For over 25 years, the name Kenan Thompson has been synonymous with comedy. From the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That to his own sitcom Kenan and Kel, Thompson has been a staple on television for years. He honed his comedy chops in films like Good Burger, Fat Albert, and Barbershop 2: Back In Business before becoming the longest-tenured cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live.
Now Thompson is headlining a new project for NBC aptly titled, Kenan where the Emmy-award winner will get to show off his quick wit and comedic timing. As executive producer, he will also get to crafting the show from beginning to end.
The series, which debuts on February 16, follows a recently widowed father (Thompson) who’s trying to balance his hectic life as a popular T.V. morning show personality in Atlanta. With his two daughters, his live-in father-in-law (Don Johnson), and his brother (Chris Redd) who happens to be his manager, assistant and house guest, things get hectic really fast.
BET.com caught up with Thompson and Redd, who also stars on SNL, to talk about the inspiration behind the series, what it takes to build long-lasting careers in Hollywood, and why the world is in desperate need of more well-written, Black sitcoms on television today.
BET.com: Kenan, you’ve enjoyed a long and prolific career since you were a child and you’re the longest cast member in the history of SNL, going on 18 years. What are some keys to your longevity?
Kenan Thompson: Oh, man, thank you. That was a great question. You know, it's all about just getting up and going to work with a professional head on your shoulders and never taking anything for granted. I just try to create really good things that people can react to. We're lucky to be in a situation where we get to do that all the time with people I enjoy being around, genuinely have love for.
BET.com: Listen, Chris, I know he drops jewels all the time. You could be the next brother to get a 20-year bid on SNL. What have you learned from Kenan?
Chris Redd: [Laughs out loud] Man, and I take a lot of knowledge, all the time whether he knows it or not, but he knows it. I started therapy around the same time I began in SNL and I learned about my anxieties. What I learned from Kenan is balance. I would watch him be just the calmest in some of the wildest SNL situations and he has a whole family at home. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here, a single man stressing. He’s able to stay so funny and consistent. It's always good to have such a dope reinforcement, especially coming from someone who's been in the business so long and could easily be an asshole if he wanted to be, but instead, he's the dope dude you see.
BET.com: If Kenan takes off, do you have plans to leave SNL?
Kenan Thompson: No sir. I always say it’s the best job in the world. Back in the day, cast members would leave to pursue other projects. But it’s a different time now and I think I can swing both gigs.
Chris Redd: We ain't going nowhere. I get to create with one of my best friends on two shows and I love sketch comedy.
BET.com: How challenging was it to launch to show during the pandemic?
Kenan Thompson: It had its challenges for sure. This is actually the third go-around of getting the show off the ground. Because the cast is so strong, this could be a run for the ages.
BET.com: In Kenan, you play a widowed father trying to maneuver through the next phase of life. How important was it for you to develop a show that centers on Black single fatherhood?
Kenan Thompson: Yeah, man, when we were creating the show, we were trying to create something that hasn't necessarily been seen or done before. We already have black-ish, Marlon, The Cosby Show, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and so many others. So, when we were developing this, it's like, what haven't we really seen before? We've seen separated households, but we haven't necessarily seen an unforced separation. Everybody has to deal with life forcing you to move on because the sun still rises, and you still have bills to pay. It seemed like something intriguing in the beginning, but now that we have this amazingly strong cast, we’re 10 toes down doing this in overdrive!
Kenan premieres on NBC on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. C
Photo by: Casey Durkin/NBC