Kenan Thompson is about to film his fourth season of Saturday Night Live. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Thompson made his television debut as a member of Nickelodeon’s all-kid sketch comedy series “All That.” He and Kel Mitchell, the leading cast Imembers, were given a spin-off show “Kenan and Kel” in 1996. Kenan remained on All That until the end of it’s fifth season in 1999. Thompson also had a recurring role on the WB’s “Felicity” in 2001.
Thompson’s feature film credits include “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” “Good Burger” “Rocky & Bullwinkle” and “Heavyweights” with Ben Stiller, “My Boss’ Daughter” with Ashton Kutcher and “Barbershop 2.” His most recent leading movie was the life-action remake of the popular Bill Cosby cartoon series, “Fat Albert” and this week, will star alongside Samuel L. Jackson in the much anticipated “Snakes on a Plane”.
In the midst of this year’s frenetic Comic-Con, the comic actor talked Snakes and comedy with Paul Fischer.
Question: Were you aware of the technical stuff involved with this film?
Thompson: I didn’t know how technical they were going to get when the all turbulent thing began, but it really got cool. They built this a plane set and had plane storm and lightning. I never anticipated all that. I was just intrigued that I had never done anything like that. Sam was in it and Flex was in it, and I was like, “Ok, I’ll spend a summer with those guys” and hang out.
Question: How did it feel like to be in a movie where the buzz is bigger than expected?
Thompson: It feels great. Everything’s revolving in circles. It’s exciting. I don’t think anyone knew how this film was going to break out at least, internet wise. It’s crazy. People are just taking elements of the film and making it their own, which is kinda what every movie asks of its audience. Love it if you can. Some movies turn out to be whatever, but with this one, everyone’s in love with it before they see it. It’s crazy.
Question: Have you been following the buzz that’s online?
Thompson: I’ve been watching the whole my space thing and people making their own stand up routines about it.
Question: Have you read any of blogs about the film?
Thompson: I’ve seen a couple of them. They got a reel that they will show later today at the presentation. It’s a combination of most of the best blogs that fans created. Those are really good. My favorite is the Snake Plisken one on the plane with Kurt Russell. That’s hilarious. It’s great. It shows that there are a lot of creative people out there. Maybe someone may have gotten a job out of that whole thing.
Question: Can you talk about your character, Troy?
Thompson: I’m a passenger. I’m a friend of this rapper who’s on the plane, played by Flex Alexander, sort of like a childhood friend turned security-bodyguard type. Flex is so much taller than me, it’s funny how I’m his bodyguard. There’s another guy on the plane who’s also his bodyguard.
Question: Having not seen the film yet, we can assume that you won’t be the first to die, right?
Thompson: Nah, I actually make it. I might not make it if they make a sequel, but I made it out of this one so I was excited.
Question: Do you get to maintain your sense of humor when you make a movie like this?
Thompson: I think so, because, hell, it’s “Snakes on a Plane”. You have to keep it light but the movie actually looks like a real movie. I’ve seen some pieces and it’s like a grand big movie. It’s shot beautifully. I can see myself sitting in the theater really enjoying it. That’s what I was thinking when I saw the pieces of film we did.
Question: Did you get to handle any of the snakes in the film?
Thompson: Yeah, I had a couple drop on me, but I brushed them off quickly and ran away.
Question: What are you working on next?
Thompson: I just finished a film called “Weiners” for Paramount.
Question: Are you one of the Weiners?
Thompson: I am one of the Weiners. I’m the main one. I’m this kid who wants to start a hot dog company. It’s sort of like, “Dumb and Dumberish”, and the perception of reality is displaced at times.
Question: Who else is in the film with you?
Thompson: There are two guys. One is Zack Levi and the other id Franz Franz, and they’re both up and coming actors.
Question: Do you think it’s reminiscent of “Good Burger”?
Thompson: Yeah, I think it’s going to bring a lot of that Good Burger talk around, which is cool. If we would have had the script, maybe this could have been the sequel but it’s sort of different; a kid starting his own company and taking a road trip as opposed to a burger stand.
Question: Do you prefer doing that sort of comedy to this film or do you try to mix them up a bit?
Thompson: I think I’m versatile. I would love to do what Laurence Fishburne did when he did “Othello” or something like that. Whatever people can believe me in I try to do.
Question: How’s life been on Saturday Night Live?
Thompson: It’s been good. It’s an emotional place. Every time you write something, it’s like your baby. You think you have something special but then it might not make it for whatever reasons and you gotta toughen up and keep writing and try not to take it so personal. It’s definitely has been one of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever done. There are alumni everywhere. I run into them in the street like it’s nothing.
Question: Have you been getting more to do this year than last year?
Thompson: Well, my third season, yes. In my third season I finally a regular cast member and not a featured player. The second year was more than the first. With the first year, they definitely give you a shot. They give you a sketch to do and you get a chance. I didn’t really take advantage of my chances in my first year. I flubbed a line. My first character sketch went under. You gotta figure out a way to stay on the show somehow, so I started doing real people. Then I started doing a lot of women too just to be able to be seen and not just fall to the wayside because I don’t have any characters.
Question: Any characters you like to do?
Thompson: I like doing (Bill) Cosby. I wish I could do it a little bit crazier. I also like Bernie Mac.
Question: Do you have any routines?
Thompson: Yeah, me and Steve Harvey, somebody told him that I did him and he had me do him on his radio show. We had a joke about it but I’ve known Steve for so long, that they love it and I get a lot of flattery for it. I did Star Jones and I’m sure she probably didn’t appreciate that, but I haven’t met her. I’m sure she probably doesn’t like it. I did Whitney Houston’s daughter and they were upset about that. I was just dressed like her and singing on my knees and Maya Rudolph did Whitney Houston; and yes, I ate a piece of chicken in the sketch.
Question: Have you been in touch with Kel (Mitchell) recently?
Thompson: Yeah, I came to my birthday party in May and he looks good. I turned 28. He was hanging out, and partying. He’s a cool dude.
Question: Is there anyone out there you would like to work with or inspires you as an actor?
Thompson: I’ve always wanted to work with Eddie (Murphy) and I’ve been so close a few times but I just admired that guy’s ability to talk trash. Even Chris Tucker. Martin (Lawrence) is hands down, my favorite. I really respect those and their ability to find what makes them funny and present it to people.