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Teenage Bounty Hunters' Kadeem Hardison Hopes Bowser's Love Life Heats Up in Season 2

Hardison told TV Guide what he wants for his character and why he worked so hard to land the role

Krutika Mallikarjuna

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Teenage Bounty Hunters. Read at your own risk!]

Kadeem Hardison is an iconic figure in American television history. But Dwayne Wayne, the brilliant mathematics student that Whitley (Jasmine Guy) and fans alike fell in love with onA Different World, is just the foundation of Hardison's TV legacy. His latest role, as a gruff, disaffected bounty hunter named Bowser who takes on two suburban sisters as his apprentices in Kathleen Jordan's Teenage Bounty Hunters, might just be Hardison's crowning glory. 

While it might sound like a kitschy action-adventure series about teenage twins who channel their rebellion into a money-making hustle, the Netflix series playfully twists into a compelling family dramedy where role models are found in the most unlikely places. To Hardison, Teenage Bounty Hunters was the right series for him to carve out a new, experimental niche. After a slew of uninteresting scripts had passed through his inbox, the role of Boswer was like sweet and sour candy, a perfect treat that packs a surprising punch. "It's such a weird, delightful love story between these two different universes that come together," Hardison said with relish over the phone. "Just a really awesome take on what people can be, the goodness in us that'll shine through no matter what."

Hardison talked with TV Guide about why Bowser is one of his favorite roles yet, how good creative partnerships can define a show, what hanging out with his boy Method Man was like, and what he hopes is in store for Bowser in a potential Season 2. 

Teenage Bounty Hunters Review: Fun Netflix Show Is Just About as Bananas as It Sounds

What drew you to the role of Bowser, and what was it about Teenage Bounty Hunters that made you feel like you had to be a part of it? You've had a pretty storied film and TV career, and Teenage Bounty Hunters is unlike any other project you've been a part of. 
Kadeem Hardison: That's the answer right there. I got the script [for Teenage Bounty Hunters] and I was a little jumpy because I had just been on a show that I thought was going to last forever and it got upended, kind of abruptly. And I was just frustrated with the whole damn thing. I've been doing this so long, and sometimes you don't get great scripts and you just kind of got to go with whatever. But then all of a sudden, I got the script [for Teenage Bounty Hunters] and it was just so funny; the character, Bowser, was fantastic. I thought, "Wow, if I could do this the way I want to do it, it'd be a lot of fun for me; I feel like I could work on this forever." So, I prepared harder than I ever really prepared to go get something, and it was probably the best audition I ever had.

What was the way you wanted to do it -- your take on Bowser?
Hardison: I just had an idea about this guy, this plumpy, older... things are not right in his life. And I could relate, because of the show I had been on that had just gotten canceled, I felt like I could really relate to this dude. You think you got it going on, and if something happens, it derails your whole vibe. It just felt like I know this guy. And I wanted to do something different with my voice, different with my whole attitude. You know, let the gray hair out, let the beard get funky, and just be almost like a caveman. Not so much in his thoughts, but in his vibe, definitely caveman.  

When I got in the room to audition, I improvised a little bit, and then I added little things to it -- not to detract from it, because the writing was perfect. Just extra little gems on top. Within two lines of auditioning, the creator, Kathleen Jordan, tilted back her head back and laughed so loud it kind of scared me! And that's when I knew, I was like, "Oh sh--, I think I've got them." If they like that, and that was the second or third line within the audition, wait 'til they see what else I've got. I just came out thinking, "I nailed this. If they give me this job, this is going to be a lot of fun." Then the next day, I thought, "Why haven't they called? They should've given me the job." [Two days later, on] Friday morning they called and said it was mine.


Kadeem Hardison, Teenage Bounty Hunters


There's definitely a version of Teenage Bounty Hunters where Bowser could have fallen into the Magical Negro stereotype or trope, existing just to further the girls' journeys with sage, yet unconventional advice --
Hardison: Right! You know how it gets.

How did you and Kathleen work together to make sure that Bowser never fell into that territory?
Kathleen is the genius. I really didn't have to do anything other than read the script and add a little sauce to it. I was afraid of the same thing you were, but she was way ahead of the curve on that. And it never came up; everything she wrote for me I thought was fantastic. Maybe once or twice I said, "I don't know about this. I don't think so." But it was always about, "Can I add this to the scene, play with it?" It was always me wanting to build on what she and the writers had laid down. That's my buddy; I felt like she had my back from the beginning. It was her laugh that set up the audition to let me know I'm on to something and gave me the confidence to even push further.

