Getting To Know Cedric The Entertainer And Max Greenfield From The Neighborhood Interview with actors Cedric the Entertainer and Max Greenfield, who bring the funny—and a real friendship—to The Neighborhood.
Posted on Nov 20, 2019 06:00am

By John Griffiths

Thanks to a blazing hot end-of-summer day, it's a little stuffy in The Neighborhood's production office in Studio City, California. Yet when the sophomore sitcom's two main stars, Cedric the Entertainer and Max Greenfield, arrive for a chat just ahead of a cast table read, the room suddenly exudes cool. Greenfield, snazzy in what Instagrammers might call "athleisure wear" (off-white casual-chic pants and shirt to match), shows the engaging charms—but not the puppy-dog neediness—of his character Dave Johnson, a small-town Midwesterner starting a new life with his family in a mostly black section of L.A. And the man born Cedric Antonio Kyles, stand-up comedy legend or not, carries himself with enough humility—and his own casual élan—to be dubbed Cedric the Walking Chill Pill. (His guarded Neighborhood alter ego, the Dave-resistant Calvin Butler, might take some cues!)

Even more heartening—right up there with the suddenly blowing air conditioner—is seeing the duo's thoughtful and playful friendship in action. "We'll crack a joke and it will run all day long," says Cedric.


On Cedric: Suit by Perry Ellis. Shirt by Awearness Kenneth Cole. Tie by John Varvatos. Pocket square by The Tie Bar. Shoes by To Boot New York. Hat by Selentino, Cedric's own. Earring, Cedric's own. On Greenfield: Suit by Ted Baker. Shirt by COS. Tie by Dries Van Noten. Socks by Zara. Shoes by To Boot New York.

Their comedic chops are a given: Cedric, 55, is a stand-up legend and starred in three Barbershop movies; Max, 39, spent seven years as fast-talking roomie Schmidt on the friends-com New Girl. And with their odd-couple chemistry, the two have breathed life into some clever conflicts between their characters.

The guys' deepest bond, though, is their mutual love and respect for family. Cedric, whose wife, Lorna, is a former costumer, has three kids: Tiara, 30; Croix, 19; and Lucky, 16—all of whom frequent the set. Meanwhile, Max and his wife, Tess, a casting executive, have two regular visitors to the lot: Lilly, 10, and Ozzie, 4. How cosmically connected are Max and Cedric when it comes to pleasing the kids? Back in 2004, Cedric co-starred as the sleuthing Constable in the film version of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Greenfield? He played wacky triplets in this year's latest installment of Netflix's series version.

Speaking of childhood, both men wax nostalgic about their own neighborhoods back in the day. Max was born and raised in New York City suburb Dobbs Ferry. (He was destined for showbiz, however: Saturday Night Live was the theme of his bar mitzvah.) Cedric hails from Jefferson City, Missouri, and grew up in small-town Caruthersville and the St. Louis suburb of Berkeley. They have the same word for their upbringings: "idyllic."

Here, the buddies dish on everything from daddyhood to neighborliness to what makes a Calvin-worthy "yardecue."


On Cedric: Suit by Perry Ellis. Shirt by Calvin Klein. Tie by Paul Smith. Lapel flower by The Tie Bar. Hat by Goorin Bros., Cedric's own. Earring, Cedric's own. On Greenfield: Suit by Ted Baker. Shirt and tie by John Varvatos.

On TV you guys make quite an interesting pair. Max, do you ever find yourself acting overeager, like when Dave was wanting to be pals with Cal?

MAX: Not really. I just follow direction—from my wife first, then God. [Laughs.] But I love how optimistic Dave is, how he's always looking at the bright side of things. I'm in a better mood by playing this guy.

How about you, Cedricever catch yourself being a little reclusive or guarded like Calvin?

