The veteran actor discusses making military films, his first movie, and his next project Delta Farce

Keith David has such a ubiquitous presence on-screen that he one might think he's in every movie. An accomplished actor and voice over artist, Keith sat down with us to discuss his career (which spans over 100 films), as well as his recent role as Scott Boytano in Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil.

North Korea is threatening to flex their nuclear muscle, and it's up to a team of US Navy Seals to prevent a catastrophe in this action-packed sequel to Behind Enemy Lines. Everything was going as planned, but when the mission is aborted after the troops have already deployed, four American soldiers are forced to fight for their lives deep in enemy territory. As the rebel forces close in on the stranded men, the battle heats up and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

Could you please tell our readers who Scott Boytano is?

Keith David: Scott Boytano is the Training Sergeant for the boys. He trains them to take on this assignment, he trains them for these special missions, and he's like the voice of consciousness. Once they go on the mission and are in the thick of it, they keep referring back to the training that they had with him. It ultimately saves their lives.

What was it about this film that attracted you to this project?

Keith David: It was work, man. (Laughs) That was one thing but it's also a great part. I'm like Lou Gosset in An Officer and a Gentleman. It's a wonderful part. To participate in somebody's life, like a great teacher, and to have that resonate in their experience. Then to have them come back and say, "Hey man, thanks to you, I'm where I am today." That's a wonderful thing. I was very happy to be a part of it.

Did you have any idea when you were shooting the film how timely it would end up being?

Keith David: No, that was God. Life imitating art. Art imitating life. It was just one of those things that happened to turn out that way. As wonderful as that is, there's a kind of unfortunateness about that circumstance, because who wants to be at war right now? Especially the way it keeps continuing to escalate.

Having done Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil, Platoon, Missing in Action 3, is the world of military films a place where you feel comfortable as an actor?

Keith David: In a word, yes. I, myself, was never in the service. I was a cadet once upon a time in the Boy Scouts, but I never had to serve. I do begin to feel like if it ever came down to it, and I had to become a reservist or something, or they started recruiting older guys like myself, I would have a certain kind of preparedness.

You can do a movie like Crash as easily as There's Something About Mary. Was it always your goal to be able to play anything?

Keith David: Yes. I spent 10 years extensively training as an actor. I took my first acting class when I was 12. I studied until I was 22. The rigor of my studies kept increasing. I was very well trained. I trained in all kinds of genres. I believe that acting is the art of transformation. It is one of the thrills about being an actor; it's the versatility. One of the great challenges in this business, especially in Hollywood, is to be able to play diverse parts. It doesn't happen a lot. You know people aren't fortunate enough to do that. Nor does the industry necessarily promote it. They want you to be one guy. You're an action adventure guy, you're a romantic guy, you don't get to do a whole lot of things. I've been very fortunate, I believe, in being able to do that and I hope to be able to do it even more. I believe my capabilities can meet that challenge and it's something that I want to do.

What was it like as a young actor working on John Carpenter's The Thing?

Keith David: It was my first movie. It was thrilling. I got to work with great actors. It was a phenomenal cast. John's a wonderful director. For a first movie, it was a wonderful training ground and wonderful opportunity. I feel like from the beginning I've been blessed and highly favored. That was the first gift.

Is there one director you haven't worked with yet that you'd like to?

Keith David: There's several. I'd love to work with Penny Marshall, Tony Scott... there's lots of directors I'd like to work with.

What do you have coming up next?

Keith David: Well, I just finished doing a movie called Delta Farce. It's a movie with Larry The Cable Guy, Bill Engvall, DJ Qualls and it was a wonderful time; it's a comedy. I think it's going to be very funny.

Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil is currently available on DVD through Fox Home Entertainment.

Evan Jacobs