Earlier this year, NBC premiered its newest sitcom “Kenan,” which shares the same name as its star Kenan Thompson, 42, known for starring in the popular NBC sketch comedy series “Saturday Night Live” for the last 18 seasons; winning him a Primetime Emmy Award.
The series follows Kenan Williams, morning show host and widowed father, raising his two daughters in Atlanta, GA.
“One of my main objectives was to show young Black fathers in a positive light,” Thompson said. “Young Black men in the workforce are people that take their job and home life as serious as anyone else. I thought that was very critical to what we were really trying to say with the show.”
With eight out of 10 episodes of the first season already aired, the show is already gaining popularity and receiving good reviews.
“My biggest hope is that it’s one of those family destination things, where a lot of people want to gather around with their loved ones and actually sit down to watch the show. That’s how it was for me as a kid, growing up we gathered around and watched our favorite tv shows,” Thompson said.
“I feel like it’s been a while since NBC had that appeal to such a wide range of people. It seems to be responded to very well by everybody.”
An Atlanta native, Thompson rose to fame very early in his career, starting with his starring role in “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” the second installment in the popular 1992 film “The Mighty Ducks” and as an original cast member in Nickelodeon’s “All That” sketch comedy series.
“I was trained in Atlanta and I was trained by very serious individuals. Growing up in the theatre, I learned how to be a professional and take it seriously at a very early age, because the grown theatre folks weren’t playing. It’s a hard life being an actor in local theatre. It’s not the most lucrative thing that you can imagine, so the biggest thing you have is your dedication and your focus. Atlanta showed me the seriousness of taking it serious,” Thompson said.
His comedic chemistry with “All That” costar Kel Mitchell, resulted in their own feature film “Good Burger,” derived from a popular sketch on the show, and the two scored their own show on Nickelodeon, “The Kenan & Kel Show,” which ran for four seasons and ended in 2000.
Thompson went on to star in films such as “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” “Fat Albert,” and “Snakes on a Plane.” Additionally, he was cast for a lot of guest spots on television shows and did voiceover work for film and television.
Thompson joined the cast of Saturday Night Live back in 2003 and is now the longest-running cast member on the show, with memorable performances as impressions that include Rev. Al Sharpton, Charles Barkley, Steve Harvey.
As not only the star but also executive producer for “Kenan,” this is Thompson’s first time back as a lead character in a sitcom in 21 years.
He says the opportunity to star and executive produce his own show, is less about him and more about placing a spotlight on relatable stories with Black characters. Similar to the show that used to come on NBC such as “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“It’s all about tuning narratives to the truth and the real truth is there are a lot of young Black brothas who are trying to figure it out and do the best thing,” Thompson said. “But at the same, they are 100 percent focused on raising their children and trying to provide for those children in a positive way so if there is a void of that then we would love to fill that.