CEDRIC: It's funny. When I'm the Entertainer, I'm very out front and gregarious. But lately, when I'm just Cedric Kyles, I don't know why, but in larger groups I'm more super reserved now, like Calvin. I don't want to be the center of attention—just kind of dip in, dip out. But there's one way I'm a little over the top like Max's [character]: I can get a little high strung when I'm traveling with my wife and the kids. I'm like, "Come here, get on the line. Everybody follow me!" My family actually calls me Travel Man. And don't even touch my bag!

MAX: I do the same thing! We took the kids to Mexico last year, and I was warned months in advance: "You try to control the family and
we need you to be more relaxed." I didn't realize traveling makes me tense, so I chilled out.

Do you guys share fatherhood advice and tales?

MAX: Lorna [Cedric's wife] gave me a great piece of advice the other day. My daughter, Lilly, just got back from camp, and I was like, "That's it, man. My little girl's gone!" And Lorna said: "Just spend time with her. Watch the YouTube shows she likes and talk." And I did that the next night. Lilly and I watched this awful nonsense with a girl talking about slime to the camera. I started asking her questions about it. She knew everything! I thought, "This is nice."

CEDRIC: When I watch Max with his kids, he's really relaxed and fun and engaging. He allows them to be free and knows their little minds. It's really cool to see how they interact. And Max cracks me up talking about Ozzie—Ozzie's the best.

MAX: [Smiling.] Every day is about a new outfit that he's into, or a new toy he wants to sleep with, like his Lego dinosaur. Everything's an adventure.


On Greenfield: Suit by Ted Baker. Shirt by COS. Tie by Dries Van Noten. Socks by Zara. Shoes by To Boot New York.

Cedric, does all that make you sentimental for your own early fatherhood days?

CEDRIC: To a degree. But I do have a granddaughter who's 3. We spend a lot of time with her. She has a lot of energy—she FaceTimes us every day! [Smiles.] She calls me Popsie.

How about swapping career advice or acting tips?

MAX: I'm constantly looking to Cedric for direction like, "Do I have the right tone for this story we're trying to tell?" Sometimes I forget about just simple comedic beats, which Cedric knows inside and out. He'll say or do something subtle, and I'll say, "I shoulda thought of that!"

Any favorite TV friendships through the years?

CEDRIC: When I was a kid, I loved Starsky and Hutch. They were different from each other, but they were action buddies. I really dug their friendship and coolness.

MAX: I really got a kick out of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in True Detective.

It's been 50 years since the height of the civil rights movement. Are you both surprised that society is still confronting some of the same racial-strife issues that classic CBS comedies like All in the Family and The Jeffersons addressed back in the '70s?

CEDRIC: I can't say that I'm surprised. But I'm disappointed. As human beings, all of us kind of feel elevated to a certain degree. We live in a big society with so many cultures—we're all a part of this place America—and it just seems so repressive to hold on to some idea that one race is greater than the other one. Because if your truck broke down on the side of the road, who gives a s*** who is black or white? It's like, "Let's get it out of the dirt and get the kids safe."


On Cedric: Suit by Perry Ellis. Shirt by Calvin Klein. Tie by Paul Smith. Lapel flower by The Tie Bar. Hat by Goorin Bros., Cedric's own. Earring, Cedric's own. On Greenfield: Suit by Ted Baker. Shirt and tie by John Varvatos.

The Neighborhood touches on racial issues, gentrification, even age differences. What do you each hope people take from the show?

MAX: I don't think the show's [emphasis] is highlighting societal ills. I think [the writers and cast] are all just searching for an empathetic discussion. You have these two families from totally different backgrounds who are learning from each other. I think that provides real value.

CEDRIC: That age gap between our characters is interesting. It kind of fades away when the characters get to see each other's humanity—and that's how it is in real life. I've found the older I get, the more I can be friends with people of all ages. I'm in this spot in my life where I can hear it all, I like it all, and friendship stops being about any one thing. Life is universal.

You both seem like pretty hip dudes. Do you share tips on hot new bands?

