Don Cheadle didn't remember he was the original "Kung Fu Kenny"The actor also revealed he had to make sense of Kendrick Lamar's non-linear lyricism for the "DNA" music video.
Apr 20, 2017

Two weeks before DAMN. was released, Kendrick Lamar tweeted, without context: "Kung Fu Kenny." We wouldn't know what it meant until we heard Kid Capri peppering it all throughout the LP.

And it's likely even fewer of us correctly assumed that the nickname, and new alter ego, was inspired by Don Cheadle's character in 2001's Rush Hour 2. Not even the actor himself. Not even after working with K.Dot to appear in his "DNA" music video. Not even after seeing Kendrick perform at Coachella, during which he premiered a kung-fu clip during his set.

The actor recently told Entertainment Weekly that he didn't make sense of it all until the day after the music festival. He said:

"The funniest thing about the whole thing was, after I shot the video, he's like, 'So we're doing these dates at Coachella, you should come to Coachella and kick it.' I'm like, 'I've never even thought about coming to Coachella, that's not my thing at all, but because you’re going to be there, for sure I'll come to Coachella.' So he says, 'Okay, come, it'll be dope. And I'm going to have a little surprise for you.' So I came, I saw him perform, it was dope. He has this crazy karate movie that he has before the concert which is weird and cuts all through it and is really bizarre and funny and out of his brain and great. Crazy-great kung fu movie. We ride back, we actually ate at P.F. Changs [laughs], and hung out, and then I left, and I went on my Twitter account and somebody wrote, 'Don Cheadle, the original Kung Fu Kenny' and put a picture of 'Rush Hour 2' up. I was like, wait a minute. So I texted him. I said, 'Is Kung Fu Kenny me?' He's like, 'That’s what the surprise was. Damn.' I was like, 'Oh, I didn’t get it at all.' [laughs] He's like, 'Yeah that’s what the surprise was, so… surprise.' ... I had no idea....I said to my wife, 'I wonder what he was thinking the whole time. 'Like, is this dude gonna say anything? What's he thinking? Oh, is he mad? Because he has to remember that he played that part, right?'" It's like, 'No, I've been doing this for too long, I'm too old.' [laughs.]"

The actor reiterated his admitted confusion to Pitchfork, saying:

"I went, 'Wait a minute, I DID play a character named Kenny who did kung fu and spoke Chinese.' ... I feel stupid now. I wonder what he was thinking the whole two days when we were together and I hadn't said anything about it. He was like, 'What’s wrong with this dude? Is he senile? Does he hate it? Is he not a fan?' It was obvious. Now, when you say it, it's obvious."

Cheadle also spoke on how he prepared to appear in "DNA," revealing that he only had 48 hours to learn the rap, study footage of K.Dot's mannerisms, and make sense of the rapper's signature non-linear lyricism.

"I had two days to get ready for the video....He was like, 'Yeah, you're gonna come in and play a cop, and you're interrogating me, and then you're just gonna spit my rap.' I was like, 'Uh OK, you know you're like the best rapper in the world, so what are you talking about.' He sent me the lyrics and was like, 'You just have to get this much of it down,' which was like half of it [laughs]. I was like, 'Are you gonna have a teleprompter?' And he said, 'No, it's gonna be fine.' So I crammed like we have to do as actors. It's tricky, because it's not a linear process. His thought process is not linear. That was probably the trickiest part of it—to figure out how thoughts led to each other. As a human being, he's pretty normal and straight ahead, but when you listen to his rhymes, he's constructing ideas in ways that are not immediately understandable. It takes a deep dive to kind of figure out why one verse creates the other verse and what it comes out of and all of that. So it's tricky to memorize because it's so specific to the way he thinks. But then when we got in there, we really just started playing. We just started improvising, really.' ... They sent me a couple of video clips of him literally just sitting in a trailer, just kind of moving. They said, 'We want you to get his movements, 'cause you're kind of going to be mirroring him at some point.' So they sent me a couple clips of the way he moved and him doing the rhyme, just really casual and laid back. And then we showed up and it happened really fast because they had the entire rest of that video they had to shoot with cars and all of that stuff. So we just kind of improv'd it. The cameras moved around a lot. Nabil, who directed it, was just really clever about how to cover it. We did it like five or six times and that was it."

Let's all remember our first introduction to the original Kung Fu Kenny below.

Rush Hour 2 (3/7) Best Movie Quote - Don Cheadle's Scene (2001)
Best Movie Quote
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