The YouTube comedy sensation, who makes his big-screen debut alongside Sandra Bullock in The Heat (in theaters June 28), talks harsh women, being yourself, and keeping up with the cyber age.
This feature appears in Complex's April/May 2013 issue.
"When I was growing up, my mother told me, 'The girl you like the most will say something bad about you, and it’ll make you want to do better in life.' One girl in particular made me feel worthless. She told me I wore the same clothes over and over. I couldn’t afford new clothes. I’d wear the same shoes, and I rarely changed shirts. I was in school but my mind wasn’t focused on the right things. I was in and out of jobs. I was just trying to find myself… But that motivated me to make something of myself.
"I studied everybody on YouTube to see how they put together their videos. It didn’t matter if they had 50 views—I wanted to know why they only had 50 views instead of 50,000. I wanted to see what they did right, and if I could put my twist on it. That way, I could build my own audience… But I knew I had to stay true to myself. I’m the type of person who tells the truth or doesn’t speak at all. When you’re watching my videos, you’re not watching a character—you’re watching me.
"My agent sent me the script for The Heat and told me to put myself on tape for an audition… But I said no. I told him, 'I’m going to fly out to L.A., from Orlando, and audition for it in person.' I paid $1,500 for a ticket, went to L.A., took a one-day acting class, auditioned the next day, and got the role. It was all about energy and first impressions. I took a risk becoming an actor, so I wanted to make sure that I did it to my full capability. I couldn’t half-ass it. They needed to see what I’m all about.
"It surprises people that I’m making the move into the film industry so soon. That’s how things happen in the digital age. When you’re working online, your career tends to move fast… But it’s a gift and a curse. You can go away just as fast as you come up. That’s why I’ve always made sure that my comedy is timeless. I’ve studied Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. They never timed their content. When you don’t date your material, you create a loyal fan base that will watch you years later."