The new Netflix dramatic comedy “Fatherhood” starts with a happy couple welcoming their first child, Maddy, into the world. The story soon takes a turn when the new mom, Liz, suddenly dies from a pulmonary embolism.
Without spoiling the film, actor Kevin Hart, who plays the father, Matt, spends the remainder of the film learning valuable lessons about parenthood, community, his daughter and grief.
The film is based on the true story of Matt and Maddy Logelin, who lost the real-life Liz about 13 years ago, just one day after their daughter was born.
Logelin told TODAY Parents that he really only started writing — first in a blog and then later his book “Two Kisses for Maddy” — as a way of keeping his late wife’s memory alive.
“The only goal with this was to make sure that my daughter had some document of our time together, you know? Her Mama died, and I was the only one left with the memories," he said.
Hart, who is father to four kids in real life — Heaven, 16, Hendrix, 13, Kenzo, 3, and Kaori, 8 months — said he drew on his own experiences to portray the fictional version of Logelin.
Hart told TODAY’s Craig Melvin that he always knew he had the acting range to deal with more serious topics.
“You know, I got a lot of diversity,” he laughed.
“This is an opportunity to not only share my story, but bringing light to a thing that happens that people don't really know happens often,” he explained. “His journey from pain to happiness is one like no others.”
“So my respect level went through the roof. And my appetite for a meaningful piece of material went through the roof as well."
Hart added that “without putting a stamp on the race card,” he and his producing partners — none other than Michelle and Barack Obama — felt like the film was an opportunity to “change the narrative.”
“In today's time and in our culture, you're talking about a … black men on the big screen, playing the role of a father in a positive light. I don't think I need to say it, but it's not something you see often, right?” he said. “The Obamas got that. And he said, ‘This is a great opportunity to uplift, black fathers and black men’ and, you know, give a nod to those that are embracing fatherhood.”
Logelin told TODAY Parents that he never expected his personal blog, and then book, would find such a big audience.
“It feels naive to say this sometimes, but I never thought I would be doing this (interview)," he said. "I never thought anybody other than I thought my mom would go and buy like 50 copies of it.”
Instead, his book went on to become a bestseller and a movie on the streaming platform Netflix. But Logelin, despite living in Los Angeles for years, still has an air of Midwestern humility about him, right down to the flannel shirt he’s chosen to wear for his press tour.
“I really want people to understand that with the right amount of help — it could be therapy, it could be having people around you who can help you through this stuff — that there is a way through some of these more difficult moments in our live," Logelin said. "I think there's a lot of times where we might doubt ourselves... So hopefully people will see that and take heart, and and make sure that they're also asking for help when they need it.”
Logelin, who is white, added that he was happy when Hart was cast as the lead of the film and believes the comedian did an “incredible” job with the role.
“He's the funny dude! Like this is the guy selling out all the stadiums in Asia (on tour) … but what they're not used to, probably, is that Kevin Hart is going to make them cry,” Logelin said. “I think a lot of people are going to see this man taking on this role and being a parent in under the worst circumstances, and I think it's gonna resonate for a lot of people.”
Unlike the book, the film “Fatherhood” addresses Black maternal mortality, stereotypes about Black fatherhood and Black joy.
“This is a incredibly positive depiction of single fatherhood, black single fatherhood specifically, which I think is such a cool thing we don't see that in a lot of movies,” he asid. “And I think, honestly, Hollywood has done a really terrible job over the years of just whitewashing stories and so it's nice and refreshing to see somebody say, we're not going to do this this time. ...We're going to bring the most wonderful cast together to make a really beautiful movie.”