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Q&A: Stars of “Keanu” talk about the unique action comedy

Scott Davis

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Keegan-Michael Key (who grew up in Southfield and went to Detroit Mercy) and Jordan Peele have been entertaining audiences for years on their immensely popular sketch show, Key and Peele. While Jason Mitchell has not been on the scene as long as they have, he made a name for himself in last year’s Straight Outta Compton by portraying Eazy-E. The three of them star in the new action-comedy Keanu, in theaters this Friday.

The three stars spoke to college journalists from around the country to talk what the set was like, why action-comedies work, and what the inspiration behind naming the cat Keanu.

Question: How crazy is it that you’re from Louisiana and now that this film was coming out like what does this for your career?

Jason Mitchell: You know, it’s, it’s so crazy because I was actually living in L.A. like in full grind mode at that time when I got the, the role.  And I came home to New Orleans like on, on per diem and live really living the acting life you know, and my whole family and my friends and everybody, they really started to see it because Compton like I said, Compton hadn’t come out yet so they just looking at me like, “Wow!  Like you really changed everything for yourself, you know.”  So, it was, it was just doubt to like, not necessarily put it in everybody’s face, but that was the first time everybody could really see it and say like, “Damn, this is still really working,you know.”  So, it just made the whole city proud you know, and I’m super happy about it.  

Question: You is you gained a lot of positive attention from critics and audiences for your portrayal of Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton. What do you want people who discovered you in that movie to take a way from your performance in Keanu? 

Jason Mitchell: I just want people to, to not stereotype what type Cashmere anything like that and I want people to see that I’m really a contender no matter what, what you know, what form it might come in because even though I do play like two different gangster roles, one of them is all about comedic timing and the other one is just a, a full-blown drama, you know.  So, one of them already got unpeel my onion and show all the different things that I could do but in this, I could, I could you know, show a whole different side and really show that I can, I can last in that comic world you know.

Question: I was wondering like with this talented and funny of a cast, was there any like what was the most fun moment onset or like a weird moment or something that happened on set?

Jason Mitchell: [Key] and I had a really, really, really good Billy Bob Thornton impression here.  And, and when we shoot at night, we go from sundown to sunup so it comes a point where it’s like 4 in the morning and everybody’s completely delirious and then chickens in the background doing Billy Bob Thorton impressions like this is how way to get through the night is so good.

Question: I was just wondering how is this movie different from other films you’ve been in and like how’s the production different?

Jason Mitchell: Well, for one, I’ve never been in something that was such a passion project for somebody because true enough, Straight Outta Compton was a passion project for some people but it was such a vast amount of people that has something to do with that, that is, is slightly different.  It takes a little bit of the, of the charm away from you.  [Peter Atencio]  and [Jordan] and [Key] and me, they have like a bond because they been working together so long on [KM film]. But this is their first feature film.  So, it’s such a passion project for these guys in like coming onto this is just been a pleasure because when people love things, they really love them you know what I mean, like, on one hand like it could start raining outside and everybody could run and cover their own head and hide under tents but like, this is the type of project if you would rain everybody would like use their body to cover the camera if that makes sense you know, and it’s just special to be around people like, in the midst of that type of you know, in, in the midst of that type of love so it was cool. 

Question: What other topics do you want to touch on in a film format?

Jordan Peele: Well, there’s a you know, we haven’t even really explored it a lot yet but you know, we’ve got some ideas but there’s lot of things happening you know, in the, in the world right now.  We have to deal like, we deal things like you know, class and how people you know, how people are being affected by wage discrimination, that’s one thing that might be worked on now.  There are science fictions steps that might be worked.  We’re talking about AI things in that, in that realm.  You know, there’s so many things that we haven’t really hurdled up yet and discuss exactly where we want to go next.  And there’s also lots of personal projects that we wantto work on to get, apart from each other as well as with each other.  So, I think once Keanu comes out, we’ll be able to kind of have a Pow-Wow and figure out what’s next for us and what kind of, what kind of state that we can make.

Question: You guys seems to be big sense of the action genre because you guys have spoofed it a lot in your shows so, what inspired you to incorporate those aspects into your first future link, so?

Jordan Peele: Well, you know, like you said those are, are some of our favorite, basically, our favorite genre.  And you know, there’s, I don’t think that there’s anybody but certainly any comediene out there who doesn’t secretly wished they were either a musician, a famous musician or an action star.  And so, this is like you know, this movie is about wish fulfillment.  It’s, it’s about, obviously it’s about saving this kitten but along the way, these characters, Rell and Clarance get to, get to enter this high stakes world that they, they, they dreamed about when they watch renaissance films.  And that’s very, that’s very similar to how you know, to Keegan and myself in real life.  You know, we, we just want to be badass.  Everybody wants to do that.  

Question: You guys do so well with social commentary on television, what made you I want to bring that for the first time in your own feature film?

Keegan-Michael Key: Well, I, I think a lot of it has to do with the, they were just a passion, there was a passion certainly on, on Jordan’s part to make a movie finally to be at a position.  I think the show is doing pretty well and the show was rolling right along.  And so, Jordan and one of our writers, (Alex Rubin) said, “You know, maybe we should have a Key & Peele movie at the ready so if anybody comes calling, you know, we’d have something to present to them.  And something that we have been passion our whole lives, are action films and especially action films in that very interesting genre that existed in the 80s and 90s where you had an action movie with lots and lots of laughs in it.  Or sometimes, you had a comedy that has a good deal of action or violence in it.  And there was a real great tone to movies when we were growing up, that we wanted to, to celebrate and that’s kind of where, where they started, you know, where Jordan and Alex started.  So, I think the social commentary is just kind of something we do because we just write based on how we see the world.  And so, it’s going to find its way into our stories, into our sketches into this film because we do not really, frankly no any other way to be.  And so, yes, so that kind of the, that kind of encompasses it.

Question: Some of the posters are spoofs of recent popular movies so, I was just wondering if you guys had any say on those or what your thoughts are?

Keegan-Michael Key: I think that it was an idea that I think Warner Brothers could see what the spirit of the movie was and that the movie has, the movie is in homage to a particular genre of films so they thought it would be great to kind of put forth the spoof posters which they’ve done a really remarkable job at.  And it’s been, it’s been wonderful to have that piece, something that’s representing, representing the movie just people seem to really be getting a kick out of it on social media.  

Jordan Peele: Yes.  There’s a, there’s a calendar in the movie where Keanu gets put and my character makes this, a calendar of Keanu in the different action movies.  I think, I think, I think a big thematically and satirically someone was talking about the, the, the social message of the film you know, big part of the, the satire is that, you know, Keegan and I and, and guys like Keegan and I have never been you know, the leads of an action movie.  So, you know, Keanu is, is, is kind of a, a symbol for, for Key & Peele in this movie and, and us being able to step into this genre that we, we wouldn’t have been in if we didn’t, if we didn’t write it, let’s put it that way.  So, that’s why, that’s why we see Keanu in place in all these different movies.  It’s like this movie is what if we Keegan and Jordan had to exist in a, in a movie like, Captain America Civil War, yes, more than Matrix. 

 Keanu is in theaters Friday and is rated R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity.

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Q&A: Stars of “Keanu” talk about the unique action comedy