Interview with Emmy Award winner Keegan-Michael Key

Emmy Award winner Keegan-Michael Key is currently making his off-Broadway debut as Horatio, starring alongside Oscar Isaac in the Public Theater revival of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. An official opening is set for July 13, with the limited engagement coming to a close on September 3, 2017.

Keegan-Michael Key won an Emmy Award in 2016 for his comedy show Key and Peele (with Jordan Peele). He had previously earned a total of 7 Emmy nominations for the programme. He is also known for his TV appearances on MADtvand film roles in Tomorrowland, Keanu, Vacation, Welcome to Happiness, Pitch Perfect 2, Teacher of the Year, and Wanderlust. He has also worked extensively as a voice actor, including such credits as The Lego Movie, SuperMansion, Bob's Burgers, Archer, Storks, The Angry Birds Movie, and Hotel Transylvania 2.

We caught up with Mr. Key prior to starting rehearsal for Hamlet and here's what he had to say:

Thomas Hayden Millward: How are you feeling now heading into the preparations for Hamlet at the Public Theater?

Keegan-Michael Key: Well, we start rehearsals in a couple of weeks and I’m not as panicked because I’m not playing Hamlet myself. I’m playing Horatio, thank God! (Laughs) I feel like it’s one of the greatest pieces of literature in Western civilisation and so the sense of sacredness is already intact. I’ve never done this before in my career, but it’s one of those shows where the director [Sam Gold] has asked that we be off book before we start. So, no pressure there (Laughs) but Oscar [Isaac] has been preparing for this role for about 15 years! I think he’s good to go. Everybody’s raring to go and we’re ready to tackle this thing wholeheartedly.

THM: Have you had many chances to see the play before?

KMK: I think I’ve seen two or three productions of it Hamlet – West End, Off-Broadway – I’ve seen it at different levels from graduate school to professional levels. It’s always different in terms of the way one cuts it or the way one decides what the take of it’s going to be. Is this one going to be about death? Is it going to be about martial law? Whatever the case may be, it never exhausts itself.

THM: Can you tell us anything about Sam Gold’s interpretation for this production?

KMK: We don’t know, as a matter of fact. Sam directed ‘Fun Home,’ ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2,’ and the recent New York Theatre Workshop production of ‘Othello’ and he’s at the helm now, so we’re really thrilled and excited. We did a workshop last August, but he’s not let us in on anything yet. We watched wheels turning, but we didn’t get to see what kind of wheels. We didn’t get to see what was going on in his mind. He was teasing us and that really makes you want to go into rehearsal.

THM: He does usually like to strip things back though, doesn’t he?

KMK: Yes, he does. I have a sense it’s going to be pared down. I think we’re dealing with a cast of nine in total. There’ll be a lot of double-casting and perhaps even triple-casting. So we’ll see how that goes.

THM: Well, whatever the weather, you’re in safe hands, Mr. Key. And I wish you all the very best with the production.

KMK: Thank you so much!


Hamlet is currently booking through to September 3, 2017 at off-Broadway's Public Theater.