Until now, Kenan Thompson has been best
known for his comedic work in movies like "Good Burger"
and "Fat Albert" and on TV shows such as "Saturday
Night Live" and "Kenan & Kel."
But that may change this weekend when moviegoers see the Williamsburg resident go all action hero in the new high-altitude thriller, "Snakes on a Plane."
"I’m kicking some ass," Thompson told reporters in Manhattan Monday. "I can’t help but squeeze in a funny moment at some point, but I tried to keep it straight-laced. A lot of people are dying on the plane, so it doesn’t leave a lot of room for comedy."
Although New Line Cinema, the studio behind the movie, did not screen "Snakes on a Plane" for critics and journalists before it opened Friday, most of the cast, including Thompson and Samuel L. Jackson, contend the title tells moviegoers just as much about the action-packed flick as a review would.
They seem to have the right idea. Based on its title and cast, the movie about fork-tongued predators smuggled on an aircraft as a means of killing a passenger (Nathan Phillips), who happens to be the "protected" witness to a mob hit, has earned a Web-based cult following (www.snake
"I guess we’ll see after the movie opens," Thompson said. "That will be a good way to gauge [whether it was the right thing to do], but this has definitely been a movie that has taken off on the Internet like none that I’ve ever seen.
"[Members of the public] are making posters of their own and commercials and videos, which have sparked this whole creative movement. It’s really exciting. I think it can only help. I think if I took the time to make my own poster, I’d definitely see the movie. I tried to make a My Space page and that takes, like, half a day."
In the film, Thompson plays the friend of a rapper (Flex Alexander) on the plane.
"Not stereotypical at all," he quipped, before explaining that his role isn’t quite as conventional as it might sound.
"I’m part of his entourage, like a childhood friend. He’s a germophobe, not your typical rapper, so we have to take care of him and that’s my role," the 28-year-old, Georgia-born actor said, confiding his big fight scene comes at the beginning of the film when the slithering stowaways first take over the plane.
"We’re trying to figure out what the safety zone is, so we run to the back of the plane, and then we’re stuck, and then it’s even worse, and we have to fight our way back, and I kind of clear the path with a tray table," he revealed.
Asked if he or the rapper meet "traditional black fates" in the film, Thompson replied: "There are four black guys in the movie, and they all live. We’re making history here. That’s what this movie is all about."
Originally intended to be rated PG-13, the filmmakers later decided to raise the stakes and secure an R-rating for it, which required the cast to return for a few days so they could inject more foul language, sex and violence into the popcorn movie.
Thompson says he thinks all that bad language is perfectly reasonable given the pressure the passengers and flight crew were supposed to be under.
"If I was in that situation, I don’t think I would have the state of mind to censor myself," he observed.
Although many of the snakes were brought to life through computer-generated animation and animatronics, more than 400 live snakes were also used in the film, a stroke of realism not all of the actors were completely thrilled about.
"You have to be on your toes," said Thompson about working with the real reptiles on set. "I definitely was watching the ground to make sure there weren’t any loose ones running around But [snake wrangler] Jules [Sylvester] was great. He’s a real professional about how he deals with his snakes, so whenever Jules was around, I didn’t feel bad."
Thompson admits he didn’t get so comfortable with the snakes that he felt the need to adopt one himself, preferring the movie poster over the real McCoy.
"Honestly, I’m really bad with pets because I’m always out of town," said Thompson. "I’d hate for my snake to die. That would be bad."
In the near future, Thompson should be sticking close to his "really cool" Williamsburg neighborhood (which he describes as "the new SoHo"), because he’s getting ready to return to work on the NBC sketch comedy series, "Saturday Night Live."
"We’re starting back Sept. 30," he noted. "This is my fourth season. I guess we’re going to concentrate on characters this year. It’s very exciting. The new guys are great - Andy and Bill - they’re great, very, very funny, young and fresh and excited about it. I think we’re going to have a good year."
In the future, Thompson says he hopes to reunite for another project with Marine Park native Brian Robbins, who directed "Good Burger" and produced "Kenan & Kel."
Says Thompson, "Brian’s a dear, dear friend. He’s like a second, or third or fourth dad."
"Snakes on a Plane" is now playing at the Alpine Cinemas [6817 Fifth Ave. at 68th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 748-4200], Linden Boulevard Multiplex Cinemas [2784 Linden Blvd. at Drew Street in East New York, (718) 277-0303] and the UA Court Street [108 Court St. at State Street in Brooklyn Heights, (800) 326-3264 ext. 615]. For more information, visit the Web sites www.snakes