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Craig Robinson talks “Hot Tub” sequel, “This Is the End” and more

craig-robinson

Photo: Craig Robinson, courtesy Gregorio T. Binuya/Everett Collection

IFC caught up with the star of the newly released animated film, "Escape from Planet Earth."

Craig Robinson pops miniature cupcakes in his mouth, each one representing an alien trapped in an Area 51 prison in his latest film, “Escape from Planet Earth.” A blue one is in reference to either of two brothers in the Supernova family, Gary (the brains, voiced by Rob Corddry) or Scorch (the brawn, voiced by Brendan Fraser). A red one is for Jane Lynch’s Cyclops alien named Io (Get it? Eye-O). An orange one is for George Lopez’s slimy mollusk alien Thurman. But where’s the one for Robinson’s character, a mouse-like alien named Doc, a famed intergalactic talk show therapist who invented social networking? What’s up with that, Doc? “I don’t know,” Robinson laughs. “I’d be delicious.”

Despite his character’s invention, Robinson himself was late to the Twitter party. “Very late,” he acknowledges. “I remember hearing Rainn Wilson talking about it on set [at 'The Office'], maybe to Mindy [Kaling], and he and she both have over a million followers. I’m still stuck at two hundred thousand. But I’m terrible.”

If Robinson sees an image that makes him laugh, or if he’s at an event where he meets fellow celebs (such as the NAACP Image Awards after party, where he met up with Quvenzhané Wallis from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Amandla Stenberg who played Rue in “The Hunger Games”), he’ll tweet a picture. “But other than that, I don’t know how to use it exactly,” he says. “And I don’t want it to control me. And I can’t just let off everything. Some of it’s got to be saved for the stage, and who wants to hear what I’m thinking?”

Robinson used his real voice for the character of Doc, but amped up his positivity — he wanted the alien to be the one you turn to in disaster situations (“He feels like he has all the answers,” he says. “He’s the man to know, because he knows how to get out of any situation”). And speaking of disasters, Robinson’s becoming quite the expert on post-apocalyptic situations — “Escape from Planet Earth” is just one of a trio of doomsday films he has on the horizon. Also on the way — Seth Rogen’s directorial debut “This Is the End” (where he and his buddies wait out the apocalypse at James Franco’s house) and “Raptureapalooza,” in which Robinson is the Antichrist.

“They all couldn’t be more different, but it’s quite interesting that I’m at the center of these three,” Robinson says. “‘Escape’ is the possibility of a planet blowing up, but it’s averted, and ‘This Is the End,’ something bad has just happened, and ‘Raptureapalooza,’ the Antichrist has taken over, so it’s all the different stages. They’re all fun and funny, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m the apocalypse guy.”

In “This Is The End,” Robinson says, all the actors (who are playing versions of themselves) go “a little crazy,” but he’s the one who, “for the lack of a better word, I’m not as nasty. Some of the other characters are.” Since it’s a large cast, he had a harder time than usual stealing scenes: “There are six people, so you got Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Seth Rogen over here, so anytime it’s time to improv, it’s like, ‘Okay, here we go!’ You have to get in where you fit in. You have to jockey for position. Jonah is not going to stop. Franco is not going to stop. Rogen is not going to stop. And that left [Jay] Baruchel, Danny McBride, and myself, and it was a lot of jockeying.”

One moment he jockeyed for — and might end up on the cutting room floor — is when “they send me out into the madness,” and he sings a silly song, trying their patience. The key to playing himself, Robinson said, was keeping it positive. “He realizes that drinking his urine is not that bad,” Robinson says of this version of himself. “What else could this post-apocalyptic world have to offer that I never would have experienced if everything is normal? Your attitude is going to carry you. Your attitude is your altitude. It’s not really the end of the world — it’s, What do you do now? That’s the big question.”

In both “This Is the End” and “Rapturepalooza,” Robinson says, people are “Raptured up to heaven,” and it’s about the ones who are left behind. The difference is, he says, two years have passed. For one of his first leading roles, Robinson says his take on the Antichrist is to make him “loveable.” “He’s a regular human being, but he knows he’s going to come back as Satan. He wants to die, because he’s power-hungry, but at the same time, he falls in love with Anna Kendrick’s character.” His character sings to her, “to try to seduce her, in my Antichrist way,” he says. “It’s a very inappropriate song, so there are some fun things I get to say to her about touching her booty and she just has to take it because she’s trying to keep her family and friends alive.” Robinson, who just saw Kendrick’s turn in “Pitch Perfect” on the flight to New York the day previous, thinks he could take Kendrick in a riff-off: “She definitely has a better voice, but I could out-last her in songs.”

But if an apocalyptic situation were to actually happen, don’t look to Robinson for any help. Beyond wondering where he would hide, “I would be ass out,” he laughs. “I am not prepared for anything. I think I have one first aid kit in a backpack from a gifting suite or something. Other than that, I would be trying to borrow margarine from other people. ‘Can I get some beans?’ And I wouldn’t even have a can opener or nothing.”

On the horizon for Robinson — if the world doesn’t end before then — is another trip back in time with the “Hot Tub Time Machine” crew. “Looking forward to seeing if that happens,” he grins. “He’s become a successful music producer, but he became successful because he sang the Black Eyed Peas. That’s not fair. So it might touch on some of that. And hopefully if people liked my singing in the first one, they’ll want some more of that. I think we’re going to go back to that, absolutely.”

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