by David T. Baker, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly
Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl, now boy has to meet the family. It’s an age-old story and the plot of the latest Tyler Perry-produced film “Peeples.” “Peeples” is a romantic comedy about Wade Walker (played by comedian and actor Craig Robinson) and his pursuit of love interest Grace Peeples (played by Kerry Washington). In the film, Wade’s love for Grace is so strong that he crashes her family’s annual Sag Harbor reunion in order to ask her father Virgil Peeples (played by David Allen Grier) for Grace’s hand in marriage. And that’s when all the trouble begins.
The Louisiana Weekly sat down with comedian and actor Craig Robinson to discuss his career in acting, comedy and his role in upcoming film Peeples.
LW: You were a teacher before you became an actor. How did your career as an actor and comedian begin?
CR: In college …I knew I was going to go into comedy for sure. Stand up. Comedy chose me. It overtook my life. I was always joking around. Always. People would come back and tell me my bits that I didn’t even know were called bits back then but they were like ‘Oh I was trying to tell somebody how you were saying this…’
That was special to me. Then at one point I realized people could make a living doing that. I saw two guys perform at a talent show or something and they did comedy and I was like ‘Whoa’ because comedians always seemed like superheroes to me or something. You couldn’t touch them. And here’s somebody I could actually touch that’s doing this. And it was like ‘How do you do that?’ It was one of the first things I got serious about. And from comedy, once I started getting into that it was almost a natural progression to take some acting classes. For me it felt like it would be smart to. If I ever got a chance to, you know, be on a sitcom or do a line or two here, it’d be smart to know what I’m doing. So uh, I started taking acting classes and the rest is history.
LW: You have a well-established career in comedy. Is there room in your career for other types of roles?
CR: Absolutely. I’m open to dramas and action and whatever else. And I’m open to doing some music stuff. There’s definitely room.
LW: What has been your favorite role to play?
CR: I just did a movie. There’s a movie coming out called ‘Rapturepalooza’ where I play the antichrist and that was just so much fun to play just because he could get away with anything. He had security team around him all the time and just said whatever came to his mind; he was inappropriate – he thought it was charming – it was just such a clash of everything.
LW: Where do you pull your inspiration from when you’re playing these characters?
CR: From being on the road all those years and doing comedy; there’s definitely some inspiration in that. I’m a huge fan of Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison and all these people who just make you laugh. Kevin Klein is an inspiration of mine; he’s one of my favorite actors. It comes from different places but mostly just I try to focus on the moment…in case I improve something…and that’s one of the nicer things. Like you improve something, come up with it and it comes back to you via somebody quoting you on Twitter or somebody saying whatever line: ‘Ole pregnant bitches!’ You know…that’s always fun to be like “Ok, I thought of that and here it is.
LW: Your character Darryl Philbin on “The Office,” how closely does that mirror your actual life –t he person that he is, the very reserved yet very wise?
CR: People say I’m reserved. I don’t know how wise they think I am. Some people say I’m cool. I guess that if anything, that would be part of it. But Darryl’s a lot meaner than Craig and he breaks down in interviews, you’ll notice. I don’t think Craig does that. I might’ve done it once. I think I had a breakdown (he says with a chuckle). For an audition — it was all but promised to me then I just blew it because I just wanted it too much. But I don’t think they’re that similar. I don’t have a kid. Darryl has a kid. Darryl is always trying to impress people. Craig doesn’t care all that much. Well Darryl, not impress but he’s always…I don’t know. I don’t think they’re that similar.
LW: As that show [The Office] comes to a close, I believe it’s in its last season now, where are you looking to transition after that? Do you want another TV series role or do you want to only do movies?
CR: I just shot a pilot for NBC. It’s called ‘Mr. Robinson.’ I’m in a bubble of hope, hope that they pick it up. And if they do we’ll know in a couple of weeks. And if they do, that’s where I’ll be on TV for a little while longer, and if they don’t we’ll have to figure it out. I’ve got some movies coming out…[I’ll] go work on Hot Tub Time Machine part 2. And then we’ll really have to do some soul searching.
LW: You have a new movie coming out called Peeples. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
CR: Peeples is a comedy, a family-oriented comedy, produced by Tyler Perry, written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism. She wrote ATL and she wrote Drumline. And this is her first directing gig. It’s about a guy—Wade Walker—I play him. He’s in love with his girl and she’s in love with him—Gloria Peeples played by Kerry Washington. Only thing is, she doesn’t want him to meet the family because she’s just not ready for him to meet her family because basically he’s not good enough – or nobody is good enough to get past her father. So she kind of wants to keep it going with Wade but it’s just not the time yet. The father is played by David Allen Grier. So Wade decides, because Gloria goes on a weekend with her family to Sag Harbor, Wade decides ‘Ya know what, I’m going to go down there and I’m going to surprise her, and I’m going to propose, and the family is going to love me.’ And of course it doesn’t go exactly as planned.
LW: What was it like working alongside David Allen Grier who is well-known for his comedy also?
CR: He’s the funniest dude on the planet. He’s the father of the set. We had a ball, a blast every day. We were all singing on the set, and David was just as brilliant as you know him to be. And once you meet him, you’re going to love him even more.
LW: And what about Kerry Washington [in a comedic role]?
CR: It was a first for many of us. Tina’s first directing, my first leading man, Kerry’s first kind of comedy thing showing her comedy chops and she’s a natural. She did her thing, and she’s just brilliant. She’ll make you laugh anyway so it wasn’t a stretch for her to get you to laugh on the page.
LW: Who has been your greatest inspiration in the acting?
CR: Definitely Richard Pryor. Matter of fact, there’s a part in this movie that I kind of did an ode to Richard Pryor, tip my hat to him from a scene he did in Which Way is Up? that has stayed with me forever. It was kind of when I was playing the guitar and making this silly face. It was straight up Richard Pryor textbook silliness.
LW: Do you have any advice for emerging actors, directors and writers of color?
CR: Absolutely…not! I don’t know about giving advice but I’ll tell you what, man: Everything you learned in kindergarten: play well with others; respect you and respect others; be yourself. You’re the only you that’s out there so make sure you’re the genuine article, and when you’re presenting yourself they find you.
Tyler Perry presents Peeples premiered in theaters May 10. To view the trailer or find more about the movie, visit www.peeplesmovie.com.