May 09, 2013
By Kam Williams
LAWT Contributing Writer
Born in Chicago on October 25, 1971, Craig Robinson is currently appearing in the final season of “The Office” on NBC, where he portrays acerbic Dunder-Mifflin employee Darryl Philbin. He is definitely a world away from his original career intentions; before deciding to pursue a comedy career full-time, Robinson was a K-8 teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.
He had earned his undergraduate degree from Illinois State University and a Master’s in Education from St. Xavier University. It was while studying education that he discovered his love of acting and comedy upon joining the famed Second City Theatre.
Craig made his mark on the comedy circuit at the 1998 Montreal “Just for Laughs” Festival. That year, he also won the Oakland Comedy Festival Awards and the Miller Genuine Draft 1996 Comedy Search. He soon went on to perform his act on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and on “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
His rise to success with “The Office” and his stand-up prowess quickly brought him to the attention of comedy maven Judd Apatow. Robinson made audiences question their notions of vanity, playing the sensitive bouncer in Knocked Up. He then kept audiences glued to their seats as one of the henchman hunting Seth Rogen and James Franco’s bumbling stoner characters in Pineapple Express, and made fans squirm when he co-starred with Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks in Zack and Miri Make A Porno.
In 2010, Craig starred alongside Rob Corddry and John Cusack in Hot Tub Time Machine. The story follows three men as they visit the hot tub where they once partied, accidentally discover it is now a time machine, and travel back to their raunchy heyday in the mid-1980s. Fans’ voices spoke loudly, and early negotiations are currently in progress for a sequel.
Here, he talks about his first leading man role as Wade Walker in Peeples, a comedy co-starring Kerry Washington.
LAWT: What interested you in Peeples?
CR: When I met with [director] Tina Gordon Chism, I was impressed with her passion about the project. She had lived this experience of dating someone from a family with so many secrets, and watching them unravel. So, she knew what she was talking about. And when she let me know that Kerry Washington was playing the love interest, I went, “Okay, I’m in! Let’s go ahead and do it.”
LAWT: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You’ve done some great cameo and support roles, but now landed a lead role here. Congratulations! So, in Peeples, your fans will see more of you. How was it playing a main character and working with [producer] Tyler Perry?
CR: I worked with Tyler before on Daddy’s Little Girls. He couldn’t be smarter or more laid back and cool. He’s always throwing out lines and is funny as hell. And he was shining his light on Peeples, too, lending his name to showcase Tina as a first-time director, and me as a first-time lead. I’m humbled and honored to work with him. He’s great!
LAWT: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier would like to know what was it like to on the set with legendary actors like Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles?
CR: Diahann Carroll delivered a very moving speech at the start of the whole project, and Melvin pulled me aside on the set and told me to, “Stay strong!” in a way that carried considerable heft. These people are legends, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled about their participation in the movie and blessing it. It was superb.
LAWT: Patricia also says: Given that you are a singer, are you interested in recording an album one day?
CR: Yes I am. I have a sound. It’s called funk mixed with stank. That’s what I do.
LAWT: What’s it like having the same name as First Lady Michelle Obama’s brother?
CR: I was once dating a woman who got very upset after confusing the two of us when she found my picture next to his bio which indicated that he’s divorced with kids, and remarried. So, if you can imagine, that’s what it’s like.
LAWT: Larry Greenberg says: I'm just crazy about films with time travel. Where there any special issues or tricky scenes when you played Nick in Hot Tub Time Machine?
CR: Yes, there was a special issue. Her name was Jessica Paré. She was topless with me in the hot tub. So, yes, that was a very special moment, and I watch the movie every night because of that scene.
LAWT: Dinesh Sharma asks: Do you think that your role describes a challenge most black men face today, of trying to fit into upper-class black society? Or was the movie just Meet the Parents with an African-American twist?
CR: Peeples is definitely not Meet the Parents. It’s more a movie about family secrets. It does explore class issues somewhat, but it’s mostly about living your own truth.
LAWT: What is your favorite dish to cook?
CR: I can bake the hell out of some chicken, my friend.
LAWT: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
CR: Celestine Prophecies.
LAWT: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
CR: Butterflies by Michael Jackson.
LAWT: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
CR: JSLV, Just Live, it’s a company in California.
LAWT: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
CR: Craig Robinson… I see growth.
LAWT: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
CR: To be able hug my deceased family members, friends and godfather.
LAWT: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
CR: Banging on the piano while my grandmother was watching me. I’d run up to her and ask: “How was that, Grandma?” And she’d say, “That was beautiful, baby!” And I’d run back to the piano and play some more. I’m sure that’s why I still play today, because I was encouraged from such a young age, 2 or 3.
LAWT: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
LAWT: The Mike Pittman question” asks: What was your best career move?
CR: Choosing my manager, Mark Schulman.
LAWT: PBS President Neal Shapiro asks: If you could really time travel and live in another period, which one would you choose?
CR: The Sixties, because it was the beginning of Rock & Roll. All the songs sounded alike, since they were using the same three chords, which would make it easy to hop out and rock.
LAWT: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
CR: That’s a great question. I can’t think of one.
LAWT: The Viola Davis question: Who do you really believe you are when you go home as opposed to the person you pretend to be on the red carpet?
CR: The red carpet is weird because, when they don’t know who you are, you’re standing there posing and nobody’s taking pictures of you. And when they do know you, they’re calling your name from every which way and you don’t know in which direction to turn. For me, I’m more in control at home. On the carpet, I want to be in control, but it can be overwhelming.
LAWT: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would it be?
CR: Rock star! Singing songs that the whole world knows, like my favorite band, Earth, Wind and Fire.
LAWT: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there something that you promised to do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
CR: No, because I don’t make promises unless I know I’m gonna keep ‘em.
LAWT: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
LAWT: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do? Would you do the bad stuff, you never got a chance to do, or would you do good stuff to make sure you make it into heaven?
CR: I would live like I’m already living. If I couldn’t get to my family, I’d hit my favorite restaurant. I’d seize the moment.
LAWT: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
CR: A whale.
LAWT: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
CR: The little things that let me know I’m on the right path, like running into an old friend, or getting into the car and catching an awesome song from the beginning.
LAWT: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
CR: I don’t get too close in relationships. I kinda have my arm out, like the Heisman trophy, because I don’t want to hurt somebody the way I was hurt.
LAWT: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in with an eye toward a particular role.
CR: Yeah, Cannonball Run.
LAWT: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you have a favorite charity?
CR: No, I don’t.
LAWT: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?
CR: Because it brings me closer to people, and it lets me explore who I am. It’s a chance for me to be connected. Whenever I’m performing live, the first thing I look for is to make a connection.
LAWT: What is your favorite way of performing?
CR: I’m in my element when I’m alone on stage with a microphone and a keyboard.
LAWT: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
CR: Be yourself, because you’re special. There’s only one of you. Second, be tenacious, visualize success, and then live it. And remember everything you learned in kindergarten.
LAWT: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
CR: As a joy!