Craig Robinson is the man. You know this. I know this. In between bites of a turkey sandwich, Robinson took some
time recently to answer questions about his new film Dragon Wars, his work on The Office and the new fan base he’s cultivated courtesy of his turn in this summer’s Knocked Up. The conversation is excerpted below:
Brent Simon: Hey Craig, thanks for the time. I’d love to be
able to ask intelligent questions, but they haven’t screened the movie for us — I’m
flying blind. So I have a few sincere biographical questions and hopefully some
fun ones as well.
Craig Robinson: Right on, let’s go, let’s do it.
BS: First off, is the movie Dragon Wars or D-War, or Dragon Wars: D-War?
CR: It’s Dragon Wars
in the States, and D-War overseas.
BS: Okay, so I’ve read about it, and how the mythology is
rooted in Korean legend, but is there a popular source material or text over
there, or is it more just an urban legend?
CR: That. Is. A great question. I do not know.
BS: No sweat. Well now, what offers more square-block
destruction of downtown
this or Transformers,
even though I guess that the latter isn’t even supposed to be set there?
CR: Oh! Man, I didn’t see Transformers, but I would guess Dragon
Wars; they really get their rocks off. I mean, there’s a big snake, and
then all these other monsters just wreaking havoc.
BS: When did you shoot this, when did it fall within the
chronology of your own personal schedule and work on The Office?
CR: In 2004 we shot Dragon
BS: Wow. So they’re capitalizing on you now.
CR: (laughs) Hey, if that’s the truth, that’s pretty
BS: Okay, you can speak definitively to this, I think.
What’s the preferred object of choice when acting against special effects: is
it a tennis ball on a stick? A goofy A.D.? A gaping void? What works best for
CR: (laughs) You know, I haven’t had that much experience
with it, so I use imagination and timing. On this it was all, “Action!” And
then just someone yelling, “Monster!”
BS: When you’re doing a movie like this, though, do they
show you mock-ups, drawings of what creatures are going to look like?
CR: Yeah, they showed us exactly what was going on. In fact,
they sent out a DVD, which was what really piqued my interest in doing the
project, and hoping that I got it. (Casting director) Christine Sheaks sent out
a DVD of the CGI they had done — the very first scene where they go to
and bomb the village. They show the monsters and the army and all the soldiers
— it was pretty awesome.
BS: I’m sure. Working with a filmmaker whose native tongue,
I would reckon, is not English, sounds a bit difficult, or at the very least
CR: Oh no, it’s not difficult at all! Yeah, absolutely it’s
difficult, especially since at that time that was (only) my second movie. He
would do two takes, and I wouldn’t have even warmed up. I was like, “Oh man,
come on!” So it was very interesting, I had to learn to quickly get my game
BS: What first got you interested in acting — are you one of
these people who had a big performance instinct as a little kid?
CR: Yes, actually! I would always perform, engage in some
kind of public display of talent, whether it was reading scriptures and singing
in the church choir and playing piano in church, or doing something in school.
We didn’t do a ton of plays, but we did some stuff. And then I got into doing
stand-up comedy, which was my ticket to
and ticket into acting, properly.
BS: I’d be interested in your take on the audition process. Is there anything fun come of it apart from booking a part?
CR: Well, if I can remember that it’s about the performance
for that moment, you have to throw out the window — even though it’s impossible,
you still have to do it — you have to remember that this can change your life,
and this, that and the other. You just go in there and say, “Okay, this is
another opportunity to perform.” Whether it’s for one, two, three or 17 people,
you just have to go in there and enjoy what you do. And the more that you can
be prepared for the audition, the better. I have loved it and I have dreaded
BS: What was the audition process like for The Office, because that show, due to
its faux-documentary framing, has a very relaxed and naturalistic, improvisational
feel. Was there anything special or notable about that audition?
CR: Oh yeah. At the time it happened I was on a TV show
called Lucky, and there had recently
been a flurry of articles written about the show, and one of them said, “Bring
on more Mutha!” And that was my character. That article happened to be in the
office of the audition for The Office.
