So you’re the comic relief?
I would say Shane Black’s writing is the comic relief. But make no mistake, the subject matter is dark, it’s thrilling, it’s scary, it’s ominous. But it’s got that Shane Black signature where these really serious themes are in place but always done with a dollop of humor [in movies like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”]. It’s a good transition piece for me because as I move forward in my career and do more action stuff, more thriller stuff, get back to my dramatic roots, this is what I would call a “bridge job.”
Is it daunting to rethink your career after so much success with “Key & Peele”?
I felt like I was at my absolute best with the best possible partner. There was an alchemy there that will never happen again. I will admit that there is a certain amount of trepidation to moving forward and going: “How naked do I want to be in front of people? What will it cost me to show who I truly feel I am to audiences?”
You felt like you couldn’t be your true self doing sketch comedy?
Yes. Part of it’s the genre, in that it’s going: “Well, you’re not asking for me to be me. You’re asking to see wigs and mustaches and hunchbacks and one eye and different accents.” But also, I’m an adult male still trying to discover who I am. And sometimes it’s the little pedestrian questions like: “Do I like mint chocolate chip ice cream? Or do I eat it because somebody else liked it and I felt like I was supposed to like it or people weren’t going to like me?” Part of why I’ve always been a very good actor is I’m very good at taking direction. I don’t know what I want, but I’ll do whatever I can to give you what you want.
You’ve called comedy “a 19-year detour.” Can you explain?
I was on my way to doing dramatic and classical work in Detroit, and I met a bunch of real fun actors, and they were all performing at Second City. And I thought: “Well, I feel like I have a facility for comedy. I should go audition for this place.” And I got in, and that was the beginning of this other path. So from June or July 1997 until October 2015, that was my life. I enjoyed it and I learned so much from it. But then you just start getting itchy.
You jumped for joy when Jordan won the best original screenplay Oscar for “Get Out.” Are you competitive with him?
I’m not. I was at one point in time and then I realized it was an unhealthy endeavor. So I figured if I can lean in and support him, then that’s the best thing I could do for my maturation as a human. And then figure out, “Keegan, what do you want to do?” I want to be proud of myself. I’m already proud of him.