Craig Robinson is having his own sausage party. Not the nasty kind shown in Sausage Party, the Seth Rogen food porn animation in which Robinson voices a box of grits, but, literally, the comedian is at breakfast tearing through a plate of sausages with scrambled eggs and toast on the side. He's in an enviably relaxed mode on this Tuesday morning, despite juggling three new projects at the moment, including the aforementioned adult animation, a spot on Mr. Robot (his most serious role yet), and a lead role in Morris From America, a delightful indie comedy about a black American family living—and trying to adjust—in Germany.
In Morris, Robinson plays Curtis, a father figure version of his real self, a hip-hop head who's trying to raise a hip-hop-loving teen boy on his own. His first-time costar Markees Christmas plays the titular Morris, whose unique coming-of-age colors the Chad Hartigan film. Here, Robinson tells us about Morris' pillow-humping, naughty raps, an even more controversial first draft of Sausage Party, and that Mr. Robot theory floating around the Internet.
I've never seen something like Morris From America before—a black coming-of-age movie set in Germany. At what point did you know you could trust director/writer Chad Hartigan to make this movie with the right tone?
I read the script, loved it, responded to it and then we met. He just laid out his vision. He’ll tell you himself the directing is really done in the writing, so he just kind of let us play and do whatever. When I met him, even reading the script, I saw the vernacular of my character and I was like, “This is how I talk.”
You're not a father, but I feel like if you were you'd be this kind of dad.
Yeah, it really turned over my perspective about parenting because I’ve never seen that kind of relationship. He’s torn between that line of pushing friendship or parenthood—he always has to keep that balance. He brought his son to Germany and the mother is deceased. We’re on the same boat, we’re on the same team, let’s work together.
I know you grew up in Chicago, but were there any similarities to your own coming-of-age? Were you a pillow humper like Morris in the movie? Or were you humping other things?
I was humping the floor. That’s how I started. I mean, Morris at 13 is more mature than I was at 13, but just as hungry to experience things.
When did you discover hip-hop yourself and what was your first memory of it?
The Sugar Hill Gang’s Jump on It! “I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie.”
What’s the story behind Morris’ rap, “Fuckin’ all the bitches, two at a time”?
Chad fancied himself a rapper at that young age. Those were real lyrics that he wrote and got in trouble for.
Were you writing stuff like that?
Never. Now, I would write stuff like that.
So could you freestyle why people should go see Morris From America?
Uh.. Uh.. Here’s the way that I feel/What I feel is real/Why you should go to, to see the fantastic movie starring me and Markees/Oh yeah… [Stops rapping.] I think it gives a sense of family and being on the same team. There are things we can compete at in life but especially with this climate and election, we can all stand to look at our neighbor and say, “You’re my teammate.”
I feel like you're having a really great year. You’re in Sausage Party, which also comes out this month. What was your reaction when you found out what Sausage Party was about?
I think it’s genius, I really do. It’s so simple. I’ve been telling people it’s got the sensibility of This Is the End, but you can go further because it’s a cartoon. It’s absolutely incredible.
I was not prepared for how lewd it would get.
What I like about the trailers is that they leave out so much. It’s like they have no idea what they’re really in for.
I actually had a hard time picking out who you were and then I realized you were Mr. Grits. What’s your mental preparation to get into the character of, uh, grits?
First of all, it was written in an entirely different way at first. It was very, let’s just say it would have been an uproar. The NAACP probably would have got on my case and stuff. I was so glad when they changed it around.
He was very step and fetch. Doing voice over is so much fun because you can play with the lines as much as you want. You can put a whole bunch of energy into it, jump up and down, whatever you got to do.
On the other end of the spectrum people are very excited about you on Mr. Robot, which is a much more serious role for you.
Yeah, this is about as serious as it’s gotten for me so far.
Are you an orderly at the mental hospital?
[Laughs, starts nervously chugging orange juice.]
Blink once for "yes."
[Tries really hard not to blink.] I’m not blinking. I’m not saying a word.
We’ll hopefully find out one way or another.