I hate to admit this so openly, but this month’s Five Minutes With… pop culture industry interview has got me seriously geeking out.
See, ever since I stumbled across 30 Rock almost a decade ago, it’s ranked as one of my all-time favourite comedies, so you can imagine how excited I am that the November Q&A is with original cast member Keith Powell!
Keith has enjoyed a diverse career as actor; in addition to his role as James “Toofer” Spurlock in 30 Rock (which nabbed him a Screen Actor’s Guild Award in the Comedy Ensemble category), he has also featured in recurring parts on The Newsroom and About A Boy, and guest starred on shows such as Law & Order and Reno 9-11, to name but a few.
His big screen credits include Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Syrup and The Way We Weren’t, and he is the co-writer, producer and star of My Name is David. Keith also has a considerable body of theatre work under his belt as both an actor and a director.
Currently, Keith writes, directs and co-stars (alongside Jill Knox) in Keith Broke His Leg, a semi-autobiographical, razor-sharp and off-beat comedy web series that you should definitely check out (if you haven’t already).
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Keith for taking the time out of his crazy-busy schedule to take part in this Q&A, and recommend you all visit his official website to keep up to date on the many awesome projects he has coming out right now.
As someone who has worked in film, TV and on the stage, what are the benefits of producing a web series over these other mediums?
Creating Keith Broke His Leg provided a tremendous opportunity for me to be creative at low cost while pushing the show out relatively quickly to a wide audience. No other medium allows me to do that in the way a web series format does. Because the project is so personal and somewhat autobiographical, it was an opportunity to be able to share with my fans my unique point of view efficiently without many middle-men.
You’ve played both dramatic and comedic roles during your career – how does your approach to a “serious” part differ from a “funny” one?
The only real difference between comedy and drama is timing. Everything else should be approached exactly the same: honestly and directly while staying as true to yourself as possible. Acting isn’t about playing other people in different genres, it is about using certain aspects of yourself in imagined circumstances. It shouldn’t matter if you’re doing a serious piece or a comedic piece.
Where do you find the “essence” of comedy lies for you? Is it in the writing, the timing or something else?
Great comedy always begins with the writing. A performer can’t really grab on to the truth of a scene if the writing doesn’t provide a foundation. What a performer can bring to a script is timing and personality, but if the script isn’t in place to back it all up, it won’t be funny.
Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your career?
I draw inspiration from the people I’ve known throughout my personal life. Some of them have been famous while some have not. They are mostly women in my life, so take from that what you will: Lynn Redgrave (who did the first play I produced), my mother and grandmother, Tina Fey, and my wife. They all have provided me with a tremendous education that I am forever grateful for.
What advice would you give to an aspiring comedic actor trying to break into the industry?
Be yourself. That is the biggest commodity in Hollywood and the hardest to duplicate. Never let anyone take your individuality from you.