Craig Robinson has been a familiar face to comedy fans for well over a decade. After coming to national prominence as Darryl in 'The Office,' Robinson followed that NBC hit series up with a successful film career that's included projects like "Hot Tub Time Machine," "This Is The End" and "Pineapple Express." The next high profile project fans can catch Robinson is acting opposite Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes in the Netflix film "Dolemite is My Name."
The film tells the story of Rudy Ray Moore, who strikes out on his own to make the 1975 blaxploitation flick "Dolemite." Along with Murphy, Snipes and Robinson the ensemble includes Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg and Michael Epps.
Robinson took some time to dish on the project and what it was like to work opposite his comedic idol, Eddie Murphy.
U.S. & World
How did the 'Dolemite' project come to your attention?
Robinson: My agent and manager said (director) Craig Brewer wants to meet with you about this Eddie Murphy project. I'm a huge fan of Eddie Murphy. He was a hero, actually. I was very influenced by him so it was exciting. A week or so later I auditioned and I ended up getting the part.
How much of the story of Rudy Ray Moore were you familiar with before signing on?
Robinson: I didn't know too much about him. I had seen a couple of his movies when I was little. But once I got to read the script I found it very inspiring.
Tell me more about your character in the film, Ben Taylor
Robinson: Ben Taylor is a singer and he was one of Dolemite's inner circle. More than inner circle.. he was like one of Rudy's soldiers. He was that willing to help out. They were like family. There are parallels between Rudy Ray Moore and his crew and Eddie Murphy and his crew because we there for Eddie. We were like his soldiers.
There's so much buzz around anything Eddie Murphy does. What's it like being on set with him. What's it like acting in a scene opposite him.
Robinson: On set he's chill. He's personable and very funny. It's like he's just this fascinating human being with all these stories. It's amazing the things he's lived through and seen. He's rubbed elbows with Luther Vandross, Prince, Michael Jackson. He's got stories for everybody. And then working with him in a scene... it uplifts you. You're working working with one of the absolute bests in the business.
Murphy is always mentioned among best comedic voices along with likes of Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx. Can you put into context the impact he's had in comedy.
Robinson: We would have to talk for days. He has an aura around him. He's ethereal. When I look back at Raw or Delirious...Me being a comedian..I look at so much stuff that I've stolen from him. Just mannerisms. Stuff you wouldn't see but I'm like 'Oh my God. I'm looking at myself.' And it's stuff that I wasn't even conscious of. To put into context what he means to comedy...when you think about movies like "48 Hours" and the comedy specials and the stint on "Saturday Night Live." He changed the game.
As a fan what would it mean to you to see him return to doing stand up?
Robinson: We all want to know what he's going to do. Like I said when he tells these stories... he could just go up and tell stories and you would be crying. And you'd be fascinated. So to me ...it means greatness is coming back.
There's also a lot of excitement about seeing another of your co-stars in this..Wesley Snipes. What's Wesley like on set?
Robinson: Wesley is going to blow people's minds with this role. He was hysterical. And Wesley is an actor's actor. He stays in character. It was brilliant...to see his dedication and commitment and to just know him as a pro.
I had no idea you started as a school teacher
Robinson: That is correct.
How did the late career change come about?
Robinson: I was in college when i realized I was going to do comedy. So when I started teaching I got a job right out of college teaching in Indiana and then I moved to Chicago to teach. But I knew I was going into comedy. There was no doubt that was the path I was going to take. So when I was teaching I was doing open mics. I was taking acting classes. I was taking Second City classes and improv sketch stuff. I prepared myself and then I ended up getting the Montreal Comedy Festival in 1998. I also ended up coming out to LA to get a development deal from doing that festival.
How did your role on 'The Office' come about?
Robinson: When I went to audition for 'The Office' (show runner) Greg Daniels was there and at the time I had this video out with Jerry Minor. Greg Daniels... when I walked in he said 'Hey it doesn't get any funnier than that.' I ended up reading one of the talking heads and i just loved it. I love deadpan. So "The Office" was just kind of made for me and I couldn't believe I was on it because it was the kind of show I would watch and love.
What impact did it have on your career?
Robinson: It opened a lot of doors. I would go into a room to audition and you would see the head of whatever network in the hallway and it would be 'Hey, my daughter loves you.' It got you a lot of attention. Whenever you go to a bar or whatever it's like you have a friend everywhere you go. People loved the show.
So you'd be up for a reboot or some sort of reunion special?
Robinson: Of course. We haven't heard anything. I can't speak for everybody. But I think everyone would be game. We had a pretty good time on there. That would be something else... maybe a reunion movie.
"Dolemite Is My Name," opens in theaters Friday and arrives on Netflix Oct. 25.