Listen, with a résumé as long and stacked as Don Cheadle’s, you’d be forgiven for drawing a blank on a certain minor character here or there. Did you remember he was in Rush Hour 2? Cheadle barely does, either. In an interview with Pitchfork, Cheadle talks about being cast in Kendrick Lamar’s high-stakes “DNA.” video, where he plays a sort of mirror image of Kendrick and rap battles him in an interrogation room. Kendrick, on the other hand, plays Kung Fu Kenny, a character wholly inspired by Cheadle’s small part in Rush Hour 2, even down to the outfit. (In the movie, Cheadle plays “Kenny,” a guy who owns a Chinese restaurant, can speak Chinese, and is also fluent in martial arts.) But since Cheadle’s had about 7,000 movie roles in his day, he was oblivious to the reference while on set.
“I didn’t even know that I was the Kung Fu Kenny model. I didn’t know that until the next day,” Cheadle says. “He was like, ‘Duh!’ He texted me like, ‘Dude are you serious? You didn’t know that?’ I totally forgot about that. I’ve been working too long, I didn’t even remember that.” Even after watching Kendrick bring the character to life at Coachella with a short kung-fu film, Cheadle still didn’t catch it until fans starting tweeting him with side-by-side photos. “Now, when you say it, it’s obvious,” he says. And you thought Kendrick’s symbolism went over your head.
Compare Kendrick’s video and Cheadle’s Rush Hour 2 role below: