keegan-michael key predator interview

If the thought of Keegan-Michael Key, one of the funniest men alive, spouting Shane Black dialogue appeals to you…well, make sure The Predator is on your radar.

We visited the Vancouver set of the latest film in the alien hunter series last year and Key was as fast and funny in-person as you’d hope. But even while he brought the laughs, the actor made it clear that his soldier character is no joke: he’s going to give the Predator a challenge.

Note: This interview was conducted in a press conference format with other assembled journalists.

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So, what can you tell us about your character?

My character’s name is Coyle. He’s in a band of vets who have seen their fair share of horrific things and who all are suffering from some degree of PTSD.

These are “the Loonies”?

Yes, this is The Loonies. I’m one of The Loonies. I’m actually the bigmouth of The Loonies. Everyone deals with their trauma in a special way. Coyle’s is that he’s chock full of one-liners, which is a Shane Black specialty, right? He’s kind of the maidenhead on the front of the crazy ship.

Most of the guys in the group are from the Army, but he and Thomas Jane’s character, Baxly, are Marines, so they’re buddy-buddy, but they’re also inexorably linked to each other because of a horrible tragedy that took place during the first gulf war that Coyle is responsible for, and Baxly and his crew were the recipients of this horror.  Somehow, through some events that mentioned in the movie, you see they have a much deeper relationship, but it’s a militaristic, macho relationship. “Fuck you, shut up. You piece of shit. You told that joke again? Go to hell. You never got laid,” which is just them saying “I love you, I love you, I love you” to each other over and over again in their own sick, twisted, psychologically maladjusted way.

Fred Dekker, the writer, said he wanted to flip everything from the first movie. In the first movie there’s this sense of this extremely capable, cocksure team and we’re the exact opposite. We’re people who doubt the veracity of our own existence and how we move through it. We’re broken, we’re scared, and we’re thrust into this position. Shane said he found a lot of that very interesting. It’s like someone took a sheet off a bunch of cowboys, blew the dust off and then smacked them in the ass and get them out in the action. There’s an inner hero in all of them that comes forth by necessity.

I may be making an assumption based on your work in Key and Peele, but my guess is you’re a big movie nerd…

Yes, yes.

So did little boy Keegan-Michael Key ever imagine he’d be in a Predator movie?

Oh, God. If you told child me that I’d grow up to be in a Predator movie, I would have fainted and had a contusion and wouldn’t have been able to be an actor. No, I’m one of those kids…I’m right in the pocket. I was 16 when Predator came out…is that right?

It was 1987.

Yes, I was 16. I could not have ever seen myself here. I would have been in a malaise…a malaise of ecstasy for 25 years until I was in this movie. It really is one of the greatest moments of my career because it’s a transitional moment for my career. I’m a dramatic actor, I’m a Shakespearean actor, and being able to come home in a way…there’s twists and turns and this is one of those grand twists. The boat is turning around and part of it is this production.

Is this jacket you’re wearing part of the costume?

Yes, Tish Monaghan came down to LA and she and I had a blast putting him together. So, I said I want a version of Travis Bickle’s jacket from Taxi Driver. That’s what I want Coyle to wear, and I want it to have a Great Santini feel to it, which is that it’s not his jacket. It’s his father’s jacket, from the Vietnam War, and as you’ll see, half the jacket has vet material from Desert Shield and half has vet material from Vietnam.

He also wears his father’s Army ring even though he wasn’t in the Army, he was in the Marine Corps. My favorite part is that he has his work shirt – he works at a cold storage plant – and she said, “Oh, we’ll put your name tag under you dad’s name tag!” So, the costume’s kind of a living museum, a tapestry, pardon the pun, of him and his father’s relationship.

They get in this Winnebago…that’s how these guys get armed to the teeth, they go into this Winnebago –

As you do.

Yes, you walk into a Winnebago and there’s always tons of weapons around. He also wears a Shemagh. In my mind he wears a Shemagh because he wasn’t allowed to wear one in Desert Shield. So every piece of wardrobe is really informative to who he is. He lives this pedestrian life now as a guy who runs a forklift in cold storage and he’s probably not allowed to spend a good deal of time around weapons. That’s been very helpful. It depends on the project, but sometimes I’m an inside out guy. This is a very Olivier thing. This is a very outside in project.

Could you talk about your character’s relationship with Boyd Holbrook’s character in this movie and how you become embroiled in fighting a Predator?

We get involved in that he’s thrust into our lives…that’s the other thing that happens! The reason that we’re all convened is because we’re all on a bus being sent someplace because we had misbehaved during our group therapy session. We’re all in group therapy together. [The reason why] is not in the movie, but I’ll tell you now: For about five weeks we’ve been complaining about how shitty the coffee is. They’ve been in group therapy to help with their PTSD and sense of regret and everything. Every week somebody complains about the coffee. This week, Nettles complains about the coffee. Next week, Baxley complains about the coffee and then they have a mutiny. They get in a fight with some guys and they get shackled and put on a bus to be taken some place to be detained, and Boyd’s character just happens to be thrown on the same bus and the rest is history. That’s the flashpoint of the story. He becomes the ad hoc hero. He becomes the person we all kind of look to. Trevante [Rhodes]’s character is the leader of our broken group and now we’ve got a new leader who has just waltzed onto the bus of misfit toys, you know?

And this is the one you have a little bit of history with?

No. None of us in our group of any knowledge of Boyd prior to him walking onto the bus. We’ve all been living our lives, living in our little twisted reality together, and then he walks onto our bus with what’s going to be the next story of our lives.

How quickly does Coyle accept the reality that aliens and Predators exist?

Begrudgingly soon. He hates it and doesn’t want it to be real. The other thing is Baxley, his cohort, gets to gloat. Baxley is a UFO theorist, so he’s like “Aliens, told ya.” He kind of has to come to the realization relatively soon, because once they’re threatening and coming at you, you just start shooting. Being a Marine, you don’t have a choice. It’s gotta be “get some” – there is no going home. He accepts it almost immediately.

In these types of “men on a mission” films, everybody usually has a unique skillset. What is Coyle’s unique skill?

We have two pilots and a demolition guy…I think more than anything, [Coyle’s] weapon is just kind of a brash attitude. He has a very jarhead mentality. “Okay, fuck it. So they’re aliens. [Machine gun sound].” They’re grunts. He and Baxley are infantrymen, whereas the other men in the group are special forces guys, SF guys. They’re the kind of tobacco-chewing, blood-spitting, eat-bullets-for-breakfast guys.

Infantryman laden themselves with weapons, unlike the special forces guys. The special forces guys are like “This is what I use. I can also kill you with a paperclip.” There’s an elegance about them. Coyle and Baxley are kind of like feral animals in a way, with a smartass attitude.

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