Prior to signing up for the second entry, Faison was already a fan of Matthew Vaughn's 2010 film. "I saw the first Kick-Ass and I loved it. I thought it was an amazing movie," he said. "It’s just a great action film that caught me off-guard. You see all these superhero movies, and super heroes have a moral code that they live by and it seemed like in Kick-Ass, that wasn’t the case. It was survival on the streets and still try to fight crime. I think that’s a more realistic version of what vigilantes would be. I don’t think we’ll see a Superman ever flying in the sky or anything like that, and if that does happen, I don’t think the outcome that we watch in the movies is gonna be the outcome in real life. I think we’d send the army after this person, and the navy, and the air force, and the marines, after this person."
"In Kick-Ass, you really feel like these people are in a giant city and they’re trying to make a difference," Faison continued. "And you can kinda go under the radar as masked vigilantes in a giant city. There are a bunch of them in Los Angeles right now that you’ve never heard of. I think the biggest one, the one that became the biggest masked vigilante, is Phoenix Jones. When everyone saw that they thought that dude was crazy. I think that’s what these people are too. They’re crazy enough to put on a costume and go fight. That appealed to me, that’s more realistic."
For Chestnut, much of the appeal of Kick-Ass 2 was found in the buoyant tone of the first movie. He explained, "Just the fun that the first movie had. Just watching it, they didn’t take themselves seriously and they had a lot of fun, a lot of stunts, a lot of comedy – the overall fun that the picture had."
That sense of fun was reflected on set by writer-director Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down), who takes the reins this time around. "I wasn’t on the set for the first movie, obviously, but with this movie, after seeing it and how everything is heightened, everything is more intensified, I think it goes to the director’s enjoyment," said Chestnut. "He had a child-like feel on the set, so he’s really excited about a whole lot of things, really excited about the stunts, and excited about everything. I think that was contagious throughout the whole cast and crew."
Unlike his co-star, Faison was able to suit up in a bright outfit and wield Dr. Gravity's signature weapon, the Gravity Pole. "The most memorable moment was putting on the costume," he recalled. "That and my first fight scene. We shot it in five hours and I remember pulling a butt muscle. I didn’t even know you had a muscle in your butt, but apparently you do, and you can pull it. I remember sleeping for twenty-four hours after the fight scene, and the guy that plays Kick-Ass, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, he went on the next day to do more stuff in the movie.
"It was the first time I’d ever done anything like that," he said of his action sequences. "I wish I could say it was easy, but it’s hard work. Pulling a punch when you want to throw a punch is very difficult. Knowing angles to where the camera is set up, and how to make it so the fist comes from one side of the body to the other, even though it feels fake and you don’t think it looks right, that was hard to conceptualize."
Many of the characters are able to cut loose in extreme fashion, but Marcus Williams is the voice of reason attempting to keep Mindy MacReady on the non-violent path as a normal high school freshman. That meant Chestnut had to sit out the setpieces and craziness, as he said, "I was the only one not kicking ass. Everyone got to have fun and do stunts, and I was the kill-joy saying ‘Don’t do this and don’t do that.’ All these teenagers across America are probably going to hate me for trying to stop everyone from having fun. So hopefully in the sequel."
If it wasn't the promise of a form-fitting costume and some ultra-violence, what drew Chestnut to Kick-Ass 2? "With this particular movie, I really just wanted to have some fun," the actor said. "Just before this movie, I did this film titled The Call and that was kind of intense. When I saw this script, to just go and be a part of a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, and everyone has fun, and everything that’s going on – I jumped at the chance. Then I left this movie and I did a TV show where my character took himself seriously. It’s funny, I went from this to a TV show called Nurse Jackie, and my character takes himself way too seriously. But just to have that type of fun and have that type of change, and then I left that to do the sequel to The Best Man and that was somewhat of a combination of both, but it was much more emotional. It was much more of an emotional demand than any of the past projects. It just depends. Each project will offer something different."
That's not say he won't ever play a familiar superhero. Chestnut has consistently been the subject of fan speculation to star in an eventual Black Panther film from Marvel Studios. Asked about those rumors, he answered, "Obviously I would love to play that part, but Marvel and that studio they’re a mega-machine, and they have the people in mind that they want to do. Maybe If I had gotten to kick ass in Kick-Ass they would consider me, but you never know what’s going to happen. Stranger things have happened in this industry."
In Kick-Ass, Detective Williams was played by Omari Hardwick. Chestnut had no explanation for the character being recast, saying, "To be honest, I knew that he was in the first one, but I didn’t know they were looking for someone else to replace him. I don’t know what happened. I just knew that when I read for the role they told me it was to play Chloe’s guardian."
The breakout character of this franchise is undoubtedly Hit-Girl, brought to vivid bloodletting life by an acclaimed and precocious actress in Chloe Grace Moretz. "I have a daughter that’s her age, so it was really easy for me to relate," Chestnut said of playing her father figure. "She was a great professional, a great talent. Just watching her work, I had a great time. I saw the first one, and was a huge fan. I was scared because I thought she might kick my ass, but I just had a great time working with her."
"She’s just so good," added Faison on the subject of the actress. "It’s rare that you see young people that know exactly what it is they want to do, and she has the ability to see her path, where as other people just do it to do it, and hopefully something good comes out of it. She knows exactly what it is she wants to do, and she’s executing it. It’s inspiring. It’s very impressive to watch. She’s a very talented young lady."
The source material and the films are intentionally provocative, displaying an almost giddy willingness to shock and push buttons, largely through excessively, exuberantly realized violence. Jim Carrey, who plays Colonel Stars & Stripes in Kick-Ass 2, kicked up dust on the sequel when he announced that he wouldn't participate in the sequel's promotion because of the violence.
Asked to comment on the controversy, Chestnut said, "I do feel that movies and music, they do have the power to slightly influence a person’s decision, but I don’t think that if it’s not in the person, then it’s not going to encourage a person to do something that’s not already within them. Plus, this is a fantasy. Even if you saw the first one, it was so comical. Some of the things that were going on, you would have to be pretty far removed from reality to really think this is reality when you watch these movies.
"This is a fiction, fantasy, comic book movie. It’s a movie," Faison explained. "I think that’s what at the end of the day everyone needs to understand. Jim is allowed to have his personal point of view. We warn everybody in the title. The name of the movie is Kick-Ass 2 and it has an R rating. If you’re not a fan of violence, don’t go see it. But don’t be crazy either. Over a billion tickets were sold for The Avengers. That’s a violent movie, whether you want to believe it or not, that’s a very violent movie. I think Jim is completely in his right to say how he feels, but I think the audience should know that this is a fantasy, fiction, and comedy movie."
Kick-Ass 2 hits theaters nationwide on Friday, August 16th.