UDM alum Key stars in ‘Keanu’


In a press conference earlier this week, UDM alum Keegan-Michael Key, along with Jordan Peele and Jason Mitchell, talked about their new film, “Keanu,” which is in theatres now.

It is Key and Peele’s first feature film. The Varsity News was one of many college papers participating in the press conference.


How is this movie different from other films you’ve been in, and 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 had something to do with that, that is, is slightly different. It takes a little bit 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. But this is their first feature film.


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”?

Mitchell: I want people to see that I’m really a contender no matter 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 full-blown drama. So one of them already got me to unpeel my onion and show all the different things that I could do but in this I could show a whole different side and really show that I can last in that comic world.


Now that “Keanu” is happening, what is your next project?

Mitchell: Well, I just got finished “Kong: Skull Island” and I also just got finished with his movie called “Barry” about Obama that should be really, really cool. And I just booked this movie called “Mudbound” also so I’ll be going into that. You’ll see me on the screen three or four times coming up here… I’m not sleeping all night all.


Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele joined the conversation.


The film seems like an opportunity to further explore some of the things in yourself. For example, many of the most hilarious moments in “Keanu” appeared to be influenced by your sketches White Down and Black Ice. Are there certain topics strong from your experiences that you consider the most important to addressing your work?

Peele: The most important for us is always the material that we haven’t seen anywhere else. I think the reason we were drawn to the topic of race and culture and masculinity often is because it’s fertile ground to be nurtured. You need somebody to take those things on and I think when we first started our show, we realized that was part of our purpose and our voice.


When you were making this film, what aspects did you consider to make it appeal both to fans of your show and also the people who maybe aren’t familiar with your television work?

Key:  It’s no accident that a kitten would be the central character in the piece because everybody loves a kitten. And also there’s a certain amount of strategy in calling the kitten Keanu. I don’t want to think about it too much. … That name is iconic. Hopefully that name being connected with that kitten will make the name doubly iconic so when you think of the name Keanu, it makes you think of two things as opposed to one thing. If you’re in the international community, you certainly know who Keanu Reeves is but you may not know who Key & Peele is. … There’s a bit of marketing wizardry going on there.


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?

Key: We did have some say in it yes. … (But) Warner Brothers could see what the spirit of the movie was and that the movie is an homage to a particular genre of films. They thought it would be great to put forth the spoof posters, which they’ve done a really remarkable job at. And it’s been wonderful to have that piece, something that’s representing the movie. People seem to really be getting a kick out of it on social media. And we’re really happy that was part of the campaign. I want some of those posters in my home so, it’s really, it’s been a lot of fun.

Peele: 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 a bit thematically and satirically. Someone was talking about the social message of the film. … Keegan and I and guys like Keegan and I have never been the leads of an action movie. Keanu is … a symbol for Key & Peele in this movie. Us being able to step into this genre that we wouldn’t have been in if we didn’t write it, let’s put it that way. That’s why we see “Keanu” in place of all these different movies. It’s like this movie is what if we Keegan and Jordan had to exist in – a movie like “Captain America Civil War,” yes, more than “Matrix.”