of people in my life, a combination of older gentlemen that I was like, ‘Oh, this is that guy but his attitude is more this guy.’

A lot of people discovered you when you did Spike Lee’s Kings of Comedy. How did that help your career?
It was great because the opportunity of being a stand-up first and to have people discover you in a space like that, in a concert film where you first meet someone and you go, ‘Wow, this is big! Who is this guy?’ But to do it with four other great comedians and people that you love dearly. We lost Bernie Mac but Steve [Harvey] and I are still great friends and he’s doing great. D.L Hughly and I are still great friends and we still tour together. It’s really special to have been part of something like that. It’s like a Rolling Stones kind of situation, of course … I’m Mick Jagger (laughs).
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You’ve done Broadway and you were the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. What’s been the most difficult for you in your career?
Broadway was very difficult. I came into it as a comedic actor so the stand-up leads you to acting roles but when you do Broadway there is a circumstance where you have to honour the written word and you don’t have the opportunity to improve like in most of the movies that I do. Because I’m Cedric Tha Entertainer, I can be somewhere near the script, I don’t have to be dead on (laughs). But Broadway was a lot of work to honour what the playwriter has written each and every night. It was tough but it was probably the most rewarding because as a person, I feel like I grew the most from that.

Is there anything that you haven’t done that you really want to do?
I directed an independent movie but I would probably want to direct more. I’ve directed my show, The Soul Man. That’s a fun space because you get to show your visual side. But doing more dramatic roles would be good, too. I’m in a great movie now called First Reformed with Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried. If you want to see me do a little more drama, that’s the movie.

If you could describe The Neighborhood in one word, what would it be? Or you could use a hashtag to make it all one word.
I would use #NeighborhoodHilarious.

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[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

The Neighborhood premieres on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Global. 

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