As the sun sets on actor Craig Robinson’s eight-year stint on “The Office,” the 41-year-old has found new life as a leading man.
Robinson pulls top-billing in “Peeples” (now available with XFINITY On Demand), a Tyler Perry-produced comedy about a struggling musician named Wade (Robinson) who follows his stunning girlfriend (Kerry Washington) to her well-to-do family’s annual Moby Dick Day reunion in the Hamptons. Instead of a warm welcome, Wade is met with cold skepticism from his gal’s father, Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier).
Written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism (“ATL,” “Drumline”), this film chronicles one man’s hilarious fight for the woman he loves, and the family secrets he uncovers along the way.
I recently sat down with Robinson to talk about the “Peeples,” and the snooze that nearly cost him his first leading role.
David Onda: I think the best compliment I can give “Peeples” is that I smiled the whole way through. It’s just a really feel-good comedy.
Craig Robinson: Thank you, man. I’m so glad you say that. Whenever I do movies, I sneak into theaters and see if people are laughing. And I’ve always been in movies where I can time when I was gonna be in it – I’m 17 minutes into that one or two hours into “Knocked Up.” One time I went to see “Daddy’s Little Girls,” and my part was up and I didn’t hear anybody laughing. So I kinda looked over and there was only about 16 people. One person was cracking up, but some people were like this… [smiles wide] beaming at the screen. I get that, so I appreciate that.
Onda: And I feel like I have to say congratulations on movie-dating Kerry Washington.
Robinson: You do. Scoooore! She’s the ultimate woman. She couldn’t have been more gracious as an actor, more beautiful as a person. She’s brilliantly intelligent. Is that a word? Can you say that? She speaks different languages, she can get along with any human being on the planet and she’s the best kisser I’ve ever known – I mean, Wade has ever known.
Onda: The best pure acting moment of the whole movie is when you have to pretend to not be interested her in a school girl outfit.
Robinson: [laughs] “Let me just go to bed …” They hid her from me before filming that. That was nice. It’s nice to relive that every time I watch it.
Onda: This is your first leading man role. How did you land part?
Robinson: They came to me. Lionsgate said to Tina Gordon Chism – she had her list of people she wanted and they were like, “Why don’t you meet with Craig Robinson?” I was on “The Office” set for 15 hours and she could only meet at this time because she had to go to Virginia, so, yeah, I was tired. She’ll say that I fell asleep at the meeting – stone cold fell out. I say it was just a little cat nap. She wasn’t trying to have Craig Robinson. Then Lionsgate said, “Meet him again.” We met again and it was love at second sight. She’s so passionate about this project. She lived it. She was the Wade character in a real-life relationship where all these secrets of a family kept coming out.
Onda: Tyler Perry co-produced this movie. Did you get to meet him, and was it like meeting the president of money?
Robinson: [laughs] Good one. He wasn’t around much. He came in one day, enjoyed the hell out of himself at Moby Dick Day and he was just like, “You all got this.” He gave us his blessing, he gave us his name to shine light on us. We couldn’t be more honored or humbled.
Onda: “Peeples” will likely get comparisons to “Meet the Parents.” How is this movie different?
Robinson: This is about people keeping secrets and learning to be your own truth, be yourself… that’s not what “Meet the Parents” is about, is it?
Onda: Not really.
Robinson: So that’s the glaring difference. And, also, this has David Alan Grier. That’s hard to top. He’s the funniest dude on the planet.
Onda: The cast of characters in this is so funny that, at times, you play the straight man. Are you comfortable in both roles?
Robinson: Yeah, I play the clown and the straight man. Being a comedian, my biggest influences are, like, dead pan. Peter Sellers, Leslie Nielsen, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman – people who say ridiculous things and are straight about it. When I first got in comedy, that’s what I was doing. I was just like, “Here’s the jokes,” but I didn’t really do anything. People are cracking up, but I’m on to the next thing, playing the keyboard. You’re with David Alan Grier, so it’s fun to set him up and then turn around and do a “Thriller” dance. It’s fun to be able to do both.
Onda: With all the big summer movies available right now, why should film fans see “Peeples”?
Robinson: I wish I knew the words to magically get people to come out. I don’t know what you like. But I hope you do. It’s a feel good movie. It’s laughter. It’s David Alan Grier. You get to see Diahann Carroll and Melvin Peebles. You get to see Kerry Washington in a school girl uniform. Kali Hawk wears a teddy. You get to see me dance several times, and be on mushrooms and marijuana. It’s some singing. It’s such a come-together moment of a movie and I just love it. I hope you love it too. I hope you wanna see it.
“Peeples” is now available with XFINITY On Demand. Click here to begin the process of ordering at home.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.