Kenan Thompson on the ‘Long Road’ to His NBC Comedy & Playing a Widower
“I don’t care who you slept with as long as you…Wake Up With Kenan!” Saturday Night Live‘sKenan Thompson is pitch-perfect delivering that intro as an Atlanta morning TV host (also named Kenan) on this sitcom from Happy Endings‘ David Caspe and Jackie Clarke.
Recently widowed, the character struggles to keep it together for his daughters (Dani and Dannah Lockett, above, flanking Thompson). “I just want to reflect the circus that it can be,” Thompson says.
And while onscreen Kenan needs a lot of help from his father-in-law (Don Johnson) and his brother (SNL castmate Chris Redd) — one takes the girls on a spa day, the other eases the single dad back into the dating world — the real Kenan is doing just fine. Here’s more.
The series got a green light in 2019. What has this road been like?
Kenan Thompson: Long. [Laughs] We’re thankful we had the chance to really develop it, get it to a place where a lot of people are happy about it.
The writers did some retooling in that time. What do you like most about this version of the character?
It’s much closer to my persona. Being a host of a morning show, as opposed to, like, a real-estate agent, coincides more with what people expect from me. And the writers had an idea to tie in the fact that Kenan was on a kids’ show, so that’s a nice homage to my [past on Nickelodeon’s Kenan & Kel].
I imagine your TV daughters look a bit different than they did in 2019.
So different. It’s crazy. We have some of the pictures from the pilot as set decoration, and they were little babies. It’s so funny!
Is there anything in your life that helps you understand the mindset of a widower?
No, my only experience was more from a distance of watching someone I know that has gone through a situation like this. So I take it from that standpoint: How would I feel if I lost my best friend, my teammate, my partner in raising two kids? I give it up to single parents. There are times when my wife goes on vacation for two days and everything falls apart.
Did you ever imagine that one day you’d be playing opposite Mr. Miami Vice, Don Johnson?
Not at all. [Laughs] He could not be funnier in real life. He loves a good dirty joke.
Kenan, Series Premiere Tuesday, February 16, 8:30/7:30c, NBC