The Citizen speaks with Georgia native and rising star Keith Robinson about his new film ‘Dreamgirls’

Thu, 12/21/2006 - 2:10pm
By: Emily Baldwin

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Born in Kentucky and raised in Augusta, Ga., singer/songwriter/actor Keith Robinson is one of the stars of the much anticipated new film “Dreamgirls.”

Recently I had the chance to speak with Robinson after a screening of the film which hits theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.

Robinson, who spent time in school at Georgia State University as well as the University of Georgia, was signed to a recording contract with Motown Records while in school at UGA.

This led to a move out to Los Angeles where he enrolled in acting classes. As it turned out, his acting teacher was also a talent manager who helped him get his first auditions. They still work together, but now in a slightly different capacity than when Robinson was just starting out.

Robinson’s first major gig as a working actor came with his first audition. He landed the role of Joel Rawlings, the Green Ranger on one of television's highest rated children's series, Fox's “Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue.”

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This opportunity led to a starring role in the NBC television movie “The Princess and the Marine” as well as a pilot (UPN’s “Save the Last Dance,” based on the hit movie).

Audiences may also recognize Robinson from his frequent role on the now-defunct NBC family drama “American Dreams” as well as his recurring role on UPN’s “Half & Half.”

Robinson has also built his acting skills over the years with appearances on popular shows like USA's “Monk,” NBC's “ER” and ABC's “NYPD Blue.”

“Dreamgirls” is Robinson’s second feature film role and is one that could change the path of his career. He is featured in the role of C.C. White opposite Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, and Sharon Leal in Bill Condon's film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical.

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Robinson’s family still lives in Georgia, “All my family is in this area. My mom and dad are still in Augusta and brother is in Atlanta.” His brother and sister attended the New York premiere of the film with him, and when asked what they thought of his performance he replied, “They thought I did my thing. Usually I get an honest opinion from my brother.”

Although Robinson has never seen any live version of the theater production, he said he knew going into the filming “that the story was a loose parallel to the Supremes.”

“I knew about being a young songwriter and being in the business,” he said of his ability to understand who C.C. White is. This experience helped him relate to his character who is the song-writing brother of Dreamgirl singer Effie White (played by Hudson).

“I’ve fortunately been apart of a lot of classics,” Robinson said when asked whether working on an adaptation of a critically acclaimed show added a new aspect to his work. “I’ve done a few projects that had that kind of classic residue on it, if you will.” In 2004 Robinson played the young Bill Cosby in the film “Fat Albert.”

“It was a little different medium, and the director (Bill Condon) was real well versed in doing that and for me I am a singer anyway,” he said.

While this is Condon’s first attempt at directing an adaptation from Broadway (he has directed other films such as 2004’s “Kinsey”), he wrote the adapted screenplay for the acclaimed Rob Marshall film “Chicago.”

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Robinson has nothing but praise for Condon, “He’s a genius. He was very familiar with the musical genre and very well studied before we went in to film.”

Robinson has worked with some high profile actors during his tenure in Hollywood, but the names listed among the credits for “Dreamgirls” is nothing less than an all-star line-up. “I wasn’t really that intimidated,” said Robinson. “I was eager to prove myself. That was the energy that I worked out of: eagerness.”

Robinson went through an extensive audition process before landing the role, and before filming even began he was in the recording studio with the rest of the cast working on the soundtrack for the film.

One cast member who Robinson worked closely with, both on the soundtrack as well as during filming, is Hudson. Effie is the lead singer of the Dreamettes before their rise to fame when she is bumped from the lead spot and replaced by Deena Jones (Knowles).

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Hudson, who is generating Oscar-buzz with her performance, is virtually unknown to people outside of “American Idol” fans.

Robinson was familiar with Hudson before recording began but only marginally, “I caught her maybe one night and I knew she could sing.” He didn’t know much about her, but then again no one really did, “I think there were so many questions no matter who was in it (as Effie), and fortunately she delivered deluxe.”

While Hudson’s performance may be the talk of town, Robinson is sure to note that “we all poured our hearts into this film.”

So what does Robinson think of the finished product? “It’s definitely better than I anticipated. Just because its got good actors and a good script doesn’t necessarily translate all the time.” In this case, he believes it does. Critics seem to agree and theater goers will be pouring into their nearest cinema come Christmas Day.

Robinson will next be seen on the small screen in the CBS miniseries “Comanche Moon,” based on Larry McMurtry's novel. He is also working on a new soul/hip hop album which is scheduled to hit stores spring 2007.

Check out Robinson in “Dreamgirls,” in theaters Dec. 25.

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