Craig Robinson is a man of many talents, best known for his work on The Office as Darryl Philbin and, more recently, his recurring role as Doug Judy aka The Pontiac Bandit on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and hosting The Masked Dancer for Fox.
He’s also a pitchman extraordinaire, heading up Pizza Hut’s new campaign where he taps into the nostalgia of the Hut, playing Pac-Man in a sensational tracksuit reminiscent of the old Pizza Hut table cloths, as Pizza Hut brings fans a chance to win a Pac-Man arcade game cabinet by playing the AR Pac-Man game on their new pizza boxes and posting their high score on Twitter.
Robinson recently spoke to Uproxx about that tracksuit, his favorite pizza, arcade memories, the joy of being on set with Andy Samberg on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, lessons learned while on The Office, and much more.First, though, I had to fail miserably at trying to get some Bulls talk out of the Chicago native, who has sadly not been able to stay dialed in on his beloved Bulls while living in L.A.
To start, I want to ask the question everyone wants to know: Are the Bulls back?
[laughs] Are they?! What happened? Are they on a winning streak?
They’ve just been actually pretty good this year, they’re in the playoff seeding at the midway point of the season.
Oh man. Zach LaVine baby! I mean, I’m out here in L.A., so I only catch the Bulls games when they’re out here. But I think it’s fantastic…I don’t know! [laughs]
You’ve got this campaign with Pizza Hut, and, first, I have to ask, can you get me one of those tracksuits?
It can be done. It can be be done, but you have to have your measurements and all that.
Oh, is it a tailored tracksuit?
It’s tailored. It’s not just like, “get me a medium or an extra large.” This is legit. You see the — did you go to Pizza Hut back in the day?
So you see the tablecloth?
Do they weave the old tablecloth into this? This is vintage?
Exactly. So dope.
What is your go-to pizza order?
Sausage. Pepperoni. And, let’s see. I’m gonna meat-lovers. Straight meat-lovers, give me some ham too.
Just pile it up.
Pile. It. Up.
In the spot you’re playing Pac-Man. Did you grow up as a big gamer?
Ohhhh, yeah. I was big on Pac-Man and Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man. Yeah, I was at the arcade all the time. I remember one time I was playing, my mother came into the arcade and snatched me out by the ear [laughs].
What did you do to earn a snatching?
I don’t know! I just remember seein’ her come in and somebody — cause I was having a good game — and somebody just hopped up to my game as I was getting snatched out. Somebody just hopped up like it was theirs for the taking. Which it was, but I was like, no one was like, “Hey, miss, don’t grab that guy.” They don’t know who she could’ve been.
That’s obviously a memory that is burned deep into your brain. Was the arcade a place you went regularly as a kid and meant a lot?
So it was the corner store, they sold candy and light groceries and they had like three machines in there — Centipede, Pac-Man, and something else. Galaga or something. You remember Galaga?
Yeah, it’s great.
But yeah, I would be in there a lot of the time. I don’t even remember her saying I couldn’t go or something, she just surprised me.
That’s a tough scene. Also, like, everybody’s going to remember that, too.
Yeah, I mean, I kinda kept to myself. So, it’s not like the crew knew. You see people in there, but it’s not like that’s your crew.
OK. Are you still into gaming? Especially this last year where we’ve been at home a lot, is there anything you’ve been into recently?
No. The last game I was into was called, uh, NAMCO was the company and a character I would use a lot was called Nightmare. It was a fighting swords game or something — it was dope — and I got too good at it. I wore it out. I got too good at it, and then I left it in Chicago. I took it home one Christmas and just left it there.
That was it.
Yeah, I mean, you talk about a waste of time. And I don’t even know, like, if I was to get into games today, these games are crazy today. It’s all life-like, you can dance and whatever, steal cars. Or you like, are in the army or something.
Yeah, they’re really intense now.
Back when it wasn’t that intense I was hooked. So imagine if I got hooked on something now. It’d be over. I’d be playing right now instead of talking to you about Pizza Hut.
Has there been anything you’ve gotten into over the last year? Obviously you’ve had The Masked Dancer going on, but has there been anything you’ve picked up to pass the time over the last year — like, I’ve started cooking a lot — that’s become a new quarantine hobby?
Yeah I started jogging. That was nice. I kinda fell off, but I as pretty consistent for a good five months there. So I’m looking forward to picking that back up. My legs started to hurt — my knees and hamstring — so I had to pause for a second.
How is your musical treatment for Jersey Goys coming?
[Laughs] I gotta get started on that. You saw that, that was the interview of interviews right there.
That was an all-timer. I do want to ask, because one of the things so many people have been doing over the last year is going back and binging their favorite TV shows, and for me one of those was Brooklyn Nine-Nine. How much fun is it when you get to go be Doug Judy? Because that energy comes through on screen and it looks like you guys are just having the best time.
A thousand percent. Andy and I are like — you ever see two five year olds just meet and then start playing? That’s what it is, man. We live to make each other laugh when it comes to that set. So, yeah, it’s always a blast. We always improvise something and it’s always something that makes the cut, and I forget we did it and then I watch and episode and it’s like, “Oh yeah, that happened.” But it’s always something, whether it be a handshake or some silly song.
Do you have a favorite Doug Judy bit? Or was there one that was especially fun to shoot? Because I’m partial to cruise ship Doug Judy.
[Laughs] Oh man, so many. I like when we sing the theme song and then there’s a talking dog. But it’s just so in the moment. We’ll make it up and then shoot it, and then it’s just done. But it’s like, we’re fighting crime and then it turns into there’s a talking dog at the end and then the dog dies or something. Or something.
As someone that comes from a stand up background how much do you enjoy when you get to be somewhere on on a set where it is a little more free flowing and you get that chance to, to kind of be more in the moment and ad lib and have that free rein off of the script?
It’s the best. It’s nothing better for an actor than to be present and connected with someone. I used to shy away from it, because I was like “What are the words?” But every project I do, they’re like, you can improv and play with it, so now I’m used to it. When I came in, thank god I took classes at Second City and stuff like that, so I had a little bit of experience. But now, yeah, you figure it out. You mine the scene for gold. Mine it for gold.
How much of that experience comes from your time on The Office where, obviously that you’re around a bunch of folks that had that experience and there was that kind of interplay?
We had a lot of improvised things on The Office. But then, they write stuff so perfect for my voice that I almost didn’t have to. They’d give you what they call a “fun run.” You say it a few times and get it right, and then they’d be like, “Alright, let’s do a fun run and see what comes out.” That’s when you improvise or try whatever different. But yeah we would play a lot and improvise a lot, that was fun. I learned a lot watching them cats.
Is there a role or anything where you say, “Man, I’d like to be able to do that.” Anything you have on your wish list for something you’d like to be able to do?
I won’t say it here. But yes, good question. And yes is the answer.
You don’t want to jinx it?
I gotta keep my cards close to the chest.
I already told you I like meat-lovers.
[Laughs] That was from the depths of your soul?
Alright. I will not press any further, I will respect your wishes. Craig, I appreciate it. I look forward to getting custom fitted for a tracksuit, and be well, man.
[Laughs] Be well, thank you.