Craig Robinson isn’t your typical comedic actor who goes serious. In “Morris from America,” he plays a father and widower who’s dragged his eponymous teen son (Markees Christmas) to Heidelberg, Germany. The movie’s about Morris, especially his crush on a slightly older local girl (Linda Keller). But it’s also about their unusual father-son-relationship, which is part filial, part friendly. Robinson won a Jury Prize award at Sundance for his turn, which is how the “Office,” “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “This is the End” star wound up on “Mr. Robot.”
Did you have your feelers out for something more on the drama side before this showed up?
I knew I had ambition, but there was no going after it. It was organic. It was challenging because it had a “Can you pull this off?” effect to it. But I also like this character. I liked his music; I liked the way he talked to his son. I’d never seen anything like their relationship, which towed the line between friendship and fatherhood. I liked the way he talked, period. His vernacular fit my rhythm.
Still, it is a funny drama. Your scenes with Markees Christmas, which is an amazing name…
It’s dope. Either a stripper or a porn star. [Laughs]
What is it like sharing a movie with a kid?
It was based on mutual respect. I was a lover of his YouTube videos; he loved some of my movies. We just clicked. It was a big brother relationship. He couldn’t have been more professional, cooler — just a great kid, taking in what the world is handing him with a big smile, loving it.
How are kids today, do you think?
It’s funny: Kids are so prepared. When I had my TV show, “Mr. Robinson,” there were kids on the show. When we auditioned them, it was amazing. Every kid that came in, it was like, “Who do we choose?” It would be the adults who came in and were like, “I just got this yesterday!” There was always something. I enjoy working with kids, when they get a little older. I did act with a six-year-old once, and he was like, “I don’t feel like it!” “OK, see all these people here? We’re waiting on you.” But 10 and up, they’re great.
Social media and gadgets might not have destroyed them. It might make them more focused, more performative.
Pokemon Go, man! I mean, I don’t even know why I said that. [Laughs] That’s something I’ll never, ever try. I’ll never even attempt that. It’s one thing to sit and play Centipede or Pac-Man. But now they’re going in the streets.