You might not recognize the name Keith David, but you’d definitely recognize his face — or, at the very least, his voice. The New York City-born actor has appeared in some of the most popular shows, movies, and video games of the past four decades, using his baritone voice and expressive face to give emotion and depth to iconic heroes (like Gargoyles leader Goliath) and villains (like Halo’s Arbiter) alike.
In his latest role, David plays a mild-mannered bar-owner in the pandemic-era indie comedy Unplugging, but he tells Inverse he’s more than ready to return to any of his best-known characters.
“Anytime they wanted to revise any part, I'd be right there to play along,” David says when I asked if he’d return as his character Elroy Patashnik in a heavily-anticipated reunion of the NBC sitcom Community.
Over Zoom, David discusses everything from how he would reboot the Gargoyles in 2022 to why his Halo villain was so much more than just a villain. Read the full conversation (edited for brevity and clarity) below.
Inverse: There’s been a lot of talk about bringing back Gargoyles. The show’s creator is interested. Are you?
Keith David: What kind of question is that? In a New York heartbeat, yes!
Haha, nice. Do you see it as a continuation of the original series, or do you think it makes more sense to reboot Gargoyles for a new generation?
I think there would initially be a way to balance them both: come out of where we left off but then take off into where we need to go for the future. We do live in a different time, and there are different demands on our society. We need protection from different things. All these conspiracy theories about the pandemic and where it started, the Gargoyles could perhaps find some way to delve into who did what.
Yeah, maybe they can fight back against the Neo Nazis or the alt-right?
Perhaps. And who knows what Xanatos would be up to?
You also played the Arbiter in Halo, a great three-dimensional video game character. Paramount+ has a Halo show now and they’ve hinted the Arbiter could show up. Is that a role that you'd want to jump back into?
I mean, I've had no formal discussions about it, but if and when it comes up, I'm there all the way!
What do you think is interesting about the Arbiter?
Well, he's multi-dimensional because they start out sort of adversarial and become really good friends. It comes out of the mutual respect of great adversaries. You know, there's a wonderful Shakespeare play called Coriolanus. Coriolanus is the hero, and Aufidius is his nemesis. At one point, Aufidius says, “Were I anything but what I am, I would wish me only he.” That's a great compliment to whoever you are with or against.
You know, those Halo games are very Shakespearean. They’re so epic.
Yeah, they're epic. That's the wonderful thing about them. That's also consciously or unconsciously why you like Gargoyles. Not only is it Shakespearean, but there's an epicness about the storytelling that makes it present and about us right now but also universal. The values these people are talking about are something you can carry with you today — and tomorrow.
I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t ask you about Community. You joined the show in Season 6. Was it difficult jumping into such a tight-knit group?
Thanks to the generosity and integrity of the original cast, it was not. Paget [Brewster] and I were welcomed wonderfully.
There’s been some talk about doing a Community movie, and everyone in the original group seems interested. Are you?
You know, these three projects that you asked me about — Community, Halo, and Gargoyles — they were, and they are, things I'm quite proud of. I’m very happy to have been a part of it, and anytime they wanted to revise any part, I'd be right there to play along. We want to be part of great things that people enjoy.
You recently said on Twitter that you’d like to voice Beta Ray Bill in a Marvel movie. What about that character interests you?
I love his look. He's a badass. And then it's exciting to see how he would fit in the universe. Where would he go? Would he be villain-esque or hero-esque? Or would he start off in one place and then end up in another?
Are there any other comic book heroes or villains that you have your eye on?
Not at the moment. It would be enough to be included in the universe.
Would you rather play a superhero or a supervillain? Which do you like more?
I like working.