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J.B. Smoove on how his ‘Top Five’ character differs from his usual performance

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You know J.B. Smoove’s persona.

The funnyman from North Carolina has made a name for himself playing loudmouths and wacky characters. But he acknowledges that he appreciates when a potential gig surfaces that doesn’t expect him to play to a “type,” and Smoove was ecstatic to take on the role of Chris Rock’s trusty assistant in the star-studded comedy Top Five. Smoove was excited about working with Rock, a longtime friend and frequent collaborator.

“When Chris approached me about the project — first of all, whatever Chris does, he better put my a– in it,” Smoove says jokingly, before going back to his original thought. “When he calls you, you say ‘What is it?’ He’ll tell you what it is, he’ll tell you what he wants from you. But you also gotta leave the door open.”

And in “leaving the door open,” Rock — who also directs the film — gave Smoove the room to show a slightly more restrained version of his typical onscreen persona.

“Typically, when people call JB they want the over-the-top JB,” he admits. “The way over-the-top JB. I didn’t have to play the over-the-top ‘crazy JB.’ I got to dial it down for this one and just get to be in his character’s corner, having his back. Besides — you can’t have two over-the-top people because they cancel each other out.”

Following years on the stand-up circuit and with minor roles in various projects, Smoove rose to fame as Leon Black on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Since then, he’s been visible in films like We’re the Millers and on television shows like “Clear History.”

But Smoove is grateful that Rock saw him in a different light when casting him in Top Five and he expressed that gratitude to his friend.

“He helped me because now my range has just increased,” says Smoove. “Now, I get the chance to play his guy. His dude who has his back and has to get him on time somewhere and watch who’s coming into his life. It’s amazing to be able to do that and have the opportunity to work with the man.”