Ten years since appearing alongside Chris Rock in the comedy flick "Pootie Tang," J.B. Smoove has elevated his acting credentials, starring as Leon Black on HBO's hit series "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The multi-talented comedian has also expanded his brand across multiple mediums, including recurring roles on "Saturday Night Live" and "Everybody Loves Chris" and a gig as brand ambassador for Gillette shaving products.
During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, the former SNL writer discussed his latest role on NBC's new comedy series "Bent" and his aspirations to become a comedy mogul.
What was it about "Bent" that made you want to pursue the role?
I've been looking to jump on a few shows, and "Bent" is one of those shows where I can come in and do what I do. It's not my show, but it is pieces of the puzzle that I'm trying to accomplish. I've been really, really blessed to get into some cool places. I think what generally happens is that you do one thing that leads to something else. I think that "Curb [Your Enthusiasm]" has kind of given me that leeway to jump in and do something different all the time. They don't expect me to do what I did on "Curb," but they expect me to come in and [be] J.B. as opposed to coming in there and doing Leon.
What would you describe to be some of the best things of playing your character, Clem Patterson?
The cool thing about "Bent" is that I play an electrician who's part of a [working] crew, and we're building Amanda Peet's house on the show. David Walton -- his character gets a chance to get this contracting job, and he brings his crew along, and then him and Amanda end up having a relationship, so it's just great. And I love the electrician side of it, because electricians, they're the veins of the house. We allow you to see the darkness come to light. And my character takes major pride in his work.
Having the experience of writing for various projects throughout your career, how would you describe the relationship between you and the show writers?
The writers were really cool because they allowed me to come in there and not just read lines, but they allowed me to stay within context of the lines of the script but also to attach a personality to this guy. I actually got on the phone with the writers to talk about this character, because he's a unique character. But the thing that I loved about coming in and reading the script was that I got a chance to be this character, Clem, and in my own way bring him to life. But we kind of played around with him a little bit. I showed them a take on him that I thought would be great, and we ended up running with it. But they really allowed me to have a lot of freedom to play around. Coming from an improv world into the world of scripted, they have to give you some kind of leeway and trust your instincts with a character. I always give them what they want, but at the same time allow them to see something else about the character, which is fun.
Aside from "Bent," you also make an appearance in "Think Like a Man" next month. What are your thoughts on the final cut of the film?
I got a little, tiny role as a bartender. It's not a major role. Aside from all of the movies that I've been doing, I don't consider this movie an urban movie. I consider it a great movie with a great ensemble of actors, actresses and comedians, which is really funny. I actually saw the movie last month, and it's really good. And I think anyone can see this movie. I want to make sure people understand that this movie is a great movie. [Director] Tim Story did an amazing job on it, and I think that people are going to really enjoy. Don't even look at the characters; just understand that relationships and the way that men and women think is all the same. [Laughs]
Are there any other projects that you're currently working on?
I'm doing a lot of Internet stuff right now. I have my website, The Ruckus, which is an Internet site, similar to the Funny or Die format, where people post funny videos. I get a chance to rate their videos; they get a chance to blog and kick it with me. And I get a chance to see what they're doing all around the world. We kicked it off with a few of our own sketches that involved me. But the thing that we're really doing with TheRuckus.com is that we're also using it as a platform for branded content -- meaning that companies are coming to me to push their content.
So you're further extending your brand as a mogul?
I guess I always wanted to be in some way a comedian, but at the same time I loved being an ad man also. I love to pitch things that I believe in and products that I love to use. I've done Mountain Dew, I've done Gillette, Paul Masson Brandy, I've done Reebok. I've done a bunch of different ones, and I'm really trying to expand on them right now. I'm trying to be the Jay-Z of comedy one day. I don't know if there's any comedy moguls out there, but I would love to be the first comedy mogul. I tell people all the time, as I was going through my process of being a comedian or being an actor and a writer at SNL, I tell people that everything you do is all a piece of your puzzle to determine where you're going to end up at. And this industry is so vast that you can do so many different things -- people only think that it's only about humping on stage and performing or just being in front of the camera. There are so many other things for you to do. I bounce back and forth all the time between writing, the Internet thing that I'm working on right now, between stand-up, between the movies. And that sets you up to being a mogul, someone who's a mover and shaker in the industry, who's doing a variety of things.
NBC's "Bent" premieres on Wednesday, March 21, at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
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