Keith David, last seen on Broadway in August Wilson's--"Seven Guitars," star of stage, film and TV, spoke with me over breakfast at Kopper Kitchen, about the Festival, theater today and his career.
"This is my first year attending the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was invited, Debbie being the Chair. They called from the festival and asked if I would come down to be honored."
Reflecting on Monday’s press conference, he admitted, "I was moved. Here, we're all gathered like this. Yes, we had people we gave homage to -- those who have passed. But, here, now the family is gathered. Here you have people you haven't seen in 20 years. All that history and memories -- it's beautiful."
Regarding what should be accomplished by the end of this week, David stated, "Well, the Black Family reflected on stage is one of the big issues. I hope the writers will pay attention and write more compelling stories and more about the cohesive family. I hope that the audiences, as a result of that, will support the theater in a different way. We want to see ourselves reflected."
Concerning theater today, he remarked, "We're in trouble, because there's not enough support of the theater. Therefore, some theaters are closing down or you get situations like Seven Guitars. Because it is a Broadway show, you do have to pay attention to some elements of commerciality. If the numbers are not coming in astronomically, you get frightened off, because you don't want to stay in the red too long, hoping it's going to pick up in another day. So, we closed right after Labor Day. We were supposed to be open-ended. I was hoping to go at least until Christmas." How was it doing Seven Guitars, especially a complex character like Floyd? "It was the hardest year of my life. My marriage was ending and I was a year on the road, playing a character who is very much like myself. An ambitious man who wants to be a star. The difference is I'm not willing to do "anything" for it. I'm not willing to go to jail, rob anybody. Floyd's desperation led him down a darker path, but I certainly understand it."
However, he continued, "It's hard to play characters closer to yourself, in that respect. And we were very close. Having to talk about his relationship with his mother and his woman. It brought up all my issues with that and there were days when it was hard." What projects came after Seven Guitars? "Directly after that I did a workshop of Beggars Holiday. I got to play McKeith. I got to play him in The Beggars Opera, Three Pen Opera and now Beggars Holiday. It's a great part, because McKeith was the thief/lover character. He's always got the gang and he tells them, I'll take the rap...I got the judge in my pocket here, I got the police in my pocket here. It was honor among thieves--what a concept."
Having done TV, movies, plays--what's his favorite venue? "I like to work."
On the cartoon Gargoyles, David is the voice of Goliath. "I love that. Cartoon voices are one of my favorite genre, because you don't have to dress up. You come into the studio. If the writing is good, it's acting. I'm the voice of Spawn right now, on an HBO series. Spawn is one of the leading cartoon characters in America right now."
After a brief moment David stated his favorite role. "Being Dad to my 3 year old son, Owen Oscar David Williams." However, workwise, he continued, "It's a very hard toss up between Chimney Man from Jelly's Last Jam and Floyd from Seven Guitars. They were both wonderful experiences. In the movies -- Kirby from Dead Presidents.
David presently has Executive Target running on HBO. In the future he hopes to focus more on his singing than acting. "I'm working on my night club act. I'm a singer. Eventually, I want to play a singer in a movie, like Nat King Cole."
--By Linda Armstrong