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Here Comes the Boom's Kevin James on Faith and Fighting for Kids

By Hannah Goodwyn Senior Producer - You know him from the TV show, The King of Queens, and recent goofy comedy movies, including Grown Ups and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Actor Kevin James has been getting laughs from audiences for years, on stage, on television and on the big screen. His new movie, Here Comes the Boom, about a teacher who moonlights as a MMA fighter to raise money for his struggling school opened this past weekend.

James, a family man who grew up going to church, is excited about this new project for many reasons. He shared some insight about the film and his personal life in a recent interview with Here are excerpts from that conversation:

Hannah Goodwyn: You've described Here Comes the Boom as an "inspirational comedy." What do you want to inspire people to do, to be?

Kevin James: To be a better version of themselves, to take control. Only they can take control of what they do which, in fact, can inspire those around you in that it really has an effect on other people, how you act in a situation. By taking care of your own "home" and doing it like that, it has an effect on those around you. Simply, everybody has to change, our nature.

I believe that there is no neutral, really. Either you're growing or you're receding. Now, you're either living or you're dying in a way. It feels to me that when people become complacent, and we all do in our lives at some point or another, that you need to take the best of yourself and basically apply yourself to become the best version of yourself. That, in turn, will inspire those around you, hopefully, to do the same. It's got a ripple effect, and it can go, all across the land it can literally happen.

In this movie, particularly, it happens with one teacher who lost his way. Then see what his sacrifice is… he is driven to give the ultimate sacrifice, which is to basically lay down his life for his friend. In hopes of and in doing that, he inspires all the students, which inspired the community. Everybody gets behind him. It's like a snowball effect.

HG: You've talked about the MMA fighting in the movie being a metaphor, that your character was sacrificial… "He will lay down his life for his friends, which is the greatest love." That sounds very biblical.

KJ: Well, it is. Even if it's not in the Bible, it's true. When you sacrifice, when you do these things, there is no greater love; and it doesn't have to be so drastic. It's self-sacrifice, really, in helping your friends. It doesn't have to be necessarily to the death. Like this guy is going out and doing what he can. But it can also be in very small things, just doing something for someone unexpectedly, and it just changed their outlook. The thing that we're trying to get across here is sometimes you don't realize the ripple effect, the effect that can changed that you don't necessarily see. It's not necessarily tangible.

HG: There's also a sort of David and Goliath story of persevering in the face of gigantic obstacles.

KJ: Exactly. Adversity. Absolutely.

HG: What's your Goliath?

KJ: My Goliath? I have tons of them. It's raising your children the right way. It's being a good husband. It's being a good friend. It's being a good son. It's all these things. It's doing the best in my work. In every way, it's just becoming like that best version of myself that I can be. Honestly, that's it, tackling it no matter what you do.

HG: What is your faith background?

KJ: I'm Catholic Christian. My father always took us to church and we went as a family. I knew, at times in my life, where I would not fall away completely out of the faith, but just not be as faithful and not learn as much. Later on in life, I just started coming back to it more and more. And I'm continuing to learn more and more each day and trying to be the person that God wants me to be.

HG: Your character, Biology teacher Scott Voss, in Here Comes the Boom becomes a better person, ditching the selfishness, and becoming selfless.

KJ: Exactly. And you know it's a hard thing to do. But this generation now, and we're all guilty in some way or another of it, it's a "me" generation. It's "me, me, me, me. What can you do for me? How can I benefit from this and this and that?" It's amazing when you take time to do a small thing for someone else, what it can do and the effect it can have.

HG: Whose idea was it to have two incredible scenes of prayer in the film?

KJ: I wanted that. It's a balancing act because I also don't want it to be knocking people over the head with it. You don't want to be preaching at people in film, but it is a part of it. It's a part of my life. And it's also a big part of the life that I noticed in a lot of fighters, these guys that go into the octagon and do that. It's there. A lot of films choose to ignore it, and I just felt it fit right here. Again, I didn't want to be overbearing with it, but I certainly wanted to get the message across that faith has something to do with this.

HG: Speaking of faith, you've been quoted as saying you're a big believer that there's a lack of it in this world.

KJ: Yes. I think there's a huge lack of faith. I think it's, like I said it's become more and more about me and what we can do, "me, me, me" and living for ourselves for this time. I think it hurts us not only in the afterlife, but I think it also hurts us while you're here. I think it hurts us to live that way while you're on earth.

HG: MMA fighters, you have said, have a blue-collar spirit. What do you mean by that?
KJ: It's really why I became a fan of these fighters, really. It's not even the sport so much as the people. And I'm trying to show the human side of what a lot of these guys fight for. It's such a unique, different job, that, you know, it's something I would really never do, but in meeting these fighters and realizing what good people they are, I tried to find inspiration behind what helped them, what would make them do this, why would they do this. And I just found out that they were just regular people, just like you and I, who just had a very interesting, odd, unique job that they do for different reasons.

They did it for putting food on the table for their children or fighting for a loved one or this or that, or whatever, to give themselves a better life. They just seemed like really great people. It's not like what you envision when you think, "Oh, man, these guys are fighters that are just walking around angry at the world, and just beating people up." It couldn't be further from it. These guys are highly trained athletes and just very humble, most of them. I can't speak for all of them, but the ones that I came in contact with.

HG: You've got two kids in school now?

KJ: I have two kids, yes, in school. One, he's just 17 months.

HG: So even the topic of really fighting for our kids is coming into your full view.

KJ: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Oh, you need to, absolutely. I mean, you've got to stand up for them for sure.

HG: What do you think the problem is with a lot of schools that are failing?

KJ: Well, you know, I don't have all the answers for the budget cuts unfortunately. It's a very difficult thing. I know how much arts can mean to kids. I played sports. I didn't really play a musical instrument growing up. But I saw other students and friends who did play it and how important it was a part of their life, because it does so much more, music does so much more than just learning to play a particular instrument. It really helps them, I think, along in life. We showed it as a study aid, as inspiration to these fighters.

Music can take you back to a certain time in your life when you remember something specifically. It can move you. It really can. So it's very important. And what I also wanted to show on this movie is about great teachers. I had some great teachers in my life that can help really set the ship sailing along in a good direction or in a poor direction depending on who they are, what they do to you. So I was fortunate enough that I feel like they gave me some very positive instruction and good principles to live by and to be a good guy, and it helped me to this day. I still kind of remember what they were saying 30 years ago.

HG: Do you have one in particular that really fought for you?

KJ: I had a couple that were just very supportive in what I wanted to do and positive and made you feel good about whether it be in sports or in learning; whatever you wanted to pursue. You can tell the difference.

At the time, some people think that when you go into a classroom and the teacher is just not engaged, and you get to sit down for 45 minutes and do nothing but play cards or draw. You're thinking, "Oh, this is great. I get to hang out and do nothing." But you realize exactly what that teacher is doing. He's doing nothing for you. You know, they're just, unfortunately, lazy. As many times as there are good teachers that need to be saluted, there are some bad teachers that should be stopped.

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Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment and Family producer for For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.

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