Video/Q&A: Chicago native Craig Robinson of 'Peeples'

(Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
May 07, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

Apropos of nothing, Craig Robinson is singing R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

The Beverly native best known as Darryl Philbin on “The Office” is in the next room prepping for an interview about “Peeples,” his biggest chance at flying—er, being a leading man. (Actually, first he entered the room saying, “All right, RedEye, baby! Now this is for real.”)

Obviously, the higher stakes haven’t diminished his personality. When prompted, the die-hard Sox fan doesn’t hesitate to revive his rivalry with Illinois native and Cubs fan Nick Offerman or teach me a dance from the “Thriller” video he impressively replicates in “Peeples,” opening May 10.

In the film, the 41-year-old actor (who left Chicago in ’99 and now lives in Los Angeles) plays Wade Walker, who wants to propose to his girlfriend Grace (Kerry Washington of “Scandal”) but first must meet and impress her father (David Alan Grier), a federal judge. At the Trump Hotel, the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and Second City alum, soon to be seen with Seth Rogen and James Franco in “This Is the End,” talked about considering stardom, his feelings about nude beaches and what he wishes Darryl had done on “The Office.”

“Peeples” is your first big leading role. When you look back, do you remember anyone telling you it wouldn’t happen or that you were just a supporting player?
I’ve always been encouraged. Maybe a long time ago in college … people were like with trepidation, “It’s tough!” I don’t recall anybody saying, at least to my face, “No! He can’t do this!” Probably because I was already on my way to doing what I want to do.

I was going to say, why would they say that? I’m sure you were funny and had a big personality then too.
Yeah, but in college nobody went into comedy. It wasn’t the thing to go into. You don’t go to college going, “I want to be a stand-up.” It was just so unheard of.

People on IMDB are having a somewhat ridiculous debate about whether Grace and Wade would get together in real life. How do you respond to that?
Nice! Grace and Wade are together so there’s no debate there. In real life, Craig Robinson/Kerry Washington? Kerry is an amazing person, and I would definitely date her, so sure.

She talked about you guys fighting like family on set. What’s an example of that?
I don’t know. It was just a very real—we kept it real. It was a real environment. We sang together, we played together. I don’t remember too many fights, if any. I think one time Kerry was mad because I was texting. She’s like, “Ahh! I don’t like that!” It was one of those moments where I probably shouldn’t have been. She was right. Again. Of course.

How did you respond?
I put my phone away.

And said “Sorry, honey?”
Yeah, exactly. That’s what you do when Kerry Washington says she doesn’t like something. You fix it.

This movie prompts the question: How many times have you been to a nude beach?
I have not been.

Would you?
I would absolutely. Is that an invitation or …?

Yeah, I’m going after this interview.
Sweet! Good thing it’s not cold …

Why haven’t you gone yet then?
I mean, it’s not on the top of my list. They’re always so remote. There was one in Canada I heard about, but it was like oh, you gotta go 40 minutes. I want the one that I can just go and be like, “Ahhhh!” Like David Alan Grier was in the movie, “Here come the judge!” [Laughs.]

So next time you buy a place you’ll have to find somewhere around the corner from a nude beach?
No, in that case I’ll just go in my backyard … Nude backyard.

How often do you do that now?
Not often. Now I just kinda get nude to go outside and get the mail. I live in an apartment building, so I go … down to the mail room, and I just hope nobody’s down there to see, and I hope the cameras don’t catch it.

What’s something you wish Darryl got to do on “The Office”?
I don’t know, maybe spank Angela or something; a nice sex romp scene. I don’t know; everything he got was a gift. I don’t know that they expected me to be around that long. I certainly didn’t think I was going to be around that long. I didn’t think it was going to be to the point where I was in all the episodes and toward the end of the run. So I’m cool with whatever he got.

Why didn’t you think so?
It’s television, it’s Hollywood. You don’t know. Each season is a new, ‘OK, are we going to get picked up?’ There’s always wondering. I’m not writing it and I don’t know what I’m doing until the table read in that instance, so I just didn’t know.

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