MAX: The music stopped for me once I had kids. [Laughs.] I'm just discovering Vampire Weekend—bands from a decade ago! I'm like, "Did you hear this?!" and people look at me funny. I think we look to Hank [Greenspan, the 9-year-old who plays Max's son Grover on the series] for tips.

CEDRIC: Ha! True. And Marcel [Spears, 31, who plays Cedric's younger son, Marty] is hip. He's plugged in!

Cedric, you're known as one of Hollywood's most stylish men. Do you give Max advice on what to wear?

MAX: Before we started the show, I took Cedric to my house and I said, "Let me show you all my clothes." He was like, "What are we doing?!" And I was like, "You've got to see my sweaters!" Once we did that, I felt really comfortable.

CEDRIC: He showed me how he folds T-shirts and stuff.

MAX: We're actually exploring the idea of coordinating our outfits in advance now. Maybe even matching each other.


On Cedric: Suit by Perry Ellis. Shirt by Awearness Kenneth Cole. Tie by John Varvatos. Pocket square by The Tie Bar. Shoes by To Boot New York. Hat by Selentino, Cedric's own. Earring, Cedric's own.

Are you guys serious about all that?!

MAX and CEDRIC: [Laughing.] Noooo!

OK, you got me. So, what makes for a good neighbor?

CEDRIC: Ideally you want someone who is attentive to what's going on in the neighborhood, but not intrusive. Someone you feel comfortable enough to spend a little time with and can count on if you need them.

MAX: There's one family that lives several houses up that is very close to us. Our kids are friends and we exchange keys and the whole thing. Once, when my wife thought she was going into labor with our son, we dropped Lilly off with them and then we took off to the hospital. It's nice to have neighbors like that.

Tell us about your own neighborhoods growing up.

CEDRIC: I lived with my grandmother and my mother in Caruthersville, an outdoorsy kind of place that's country—you know, a small southern town. We lived in this really great neighborhood with a bunch of kids that lived across the street, and we played football, threw Frisbees in the front yard, went to a little pond to skip rocks. And my cousins had a big tree that was our Starship Enterprise! I spent my high school years in Berkeley, a suburb of St. Louis, a white community with a lot of blacks moving in. That was a great neighborhood, too. There was a swimming pool down the street and a park right behind my house where we would ride skateboards mainly. It was very vibrant—Norman Rockwell in a way.

How did that shape you?

CEDRIC: Growing up in a big city environment but with great community gave me confidence; it helped me be outgoing. I would go down to a friend's house and talk to his dad while he was working on his car. Even in my neighborhood, I was known as Hollywood. That's what everybody called me.


On Cedric: Suit by Perry Ellis. Shirt by Awearness Kenneth Cole. Tie by John Varvatos. Pocket square by The Tie Bar. Shoes by To Boot New York. Hat by Selentino, Cedric's own. Earring, Cedric's own. On Greenfield: Suit by Ted Baker. Shirt by COS. Tie by Dries Van Noten. Socks by Zara. Shoes by To Boot New York.

How about you, Max?

MAX: I wish I had a nickname! Dobbs Ferry is this small town right on the Hudson River, a 20-minute train ride from New York City. We would ride our bikes all around the town. And when we were old enough, we could go into the city. It was the best of both worlds.

Speaking of mixing it up, what makes a good "yardecue"?

CEDRIC: It's in the front yard, so everybody in the neighborhood can come. Good music helps. And food is key: great ribs, brats, dogs, and burgers. Nowadays you have to have some veggie options.

MAX: My wife and I have been off meat for two-plus years now. You get some broccolini at your local farmer's market, wrap it up in some tinfoil, just put some olive oil and sea salt in there, and let it get just a little bit burnt. That's good stuff.

Photography by Eric Ray Davidson. Styled by Ashley Zohar.

Originally published in Watch! Magazine, November-December 2019.

Watch all-new episodes of The Neighborhood on Mondays at 8/7c on CBS and CBS All Access.