Craig Robinson: A True Leading Man

The film PEEPLES is a cute, funny, a tad over the top, “I don’t have to think hard movie.”  That isn’t a negative statement. Sometimes you just have to go to the movies to have a good time, not be preached to, or where every scene is a car chase, alien invasion, or a cartoon.

The film is produced by Tyler Perry and as much as I respect him for all he has done and become, some of his films are very preachy and predictable.  Director/Screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism gives this film a freshness that was pleasing.

Leading man Craig Robinson was in Chicago recently and I sat down with him to talk about the film.  I didn’t realize we had so much in common. He is from North Beverly in Chicago, I’m from the North End in Champaign. He graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Music, I graduated from ISU with a degree in Theater. He starred in the film, I liked the film.  Great start!

Craig, how did you become involved in the film?

Lionsgate told Tina Gordon Chism that she should meet with Craig Robinson. She has this idea that I fell asleep in the meeting. I don’t remember it like that. The second meeting she pushed the movie and how she saw it happening. We just hit it off and I’m blessed to apart of it. So, they came after me, to be completely honest.

And when you heard that Kerry Washington was going to be your love interest?

I said where do I sign this paper? How do we confirm this right now?

How do you feel the movie makes its mark?

We felt like we were doing something special. It’s more of a class thing instead of a race issue in this movie, that’s one thing. Musically Stephen Bray (Executive Music Producer) came with some fun banging songs with all these different genres, from Rap to “Don’t Leak It” to R&B. And to bring Diahann Carroll and Kerry Washington together, the last time we saw them together was on stage at the NAACP Image Awards, these two giants on stage together, first black women to lead in a TV series and it’s a plethora of goodness.

Is Wade anything like you?

Yes! I’m a musician and I love children and when I am in a relationship I am the best boyfriend ever.

How do you figure?

Because I make her number one.

Are you jealous?

I control my jealousy. I’m a Scorpio so I understand there is going to be some jealousy but I don’t let it get to me. I’m more secure than what I was when I was much younger.

How would Craig have handled the situation that the woman he loved didn’t want him to meet her family?

Craig would be fine with it as long as we got, what we got. I’m Cool “whatever makes you comfortable, baby”. That’s Craig

In the movie did everyone sing their own songs?

S. Epatha sang, Tyler James Williams sang, I sang my songs, and David Alan Grier sang at the end.  Wait till you hear, I mean you probably couldn’t tell in the theater, but he can sing, it’s amazing.

Watching Kerry and the other ladies doing their thing at the end was fun.

That grew into that, like, first it was only supposed to be me and the kids, then David’s part happened then Kerry said, “Well we can do a little dance,” and then it all just grew into that little number.

As people leave the theater what do you want them to take with them?

I want them to feel refreshed and I like the fact that people are saying they didn’t know what to expect. They knew it was a comedy but they were pleasantly surprised. Pleasantly surprised is a good thing. The underline message is, “be your own truth.”

I have to admit that I asked myself, “How are they going to fit those two together and make it believable.” By the end of the film I bought it. You were supposed to be together. The audience buys into it, the relationship, the love she has for you and you for her. We were all rooting for you.

When you left for college what did you want to be when you grew up?

I went to college so not knowing.  I majored in music and figured I would be a musician, like write songs and take that route. I bought a keyboard and soon after that Comedy came into my life. It was like NO, THIS is what it is.  So, it is comedy and music and I have always infused the two of them ever since. I took the comedy route with the title of Comedian and I brought the keyboard along and used it in my act. But music is always there.

If you could click your heels 3 times and come up with your own film, what would be the title, who would be the leading lady and man, and what role would you play in the whole center of the film?

I would do a comedy with all the talent I have met over the years. I would take comedians and they could do something like, some really hard parts of their act and throw them all together. The leading lady would be, ummm, oh it’s hard to get Kerry out my mind. It would be me and Kerry. I would be the director and actor, and the title would be “Come on Momma, We Gotta Go!” It would be a story about two people who are framed and have to clear their name so they gotta go across the country pretty much to do it and they almost get trapped at every turn.

You’ve been thinking of this a long while

Yeah, about 20 seconds.

Who is your favorite character, other than yours in the film?

David Alan Grier’s character, Judge Peeples, I mean, watching the movie at these screenings he just has me cracking up. Just thinking about the things we would do on set, that character (Judge Peeples) and S. Epatha are so, so brilliant. She’s a brilliant actress. She can do more with an eye role than many of us can do with a whole script. Watching those two and being a part of this film, I got to pinch myself.

Chicago is known for great comedians. Which one reached back, grabbed your hand and brought you along?

Bernie Mac used to have that Tuesday night, and I played there a couple of times.  Bernie said, “Craig whatever you need I will help you out.” I got to LA and I got a part on his show. And I didn’t have to go, ‘Would you please Bernie?” No it wasn’t like that. I was glad I was able to get on the show and work with him. He was always supportive and he was always positive. He was a class act.

In the film you proved you can play serious and pull at the heart strings.

Yes! Thank you.

Would you like to do more serious roles?

Yeah, I’m open to doing some dramatic work.  Just like my whole career is going, when it is time it’s time. Even this movie here, my introduction into the leading man world, I have one following right after this where I am presented as the lead in the movie.  It’s funny how these things kind of work.

How do you stay grounded or are you grounded?

I think I’m pretty grounded, I mean, end of the day I go home and I’m taking out the garage. We came up in Englewood United Methodist Church right there on 64th and Stewart. My Father was stern, he was an attorney, he came from the projects, his father died when he was 12 so he was the man of the house since he was 12 years old, and so it was his way or the highway.  My mom, we were regular “Good Times.” My Mom was sweet so we had this dynamic going on. But even though she was super sweet I remember this time my father was spanking me and my mother said, “Jack! Jack!” And I said, “Oh God my mother is my angel” and she said, “Take him in the kitchen”.  So you know she knew the hammer had to come down but I probably would have been a knucklehead out in these streets, so thank God some sense was given to me.

Okay, what’s the last word?

If you want to laugh and forget about life for a while, and David Alan Grier, The Dude is amazing in this film, it’s your boy’s first leading role, me, so I appreciate your support. And Kerry Washington wears a school girl uniform.

SPEND THE MONEY and see PEEPLES at the theater.  It’s fun, a great date night (without the kids).



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