CATEGORIES Movie NewsComics aren't always on. Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy probably don't get up in the morning thinking, "I'm funny," no matter how entertaining they may be on TV or in a movie theater.
Add to that list David Alan Grier, a comic actor known for his role in the '90s sketch comedy show "In Living Color" (yes, J Lo was one of the dancers), as well as his various movies, time on Broadway, and, more recently, his first book, "Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth."
In person, Grier appears much quieter, less zany, and by his own admission these days, "less out there." However, he didn't hold back when it came time to talk to Moviefone about his role in the Tyler Perry-produced comedy "Peeples," in which he stars as Kerry Washington's dad. Grier talked at length about the cast, shenanigans on the set, the invasion of Twitter and Instagram, and sports -- not all in that order.
You first met Kerry Washington on Broadway in "Race." What has it been like working with her? It was amazing. When we were on Broadway, royalty came. Anna Wintour, Michael Kors, Julian Bond, and just whomever, night after night. For me, it was some knucklehead who I did a table read with 20 years ago.
Kerry's awesome and wonderful but it's the ease with which she wears all that. To young women, to young black women she's an icon. That's what I love about her. But I also love...she's courageous as an actress to go and do David Mamet. She hadn't done a play on Broadway like that, to go and do "Django" on her own terms and continue taking challenging roles and pushing herself in her career, and now, watching her success with "Scandal," is inevitable. I'm not surprised. I mean, we knew that was coming so I love, love, love her.
In "Peeples," you get to play her rich daddy. What's his point of view? I think he is barely holding it together at that dinner table. He didn't know who's doing what. Kali [Hawk]'s character -- my daughter who comes out of the closet -- that's the one thing that connected [for me] with my dad. I told him something, then I said to my dad, "Did you know?" He said, "Absolutely." And I could tell in his heart he had no idea.
I think if you asked Judge Peeples, the one thing he will say is that he knows for a fact who his children are. He doesn't know. I think his wife knows.
How did you keep it straight enough that it doesn't fall into slap stick and parody? I think that was the tone that was set by Tina [Gordon Chism]'s writing, and ultimately you've got to trust your director in deferring to her. My thing was how big, how far? How small shall I tone it down? We wanted that commonality, the foibles of any perfect family. You peel it away and there is craziness going on but rooted in the organic. So Tina was the one who said, "We'll try this, we'll try that. Push, don't be afraid, it's not too big, go this way or that way." So sometimes we would adjust on the fly.
You got some scenes with Ana Gasteya, who used to be on SNL. She's got to be a familiar with sketch comedy, as you are from "In Living Color," did you guys sync? I met her when I hosted "Saturday Night Live" back in '96. I love Ana. When she and I were whispering in our scene, real close, it was improv. We were saying things like, "[Whispering] Where have you been?" "I've just been to a cheese tasting." "Really?" "The gorgonzola was magnificent." Anything that would make your breath reek. "What were you drinking?" "Merlot and aged vinegar."
So we were cracking each other up. Ana didn't have many days but when she left it was that feeling of "Man, I've got to leave this party. You guys are having so much fun, dog gone it."
You also had Melvin Van Peebles on the set. Did anything especially funny happen between takes? I got to meet Melvin when I did "Badass" with Mario Van Peebles. I've known Mario forever. Melvin has been the OG rebel as an artist. Being from Detroit, remembering those posters as a kid. "Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song," it was like this film's been rated-X by an all-white jury. I can't see it. I needed to know what was in that movie.
He and Diahann Carroll were so generous. Diahann took us out to dinner and she basically said, "Ask me anything; I'm here, basically willing to pass on that knowledge and all her experience from as a young, African-American artist, female perspective. These are the mistakes I made, these are roads I went down."
You aren't in the public eye except when you're performing, on stage, on TV, or in movies. Do you ascribe to the old adage that comics aren't funny except when they're performing? Luckily, when I was out there it was before Twitter and this Instagram. I talk about this when I'm on stage. I mean you'd better role out of bed like you're on camera because there's somebody literally filming and all that stuff. I try to be very approachable, but I'm also a father with a young daughter and she's just figuring out, "Who is that guy that you were talking to. He's not a friend and you don't know him."
I try to conduct myself in that way. It's never my intention to embarrass my family, but if I have something that I think can add to a conversation, then I will say it. I just don't want to be out there. I use Twitter, but it's kind of benign. I don't want to be apologizing either. Every day it's like, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I said what I said." I have a lot of fun and that's good to hear that you say I'm not out there. That's good. I'm tired of people saying, "Are you okay? Is there anything you want to say to your fans?' No. I don't want to do that, I don't want to be out like that.
"Peeples" hits theaters May 10.