Interview: Keith David from "Enlisted"
There are few veteran actors in Hollywood that everyone has seen in one movie or another and actor Keith David is definitely one of them. Whether you saw him as King in “Platoon”, or Childs in “The Thing”, or “Armageddon”, or “Requiem for a Dream”, or one of the hundreds of other things he has done, you will remember him. Now you can see him in the new military comedy TV show “Enlisted” which he describes as “Scrubs” meets “M.A.S.H”. Keith was gracious enough to sit down with us here at Movie Room Reviews and tell us all about his new show.
Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: I watched three episodes of your new show “Enlisted”. I liked it a lot.
Keith David: Oh, great. Thank you. I appreciate that.
MRR: You play Cody Wallace in “Enlisted”. You've done so many great films and TV shows, it's hard to even start talking about all of them, but can you kind of explain to our audience about your character on “Enlisted”?
Keith David: Well, I am the command sergeant major of a rear detachment post in Florida, and a rear detachment is... We stay behind and then take care of the families of the deployed soldiers. And I'm the guy that looks out for them and watches them, oversees the whole operation. We clean the tanks, we make sure that the families are taken care of. We make sure that the communication with the soldiers are taken care of, they don't have to worry about what's going on with their families at home. So they, in fact, can do their job to the best of their ability in the field.
MRR: When I spoke to Kevin Biegel, he said that he sent you the script, and you agreed to it right away. Why was that?
Keith David: Because, first of all, I love stories about sons and fathers of sons and the nurturing of men. I will include women in that relationship too, because everyone needs a relationship with their father. Everybody needs to get straight with that relationship with their father. I happen to have served with these boys' father most of my life, and I'm a career Army guy. So I promised him, when he died, that I would look after these boys. And I think that it's important to have a support system where you know someone cares about you. And I think in one of the episodes with Jill when I'm taking care of my daughter and I'm following my daughter and her boyfriend around, Jill says to me that she is lucky to have somebody who cares about her enough to look after her like that, 'cause that's not the kind of family she was raised in. And I assure her that she is loved, and there is someone who cares about her. And I love that because I am a people person, I love people. And I love the fact that I get to be a caring individual. There's a gruff exterior, but deep down inside, I care about these people.
MRR: Well, as a veteran actor, how do you approach working with these actors that might not have as much experience, and what are you trying to show them?
Keith David: We were all a fledgling at one time, and these people may not have as much experience as I have, but they've been around. It’s one thing to be able to talk about one's work ethic, but the proof of that pudding is in the eating. I mean, I just try to, by example... Being on time, knowing my lines, knowing the script and what my responsibility in the script is, and being as present for that and to that as possible. And I think that raises the stakes for everybody. Those are the stakes that I raise for myself and the standard that I try to adhere to, and I hope it's inspiring to those around me. So far, it has made everybody come to the table, ready to work, and that's a wonderful thing. Then we can have fun, then we can truly have fun. If people come to the table and they're not ready to work, then we can't have any fun.
MRR: When you're on the set, do you like to stay in character, or do you kinda go away from it and then jump right back in when you need to?
Keith David: When I'm working, I'm working; and when I'm not, I'm not. I don't bark orders to people. The character is not condescending. He's got a wry sense of humor, but he's not condescending. And when I'm on the set, I'm a person working just like everybody else. So I like to talk to my co-workers, the grips, the editors; we're all there to make the best product that we can. And that's one of the things I like about the theater and I love about working in the movies, is that it becomes a family, a community, and you have to contribute to that. Even in my own family, at home, sometimes I don't always feel like being around people, even at home. But I don't wear that on my sleeve because I have daughters to raise, and I don't want them to live with a grumpy guy.
I'm grumpy enough as it is.
MRR: Kevin said he had you in mind when he wrote the part. You were in movies like "Platoon" and "Armageddon" and other things where you were playing in the military. That was the more serious side of the military. This is kind of the comedy side of the military. So how are you enjoying being on that side of it?
Keith David: First of all, I like working. Second of all, even in something like "Platoon" or "Armageddon", even under the most dire of circumstances, one always has to keep one's sense of humor. You know, we get to tell stories and have a great sense of humor about it. I like to think of it as MASH meets Scrubs. And I was watching MASH last night, as a matter of fact, and you have these grave, dire circumstances. You're in the middle of a war zone, but you can still have some fun. Because that's how life is. In the midst of the most dire emergency, you can find some humor in it or some way to lighten up a situation so it's not as dark as it would have been. So I love that challenge.
MRR: I think you do a great job in this show with your sense of humor, speaking of, where do you think you got your sense of humor from?
Keith David: I would say my grandmother and my mother 'cause they both had very wry senses of humor.
Keith David: If you didn't know that they were joking, sometimes you wouldn't think it was so funny.
MRR: Hey, well, I appreciate you talking with me today and I was wondering if you could tell me about some of the new projects you have coming up.
Keith David: Well, currently, while I'm on a hiatus, I'm working on a play. I'm playing Paul Robeson in a play called "Paul Robeson", by Phillip Hayes Dean, which I'll be doing in a theater here in Los Angeles, at the Nate Holden theater.
MRR: When does that come out?
Keith David: They open in March.
MRR: Oh, wow. Congratulations with that.
Keith David: Thank you.
MRR: Thank you so much for talking with me, I enjoy the show, and I wish you the best of luck with everything.
Keith David: Well, I really appreciate that, man. You take care of yourself.