Craig Robinson: Not your average heartthrob

Craig Robinson arrives at the world premiere of "Peeples" at the ArcLight Hollywood on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

If your idea of a romantic leading man is Idris Elba, Shemar Moore, Bradley Cooper, Robert Pattinson, Morris Chestnut or Brad Pitt, you may not get it at first, when Craig Robinson appears on screen.

Robinson is the love interest in the new movie “Peeples,” of the red hot Kerry Washington, whose character, Olivia Pope, has literally brought the President of the United States to his knees on the smash ABC drama “Scandal.”

However, after a few minutes on camera with his co-star, it will become evident that Robinson, best known as Darryl Philbin on the NBC sitcom “The Office,” is not your average heartthrob.

Robinson, a musician and stand-up comic, plays Wade Walker, a ‘kounselor’ (with a “k”) who “gives kids therapy through music,” and his treatment for the childhood anxiety that sometimes causes children to wet themselves inspires his latest composition, “Speak It, Don’t Leak It,” which encourages young patients to express themselves verbally, before Mother Nature takes the situation into her own hands.

Wade’s patience, charm and compassion have completely mesmerized his girlfriend, Grace Peeples (played by Washington), but not enough to compel the incurable “Daddy’s Girl” to take Wade home to meet her family.

Finally deciding to assert himself, he follows her home and crashes a family event, but this Average Joe was so unimpressive that even Grace’s possessive daddy, Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier) was c0mpletely unconcerned by his presence.

“I was amenable, and I think the parents looked at me like, ‘Oh, she’s not gonna bang him, so it’s gonna be alright.’ They just looked at me like, ‘He’s too goofy!’” said an amused Robinson during a recent visit to Philadelphia to promote “Peeples.”

Robinson looks like any guy that you might remember from high school, and is filled with nervous energy, but Robinson, who probably gets sick of being referred to as a “teddy bear,” has a charm that is unmistakable.

“Peeples,” produced by Tyler Perry, marks his first opportunity to work with Kerry Washington, who is undubtedly Hollywood’s “It Girl” at the moment.

“We started rehearsing about a week before we shot, and we did little things like go to dinner,” Robinson said. “We had little dinner dates and tried to see who these characters were to each other. It was not hard to fall in love with Kerry Washington, so Wade and Grace, they have a very sweet relationship.

“Comedy chose me,” said Robinson, a former school teacher whose comedic timing and snappy comebacks have served him well when it comes to the ladies.

“Making people laugh is like having magic power to be able to do that! There’s something so special about it. The girls that I have dated, the one common thing that they all say to me …well, I won’t tell you that…No, they all say, ‘I feel like I can be myself around you,’ and I attiribute that to being able to make somebody laugh, ‘cause when you laugh, you’ve kind of lost control, and so now you’ve got to be yourself.”

Robinson also gave props to another accomplished comedian on the set, and could not come up with enough superlatives to describe the experience of working with multiple Tony nominee David Alan Grier.

“I loved it! Huge fan!” he said. “Dave is a huge, huge part of my comedy history. I love him to death! He’s awesome! He’s trying to crack you - he’s trying to break your face…he’s trying to mess you up! He’s the father of the set! He couldn’t have been more awesome as a human being. He’s a super-trained actor, and he’s just layered. The way he played that character - the way he is with Grace, the way he is with Wade, the way he is with his wife, the way he is with his other children, with the mayor, in the sweat lodge - he’s all these different people combined into one. It’s amazing!”

But getting back to the ladies, Robinson was equally in awe of S. Epatha Merkerson (formerly of “Law & Order”), who played Grace’s mother, Daphne, as well as Golden Globe and Image Award winner, Diahann Carroll. “She blessed us,” Robinson said.

“Like the very first day of filming, Diahann Carroll was on the bus,” Robinson said. “She stood up, she turned around and she said, ‘I just want to say that I’m honored to be a part of this cast! You all are doing your thing and I’m just loving it!’ She’s so classy, and it was just an amazing uplift.”

Robinson, in turn, wants moviegoers to be uplifted by the light-hearted romantic comedy, “Peeples,” and said in conclusion, “It’s a labor of love. Tina Chism’s first directing effort is my first leading man effort, and it’s Kerry’s first leading comedy. I think it might be Epatha’s first comedy. I’m not sure. So we all had each other’s backs and we loved bringing this movie to fruition, if only for Tina. It was awesome to (band) together and be there for each other. We had so much fun making it that I would I would like people to just feel that while they’re in there.”

 

Contact Entertainment Reporter Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or kroberts@phillytrib.com.

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