You may recognize Keith Robinson as singer-songwriter C.C. White in Dreamgirls, but now he's playing a different kind of writer, working on legal briefs as Chester Grant in Fox's edgy new legal drama Canterbury's Law (Mondays at 8 pm/ET). We cross-examined Robinson to discuss how he turned his singing into an acting career, how Canterbury's stands apart from other lawyer shows and what we can expect from his character this season.
TVGuide.com: Now that we've seen the first episode, what can we expect in the coming weeks?
Keith Robinson: You're just going to get a lot deeper into the storylines, and you're going to see more of the shocking ways that we come to conclusions in proving our clients' innocence. I think we up the ante every week with how far we'll go as lawyers to prove our point, even if that means sometimes going outside the lines. My storyline, in particular, doesn't really pick up until the second or third episode. We get into my relationship with my dad, how I became a lawyer so young, and the issues I have to take on in my own life.
TVGuide.com: We know your character is the son of a congressman who wants nothing to do with his father's politics. Will we get to know why soon?
Robinson: To say the least, Chester and his father have butted heads, and he's eager to prove that he's not like his father, when actually he's exactly like him. They both have an intense desire to gain power. Some of his father's antics end up getting him in hot water, and he has to come to Chester for help to get out of it. He has to bite his tongue and swallow his pride, so their relationship becomes very intense and conflicted throughout the course of the show.
TVGuide.com: Since Canterbury is such a strong woman, will that desire to gain power make it harder for Chester to listen while she's barking orders at him?
Robinson: I think eventually, some issues definitely come to a head. But in the next episode, they get into an intense discussion of why Chester would even want to study under someone like her. Even though they do have different views, they're alike in a lot of ways and there's a mentor-apprentice respect they both have for each other. It's a hot-and-cold relationship.
TVGuide.com: We've seen previews that depict Chester's father warning him to get away from Canterbury. Will she find herself in trouble?
Robinson: I'd say that's it in a nutshell. Chester's father is so well connected and is always one step ahead of him. It's irritating, and he doesn't always give advice that Chester wants to hear, but sometimes it's necessary, even if it comes from his father. In this case, it does involve the woman Chester works for.
TVGuide.com: What was it about the legal aspect of the show that drew you to this role?
Robinson: I am a fan of the law. As an actor, I think it's one of those roles you dream of playing — being in a courtroom trying to win over a jury. It's kind of like taking the stage and trying to persuade people to see things your way. You're having to tell a story, which is a lot like being an actor, period. I think lawyers and actors do have a common denominator, an underlying objective.
TVGuide.com: What sets this show apart from other lawyer series?
Robinson: We're not afraid to show the imperfections of our characters as lawyers. On a lot of law shows, the lawyers are the ones coming to the aid of the flawed human beings. In this case, we are just as flawed as our clients. And we ourselves even break the law to establish the law, which is kind of a paradox in itself. For me, that makes it really interesting and edgy.
TVGuide.com: You were also in the recent CBS miniseries Comanche Moon. How was that experience?
Robinson: It was great. It was different — I got to ride a horse! Again, it's one of those roles you dream about. Being in a Western is like playing cowboys and Indians as a kid, but to get to do it in your professional life is a great experience.
TVGuide.com: Was it hard playing a character Danny Glover created in Lonesome Dove?
Robinson: It was a challenge. But more so, I think there was a level of respect and expectation because the character has already been established. It's such a historical piece, and I wanted to make sure I did it justice. So there was definitely a little pressure there.
TVGuide.com: You were once signed to Motown Records. How did you get into acting?
Robinson: I was in a band when I was signed, and the deal went south. I'm now a solo artist and have my own album coming out this year. As for acting, I moved to Los Angeles, and — long story short — I walked into an acting class that didn't have enough readers and the teacher suggested I read with them. The teacher liked me and told me to read for a role on a new Power Rangers show, and it worked out.
TVGuide.com: I'm sure your singing past helped you earn your spot in Dreamgirls.
Robinson: Yeah, I did all my own singing. I am a vocalist first — that's really why I got into show business in the first place. Dreamgirls was right up my alley, and it let people know who I really was as an artist, so to speak. It opened up a lot of doors.
TVGuide.com: And performing at the Oscars with Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson is a pretty good gig, right?
Robinson: [Laughs]. Not a bad gig at all! I couldn't think of a better one.
TVGuide.com: With the new show and album, it sounds like you've come a long way from Power Rangers.
Robinson: [Laughs] Definitely.
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