One thing that’s odd about Kenan Thompson is how unassuming he is over the phone. From his humble beginnings on Nickelodeon’s Kenan & Kel (1996-2000), Thompson parlayed that success (and the success of the 1997 film Good Burger) into a stint on Saturday Night Live that’s lasted 18 seasons…so far. That puts him in a class by himself, as the longest-running cast member in the show’s history. But where others would easily rest on those laurels and that success, for Thompson it’s only the beginning.
This Emmy Award winning actor has completed his first season of his NBC show Kenan and is already generating buzz just voting is starting to commence this week. We were lucky enough to speak with Thompson about his show, his co-star Chris Redd, whether he’s returning to SNL next season, and who would be on his Mount Rushmore of SNL performers.
Dewey Singleton: Hey Kenan, I have to ask how you were able to pull filming both SNL and your sitcom last season because I’ve looked at your Instagram and I was exhausted.
Kenan Thompson: (Laughs) A labor of love man .. labor of love .. I was lucky to have such a support system. Not many people get to do what I do and I’m blessed. It’s that creative process where I thrive best whether it’s rehearsing scenes in 30 Rock or working with Don and Chris on blocking a scene. The process is always exciting to me whether it’s from the acting side or even with my production company.
DS: Will you be filming both next season or will you have other plans?
KT: We are actually starting to film this summer so hopefully there isn’t too much overlap. If there is, then we will deal with it like last year. Chris and I bonded last year while we taped both so if called upon we can make it happen.
DS: I was getting concerned, I didn’t want SNL to lose my favorite cast member.
KT: (Laughs) Well, I appreciate you saying that I’m your favorite cast member but the show will go on, and hopefully we won’t have much overlap but it will continue and won’t be without me. I don’t think Lorne would allow it anyways. (laughs) which is fine by me. Staying busy is what I do best.
DS: I just assumed that you had signed the same 30 year contract Tim Meadows sang about way back when.
KT: (Laughs) Nothing wrong with a little job security. We are all just trying to get a little bit ahead in this business and I’m a big fan. I’m a big fan of the business and to be at this point in my career where I actually have options is a blessing .. no doubt.
DS: Are you tickled with the success of your sitcom?
KT: Of course, and I appreciate you saying that our sitcom is successful, a lot of hard work from the crew, the writers, and our great cast went into making this season what it was. Now that we have a commitment for season 2, we will be able to explore each of these characters a bit more than before. Season 1 was really about maintaining and keeping the audience. Season 2 is about growth. We want to build that audience and each of our characters will evolve as the show moves forward.
DS: Are you pretty much like your character on the show?
KT: Yeah, pretty much .. I’m laid back like he is but I don’t spiral out of control when I’m not running things like he does. So it’s fair to say that we do have much in common but it’s those little tweaks in the character which make playing him so fun as it’s a departure from who I am. Those are always fun to play.
DS: Who breaks the most on set?
KT: I don’t know man … I think it’s a toss-up. Redd certainly knows how to get me to break and that comes from being around each other so much. I know that I’ve been able to get him at different points this season too. But what did catch me off guard is how Don breaks during a scene. He’s almost as bad as Redd is. Please note that I did say, almost.
DS: Getting Chris Redd, a man who is often forgotten to play your brother on the show was a bit of a coup because sooner rather than later, he’s going to break out and it’s going to be hard to keep him on the show.
KT: 100% Agree .. that’s my brother! He is so talented and it won’t be long before we see him skyrocket. I’m surprised he hasn’t his own deal already but with that being said, I look forward to the Gary spinoff (laughs)
DS: Your own television universe?
KT: Marvel does it … (laughs)
DS: I know that you’ve been involved in this whole Emmy discussion before but in a different capacity but now that it’s for your own show, that has to be surreal.
KT: Of course, I grew up watching these award shows as a kid, and being in the discussion then and even now is certainly mind-blowing. Taking everything into account though, I won’t get wrapped up in any sort of discussion or buzz about the show. I’m just feeling really fortunate that everyone on the show gets another season.
DS: Who would be on your Mount Rushmore of SNL performers?
KT: Man, that is a great question! Well, I’d have to have one for the men and one for the ladies. I am not sure of who else would bit it would have to include – Ackroyd, Eddie, Gilda, Maya and Tina.
DS: I agree with you on Akroyd, Eddie, Gilda, and Tina .. but I’m curious about Maya … why?
KT: That’s my girl, she’s probably the best performer ever on SNL. She’s the complete package . She can sing, she’s funny and has great stage presence. Everyone adores her and I was very fortunate to even be in the same cast as she was at SNL even that time together was small.
DS: Kenan, this has been great and I wish you the best of luck.
KT: Thanks Dewey.
Photos by: Casey Durkin/NBC; Will Heath/NBC