Every day on the set with her was a blessing. She's a perfect working partner. I've been so lucky to have the best women as my creatives and bosses in my life. That's probably been the most unrealized thing about me. If you look back, A Different World was all female-led. Bill Cosby got the credit because creator, blah, blah, blah, but, the writers, directors, producers, all the way down the line, most of the things that I've done, the things I'm most proud of have been women.

The show itself seems to reflect that creative connection, especially in Bowser's relationship with Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini). Early on in the season, Bowser appreciates their raw talent and skill, but he's thinking about them as a tool. When during the series does Bowser really start thinking about them as people that he cares about?
Hardison: For me, Episode 5. Blair is hell-bent on catching Cherry Grigio, and Sterling is going through a [spiritual] crisis after her teacher passed away. And I kind of have to talk her down off the ledge, we had that little moment where we talked about God and that belief. That was that moment for us. The next episode I think, Sterling was having a little problem with who she liked and how she liked them. And she was questioning a bunch of things, and we had a moment where we kind of came together and I ignored my job to comfort her. I may not show it right after, but for me, that's when I knew that more than just needing them, I kind of loved them. You know what I mean? By Episode 7, 8, 9 I'm ride or die, they're ride or die, we'll ride or die for each other.

Anjelica Bette Fellini, Kadeem Hardison, and Maddie Phillips, Teenage Bounty Hunters

Anjelica Bette Fellini, Kadeem Hardison, and Maddie Phillips, Teenage Bounty Hunters


In the finale, he fires the twins with some pretty harsh words, but also walks away from $90,000, which is something you only do for family. What's going through his head in that moment?
Hardison: He really believes that he can only be successful if he doesn't let anyone in. That's the way he's been built and the way he's going on. He knows that he needs them, but Bowser's been doing it his way for so long. It's hard to break out of it. But when he gets the distress call, that all changes. All the sh-- he's talking, how mad he is about them, I'm better off without them, et cetera, doesn't matter as soon as he gets that distress call. He has to help because they're almost like his kids, his nieces, or his godchildren.

What would it take for Bowser to be that open all the time and let go of that fear he has of being rejected? Because really ride-or-die seems to be who he is on the inside.
Hardison: Success will bring him out of it. Bounty hunting is what he loves, and if he starts to have some success at that, his shoulders will go back and he may relax a little bit. I don't know if he'll let many more people in because he just can't. A tiger won't change his stripes. But, I think you would see a more subtle, relaxed version of him if he could prove that he's as good as Terrance Coin, that he can handle those big jobs and he's worth it. Then he can put that energy into other parts of his life.


Method Man and Kadeem Hardison, Teenage Bounty Hunters


Speaking of Terrance Coin, how fun was it shooting those scenes with Method Man?
Hardison: Oh, man, me and Meth go back to the '90s. I've always wanted to find a way to do something with him. I knew it wasn't going to be rapping because I couldn't rap with him. But now, he's kind of clawed his way up into the acting world and is a viable threat, it's so awesome. Having him on set was just a blast; I'd just be picking his brain for lyrics. If he would say something, I could finish the lyric. If he started something, I jumped right in. All we did was laugh and look at each other like, "Yo, can you believe this? Where you were in 1992 and where I was in 1992? We met and now look, where we are now, here doing this. What?!"

Another funny thing about Meth, he auditioned for Bowser. He was next to go in after me for the role. And he told me later that we had just missed each at the audition, but when he heard I was up for the part he was like, "Oh, you got to give it to him!" He didn't get the role he auditioned for, but we were like, we got something better for you, something juicy for you. Kathleen really wanted to get him on board, I remember her coming to me and saying, "We're after Method Man. Oh my God, I hope he says yes, please let him say yes." Because I had already filled up a good amount of hate for Terrance Coin from the scripts, I was like, "I can't wait to hate this dude, whoever plays the part." But then it's my guy! I can't hate Meth, but we went at it with rock paper scissors between takes to keep the energy up. I was like, "I will whoop yo ass with rock paper scissors." 

What kind of journey would you love for Bowser in Season 2? I personally would love to see him not run away from Yolanda (Shirley Rumierk) and have a real conversation with her about what they could be to each other.
Hardison: That's funny, I was thinking the same thing. Romance is going to have to play a part. Something's going to have to get him off the ground, basically, and back on the horse. And if it's Yolanda or someone else, some kind of a romance is going to have to come into his life to at least allow him to have different kinds of conversations, where he's not leading and grumpy. He'll have to have a back and forth. With the girls, he's peaked, and he can shut them down or he can try to shut them down and give them direction. And that's the end. But if he has a romantic partner, I think maybe then you'll see a different side. More of a give and take or a growth from him is what I want to see. I just want to see him grow.

Teenage Bounty Hunters is now streaming on Netflix.