Mike Epps has what it takes to be the next breakout star and he knows it. The actor-comic has the swagger, edginess and the material to go along with a silver-screen appeal. In fact, Epps, who will perform Saturday at the Durham Performing Arts Center, co-stars in "Next Day Air," a comedy-action adventure that will hit screens May 8.
The charismatic Epps also co-starred in the Cedric the Entertainer vehicle "The Honeymooners" and appeared in such films as "Roll Bounce" and "Something New."
Here, he speaks frankly about how disappointed he was in "The Honeymooners," his hardscrabble childhood in Indianapolis and whether he's a ladies man.
Q: So far, your performances on screen are tame compared to your standup. You've picked up some nice work but it doesn't deliver the knockout blow. I think you'll see another side of me in "Next Day Air." It's a fun film. But in some other films, I've been handcuffed, but that's Hollywood.
Q: What was it like playing Ed Norton in "The Honeymooners?" It's painful thinking back about that movie. It's painful when you think about how funny it could have been, but they were stepping on my neck. I just think we could have done more with that film. I think we could have made those characters (Norton and Cedric the Entertainer's Ralph Kramden) blacker. I'm still disappointed.
Q: It wasn't as bad as the black "Odd Couple." It's hard. I like to do everything to the best of my ability. I just think we could have made that movie really interesting. But I didn't have control. There's only one way I have control and I love that.
Q: So you're referring to stand up? Yeah. I love going out on the stage because nobody tells you what to do. It's the greatest feeling in the world, at least for me.
Q: You're a pretty practical, nuts-and-bolts type of guy. I'm the way I am because of the way I grew up. Not every comic grew up the way I did. I grew up on the streets of Indianapolis. What I experienced, I can't get rid of, and maybe that's a good thing. I had a rough childhood. I was fighting ever since I was a kid. I carry so much baggage from those days. It was a tough time, but I rose above it. I got tired of being in the juvenile detention center. That place is no fun. Only the strong survive and screw it, I did. I ain't weak. I did what I had to do. I had no alternative. Comedy was my ticket out and I cashed it in. It was the best thing I ever did.
Q: Has anything surprised you since you went from the gritty Indy hood to the fabulous world of Los Angeles? The thing that's surprising is that the more success and the more money you have, the more problems you have. But I can deal with those problems compared to where my life was when I was a kid. Those were bigger problems.
Q: The word is that you're a bit of a ladies man. Is that true? All I can say is that you gotta tell the ladies to come down to the show. Tell them that it ain't about your beauty, it's about your booty.