Craig Robinson Is 'Killing It' (Literally) in His New Peacock Series

CUL PS Craig Robinson
Actor Craig Robinson of 'Morris from America' poses for a portrait at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2016 in Park City, Utah. Jeff Vespa/Contour/Getty

"It's never a bad time to see the little guy win."

What do snakes and the American dream have in common? For Craig Robinson, it's the basis of his new Peacock original series Killing It (April 14). Robinson plays Craig, a recently fired security guard who decides to take part in a Florida snake hunt for a windfall of money. "Snakes have been getting a bad rap in the Bible, they get a bad rap in the Indiana Jones movies." The premise for the series is based on a real-life annual hunt for big snakes in Florida. "People had them as pets and they got out of control and they just let them loose. And nothing eats snakes, but they eat everything." While this writer desperately hoped Killing It would be an extension of Robinson's character Darryl from The Office (which Robinson says it's definitely not "because Darryl would be an athlete"), he says the show "opened every door" for him. "I remember going to an audition and the lady is like, 'What's Jim like?' She just kept talking about John Krasinski. I'm like, 'He's great. Can I do this?'"[laughs]

This show is all about the little guy succeeding. Was that something you responded to?

It's never a bad time to see the little guy win, especially with all these new ways people have found to actually make money. Dan Goor and Luke Del Tredici, they're from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we all met to create this show. And they came with some ideas. All good ideas, but this one sounded just so different. So unexplored territory. That's what really excited us all.

Most people try and stay away from snakes, certainly not hunt them. Did you have a fear of snakes?

I had that fear of snakes for so long, until probably about six or seven years ago. What happened was, I was with my band and we went to Australia. We went to one of these sanctuaries. I was joking around with my bandmates, a couple of them were taking a picture with a snake and I was in the background pretending to touch it. And then I actually did touch it. And I was like, wow, that's really nice. Snakes feel amazing, by the way. Then I ended up holding a snake on my neck. I was like, snakes have been getting a bad rap in the Bible, they get a bad rap in the Indiana Jones movies. We're taught to be afraid of snakes so it made them an easy villain for this series, but in reality, I'm like, "Oh, nice."

Florida has a big snake problem, right?

Back in the day, people had them as pets and they got out of control and they just let them loose. And nothing eats snakes but they eat everything.

In your work, you have this ability to come off as likable, like you're a friend. You're America's best friend! Do you see that in how fans react to you?

I like that, America's friend. I call myself America's teddy bear. Being on The Office, I've always said everywhere you go, you have friends. I go to any part of America and somebody wants to buy me a drink.

That's something I wanted to ask you. Office fans are so devoted, I can only imagine some of the responses you've gotten. Have any been a bit too personal?

I was in Atlantic City. This was years ago. I was walking through and it was super crowded. Some young kids, college-age, saw me. I started to kind of jog, because I was like, let me get out of here. Then one guy ran and he jumped on me. A grown man. I was like, what are you doing? So I kindly but firmly let them off me.

You really are solidifying this America's teddy bear thing.

I was kind of in shock. I couldn't believe it.

How do you think Killing It speaks to or reframes the idea of the American dream?

He's down. He's divorced and he's got a daughter and he can't catch a break financially. He's got his brother, who's a whole other ton of problems, who could help him but he can't take the kind of help his brother is providing because his brother is a criminal. So he's fired from his job and he goes to hunt snakes for a living even though he wants to start growing supplemental berries. So that's part of the new dream to get to that dream.

What was it like working with a team that you were so familiar with?

It was great because we already have a shorthand. It was great working with them. There's a synergy there. There's trust. And we make each other laugh.

Fans of The Office are so loyal. Part of me hoped Killing It would be a spin-off for Darryl. How do you think Office fans will respond to the show?

I don't think it's an extension because Darryl would be an athlete. Office fans are incredible. They sell out my shows. They reach out and say happy birthday. There's a whole podcast and whatever. People are like, "Yeah, this is my sixth time watching it with the family." The whole show is like a friend to somebody. Whether a family member had a disease or a divorce, The Office has been there for them. Hopefully they'll get into [Killing It].

How did The Office change the trajectory of your career?

It opened every door. It was funny, I remember going to an audition and the lady is like, "What's Jim like?" She just kept talking about John Krasinski. I'm like, "He's great. Can I do this?" But it really opened a lot of doors and got me into places. People yell Darryl. It's been nothing short of amazing.