Keith David unravels the complexity of his new film 'Cloud Atlas'

african kings

Keith David is actor that can easily be categorized a legend. The Tony Award winning star has more than two hundred film and TV credits on his acting resume, and by the looks of things has no plans of slowing down. Friday the 56-year-old actor will appear alongside Halle Berry and Tom Hanks in the sci-fi adventure film Cloud Atlas. The film places the all-star cast in multiple roles, throughout multiple periods in time.

During an interview with theGrio, David talked about the four characters he plays in Cloud Atlas, reveals his all-time favorite film roles, and weighs in on the upcoming U.S. Presidential election.

theGrio.com: Tell me about the characters you play in Cloud Atlas?

Keith David: My first character is a slave from the 1800’s. The next time you see me I’m in the 1970’s and I’m getting an opportunity to free myself from the bondage of corporate slavery. This is when Halle Berry and my character come together. When her life becomes threatened my character intercedes and steps up to the plate to save her. To me, my character relays the different forms that slavery takes on. You can first be an indentured slave, physically in shackles and in slavery, but then there is the mental level of slavery. Later on I become the leader of a rebellion which is my character’s ultimate freedom.

Of the characters you played which was your favorite?

Joe Napier, the character that I play alongside Halle Berry, is the character which was on screen the longest and the one that I got the most time with, the one that I got the most time to know.

Do you think viewers will ultimately understand this movie?

I’d like to think so, but I can’t speak to the masses of people that will go to see this movie, but I think the people that go to see it will enjoy it and get something out of it. It is an epic. The film takes you on an emotional roller coaster.  You feel something, you have to think, and you have to pay attention and will probably want to go see it again. I have seen it twice. I am going to see it for the third time tonight.

What is the overall message behind this film?

There are many messages. One is the interconnectedness of souls. How each life influences another, and the choices that we make can and do resonate in the life and the lives of generations to come. Every choice we make has a ripple effect and we are all connected.

When you first read the script for Cloud Atlas were you ever confused?

Yes, I had to read the script a couple of times and then go back and go back again and re-read it. Even with the book it’s a more difficult read than it is visually. I think they have done a stellar job relaying the complexity of these stories on film.

What has been the secret to your longevity in this industry?

I worship a very good God, I don’t know what else. I like to work. Also I’m hungry and I stay studying.

You are also known as one of “the voices” in the industry, because of some of your voiceover work. Who are some other actors that you look up to or that are on your level with regards to their voices?

There are a lot of good guys out there. Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman are great voices who I have admired throughout the years. Before those guys, there were voices like Percy Rodriguez who was a great actor and did a lot of amazing work. He was very prolific, and William Conrad was one of my absolute favorite voiceover actors.

You played several characters on the big screen which was your favorite?

The characters I played in Men at Work and Dead Presidents were my favorite.

Your film comes out just days before the U.S. Presidential election. Are you supporting either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?

I’m supporting Mr. Obama and when I can speak about it I do. I want to inform people that have been formally incarcerated that they do have a right to vote in most states if they were incarcerated for a misdemeanor.