Above all of his professional endeavors, Keith Robinson’s first love has been from his young adulthood, and perhaps always will be, music.
Leaving Augusta after his high school days at Lakeside, his dreams eventually found him bound for Los Angeles to make it big in the recording industry. And he’s found success not only in music, but on the silver screen.
His role in Get On Up as Baroy “Baby Roy” Scott of James Brown’s first band, The Famous Flames, is taking him full circle, back home to Augusta for the July 24 screening of the new Brown biopic.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Robinson said during a telephone interview. “It’s pretty ironic, to be honest with you. It’s one of those things, as so many great artists have come out of that part of the country.
“I’ve moved away from Augusta to go to Hollywood, and to come full circle for me is a real blessing for me and my family.”
The Kentucky native found himself moving with his family to Augusta during his teen years, and as many youngsters do, pro basketball was a dream.
But the greats of soul music – the essential songs of James Brown, along with Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five – helped to build a diverse musical palate that moved him toward music at the University of Georgia.
His influences didn’t end there.
“I loved that ’80s era with Peter Gabriel and Sting,” Robinson said as he rattled off the names of influential artists forming the building blocks of his musical knowledge. “I grew up in the hip-hop generation when it was heavily influential, and I grew up with great gospel music.”
Leaving UGA for Hollywood, he landed into acting at the urging of his talent manager.
“I went really just to do it and see what the process was like,” he said of the audition for a part in a Power Rangers episode.
It’s not easy to survive in the cutthroat entertainment industry – and Robinson credits his faith for keeping on in his passions.
“It’s hard work and talents, and God,” he said. “That’s pretty much what sustains you in Hollywood – doing great working, building off of it, building relationships and getting better at your craft.
“You have to have a lot of faith, and you can continue and build a career,” he explained. “It’s the same principles you use in any business building.”
Those principles have seen him prosper, with one of his best known film roles in the Academy Award-winning film Dreamgirls as C.C. White. His solo Patience earned him an Oscar nomination and he also performed the song live at the Academy Awards.
His work in Dreamgirls served him well in preparation to play Scott, bassist for The Famous Flames, in Get On Up, Robinson said.
“For this role (as Baby Roy Scott), I’m very familiar with the music and I pulled on many things from the Dreamgirls mindset and era,” he explained. “I’m cut from that world. If I was in that era, I would be a young artist on the circuit. I didn’t have to go too far to draw on this particular character.”
To prepare for his role in Get On Up, he worked hard to embody Scott, by learning the material backwards and forwards.
“The biggest way to prepare is that you really get familiar with the material, the character you’re playing, and breaking down what kind of story you’re trying to tell,” Robinson said. “It’s a matter of going step by step of the character’s physicality and really finding ways to embody somebody else – finding the similarities and differences between you and your character – and telling a story with those.”
The new film found him working with numerous great names in the film and television industry: from Chadwick Boseman in the lead role as the Godfather of Soul, to Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Dan Aykroyd.
“It was great chemistry,” Robinson said. “There was a high level of talent, and everybody had a healthy respect for each others’ talents.
“A project that big is more than one project – it’s more like a football team getting over the goal line,” he continued. “It’s a great thing to see – just being able to watch other artists do their thing.”
Get On Up isn’t the only film he’s acted in that is being released this year. Robinson is also in a new independent movie that’s garnering acclaim in the indie film world – Cru, for which he recently won Grand Jury Prize for Best Actor at the American Black Film Festival in June.
The drama looks at the lives of four friends 18 years after a car accident, having worked to pick up the pieces of their lives, reconnecting.
“The movie opens up, in my late 30s, where I’ve made senior partner (at a law firm), and then diagnosed with terminal cancer,” Robinson said. “The guys reconnect in one weekend – digging up old skeletons, cleaning out their closets. It’s a story about brotherhood and forgiveness,” he said. “It’s a tear-jerker to say the least.”
Robinson’s musical career continues unabated as well. He’s got a new single, Famous, coming out in August from his upcoming EP Love Episodic.
He’s also in the interactive realm with an iPhone and Android app, Utopia, with his songs and music videos.
“It’s a way for me to communicate with the fans directly,” Robinson said. “It’s really cool.”
He’ll also be at an afterparty after the Augusta premiere of Get On Up, at 10 p.m. at Legends Club, 2701 Washington Road, Suite 22. To purchase tickets, visit aquariusvision.com or call (706) 627-8323.
Robinson said he’s excited for Augusta.
“I think it’s well deserved and I’m happy to be a part of it,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s a great event, plus, it brings a lot of eyes on Augusta and elevates it. I think it’s going to be a great thing.”