Kenan Thompson is too busy to Tweet. The Emmy winner and longest tenured cast member of NBC’s SNL holds the record for the most celebrity impressions on the show at 129. When he isn’t perfectly parodying Steve Harvey or creating gif-able moments as the host of “Black Jeopardy,” the Atlanta native is racking up voice-over work in films like The Smurfs, Space Chimps and Rock Dog. So forgive him if, despite having 63,000 followers, he’s only fired off seven whole tweets since February.
In The Grinch, the latest adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s classic Christmas tale of a sullen, green-skinned hermit who despises the holiday season, Thompson voices the irrepressibly cheery Brickelbaum, a happy citizen of Whoville dedicated to making Christmas “THREE TIMES BIGGER” this year. His focus has earned the ire of The Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), but the bearded one is undaunted.
In real life, Thompson has had some run-ins with a real life Grinch, Kanye West, when he held the cast of SNL “hostage” back stage several weeks ago after hosting. But like Brickelbaum, you can’t steal Kenan’s joy. In this interview with BET.com, he weighs in on The Grinch, forgiveness and the one thing he does around the holidays that his wife hates.
Tell me about your character Brickelbaum. What was the best part about playing him?
He’s just a jolly, jolly dude. All of my line readings I just needed to be happy, which is a lot easier to fish for than super duper emotive types of feelings. I just had to make sure what I was saying felt good at the end of it. It was a pretty fun process to do it like that. Just staring at a picture of the dude made me laugh so it just put me in a great mood.
You were only doing his voice, but did you grow your beard out to get into character?
I should have. But we were in the middle of the season (on SNL) so I couldn’t. But he makes you want to grow your beard out for sure.
How would you make Christmas three times bigger?
Oh man, I’m so into inflatables, I was just talking about that. I want something huge and inflatable on the lawn. But my wife thinks that they’re kind of obnoxious. And I think they can’t be obnoxious enough. So we gotta find some kind of compromise.
What about lights?
Lights are a given. Lights come with the Christmas tree. If you’re one of those dudes that can break out the ladder and get on the roof, I’m not that guy. Maybe one day I will be and get over that fear of falling on my back.
The Grinch snatches Christmas away from the people of Whoville and Biggie once rapped on “Juicy” that “Christmas missed us.” Did you ever have a Christmas miss you, and if so how did you handle it?
No, fortunately. We were blessed enough to have Christmas, which is why people should give back. Because when Christmas misses some kid that’s a tragedy. It’s the saddest thing in the world. But it is a reality for a lot of people. So the ones that did have Christmas, you should pay attention and give Christmas to somebody that’s less fortunate. But depending on what you believe in it’s still a great time of the year. You see everybody giving and receiving and you want to be a part of that.
Funny thing is his mother, Voletta Wallace, said in an interview after he died that “Christmas never missed us.”
Well, it sounds good in the street cred.
Speaking of street cred, Cindy Lou Who is trying to trap Santa, but I imagine trap Santa means something different in your native Atlanta. Who do you think makes a better Trap Santa, 2 Chainz or Gucci Maine?
Wow, it’s all about the Chainz I think. Cuz that dude has incredible ways of coming up with products that the whole community and the world need. Those sweaters were brilliant.
What do you think the folks of Atlanta want for Christmas more, a winning season for the Hawks or Stacey Abrams for governor?
I think they want the Falcons to get that Super Bowl rematch and win. That was the biggest upset in the world. But what they SHOULD want is for Stacey to win of course.
The citizens of Whoville are very forgiving. Are you forgiving of Kanye for being a Grinch at SNL?
I mean, I don’t judge. And it’s not up to me judge people like that. So of course I need to forgive, you gotta forgive. Especially if you’re gonna be a child of God. Forgiveness is what we all are deserving of. It’s kind of a birthright. Because as long as you recognize that you did something wrong you should be forgiven. That’s not to say necessarily that he did anything wrong, but I feel like he did it a little less educated than he needed to be and that’s kind of why he’s kind of pulling back.
Did you read The Grinch or see it on TV first?
I was watching it as a kid on TV. I used to be scared of him. That frown used to be so sinister back in the day. Who is this guy that just wants to take Christmas away from people? But once I got to the end of the story I was like, oh I get it. There’s redemption involved. But I was kind of terrified of that dude.
Catch Kenan Thompson in The Grinch, in theaters November 9.