So I was like, “Hey, check this out!” So that was one little spark, and Greg
Daniels had happened to see me do a bit with Jerry Minor — a song, it’s a bit
about someone fucking his lady, all right? Now, if you go to YouTube and look
up L Witherspoon, you can check it out.
Greg was highly complimentary of that bit, and then what I ended up reading was
one of Jim’s asides to the camera. I got to choose one and read it. And they
dug it, so I got a call that said they want you to do this part in the
warehouse, and it has blossomed, thank God.
BS: I know it must be a great feeling to be on a show that’s
exploding like that, so how deep are you guys into the new seasons and what can
we expect for Daryl this year on The
CR: Well, we’re headed into our fourth episode, which is the
last of the hour-longs. And it’s very exciting — the table-reads for the
scripts are just a party, we’re laughing so hard in there. And then Daryl is
going to be stepping in a little bit more, and have some interaction with not
only Michael Scott. So it’s going to be a little bit more for me to do.
BS: I’m sure you don’t mind that.
CR: At first I had a problem with it, but then I got the
check. (laughs) No, I’m just kidding, I’m teasing. Of course I don’t mind!
Whatever they’ve got — sometimes I’m in there for one line, sometimes a whole
episode, it’s really pretty awesome. They know what they’re doing and I just roll
BS: Cool. So you know, of course, that this lends itself to the
ridiculous hypothetical question — if the creatures from Dragon Wars descended upon Dunder-Miflin, what would happen?
CR: Mmm! (laughs) Daryl and the warehouse crew and probably
everyone in the office too, except for Michael and Dwight, would get out of
there. Michael and Dwight would probably try to reason with them.
BS: After your turn in Knocked Up this summer, have you cultivated a new fan base in appreciative doormen?
CR: Absolutely! I’m on MySpace, and I get a lot of love
coming from them that way. Some bouncers have emailed me saying thank you, you
said what I’ve wanted to say so many times. I’ve gotten some love at the doors
of certain nightclubs. It’s a brand new fan base, absolutely.
BS: Pineapple Express
sounds pretty madcap, and yet David Gordon Green isn’t known for comedy, per
se. What sort of part do you play in the film and how would you describe its tone?
CR: It’s a stoner action comedy, and David Gordon Green was
amazing. It was like trusting a brilliant… (laughs) and I mean this with all due
respect, but he looks so young that I tease him that he’s the world’s most
brilliant fifth grader. From the minute we met… I just learned to trust him, and he got some great stuff out of all of us, so
it was fun. I play a hitman chasing Seth Rogen and James Franco around, because
Seth Rogen witnessed a murder by my boss.
BS: Sounds like a whole other potential new fan base.
CR: “Fuggetabout it!”
BS: In Walk Hard
you play Bobby Shad, which already has the ring of a classic character in name
alone, but what is that character like, and I heard you might have some musical
sequences, is that right?
CR: Yeah, Bobby Shad is a singer in a black nightclub from
the 1940s or ’50s era. What happens is Dewey Cox, John C. Reilly’s character,
is studying my moves and my songs. And then one night I get hurt, and that
happens to be the night that some Jewish record producers are out in the
audience, and Reilly gets up and performs, and does my stuff.
BS: So he cops all your moves, and Bobby is probably none
too happy about that.
BS: Has that ever happened to you in stand-up? I know
there’s a tendency for comedians to police their own when it comes to this, but
have you had someone steal bits from you?
CR: Yeah, I have actually. But they can’t do it like I do
it, so it’s OK.
BS: So, wrapping up, is comedy
the sweet spot for you, or, given your druthers, are there other things you’d
like to soon do — branch out dramatically, or work behind the camera?
CR: I am riding the ride, my friend, and where it takes me
I’m happy to go. It’s really like that. There’s a lot of things that I dream
about (laughs), but at the same time, who knew I’d be in Judd Apatow’s camp,
you know? So I don’t wanna block anything.
Dragon Wars opens this Friday, September 14. To access the film’s trailer, click here.