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Exclusive Interview: Isaac Keys talks ‘Get Shorty’ and ‘The Oath’

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I spoke with Isaac Keys about his role as Ed in Epix’s Get Shorty, his NFL background, The Oath, which will be premiering in 2018 on Crackle, and so much more. Get Shorty is one of the best new shows of the season. It only takes one episode to be hooked on this phenomenal series cast so perfectly that even Amara would approve, and she’s a very hard sell. You don’t want her nodding to Ed, who is played so brilliantly by Isaac Keys. I can’t say enough good things about this series except that it has been renewed. Isaac shared some fun stories about that scrapper of a door that he had to contend with, complete with Chris O’Dowd’s take on the situation. Tough crowd! Get Shorty also stars Chris O’Dowd, Sean Bridgers, Lidia Porto, Ray Romano, Goya Robles, Peter Stormare, and Billy Magnussen. Get Shorty airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on Epix.

Lena Lamoray:  You were a professional football player.

Isaac Keys: [Laughing] Yeah, I guess that’s what they call it.

There are so many incredible actors that are former professional athletes.

Isaac Keys: That’s true. I know on the football side you have Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine). Dwayne Johnson (Ballers) played football but chose wrestling. Brian White (Ray Donovan) used to play football too.

Do you think that your background has helped you?

Isaac Keys: I think that it’s helped me internally—as in work ethic. I think that it’s helped me with the perseverance to go out and get what you want. I think some of the characteristics that I’ve learned from playing sports, good and bad, have helped me and carry over into this crazy world of acting.

The careers are kind of connected.

Isaac Keys: Yeah, they are. It’s a journey. I think football helped me prepare for the acting industry. If you come into the industry green it can really knock you down in a lot of ways because it’s not a direct line—it’s not a direct path. I think football prepared me. I learned how to deal with some sort of limelight and I also learned how to conduct myself in ways. I also learned about resiliency being a big part of it. It really helped.

At least it doesn’t beat on your body as much.

Isaac Keys: That’s what people think but then they have me doing stunts, and my ego kicks in. I’m always like I’ll do it. [Laughing]

Get Shorty is my favorite new show of the season. I really love it Congratulations on the season two pick-up.

Isaac Keys: I’m glad you do. I hope everyone enjoys it and that it really starts to catch on. Thank you. I appreciate that very much.

When Elmore Leonard’s work is brought to life properly there is just no stopping it.

Isaac Keys: I know that there was already a fan base for Get Shorty. I wanted them to like it. Davey Holmes did a great job coordinating it. He got the right directors. When I did the research on the directors—a few of them come from my favorite shows like Shameless, Ray Donovan, The Wire, Fargo—those kinds of things. They put together a power team.

Davey Holmes did a phenomenal job. Can you talk about working with him?

Isaac Keys: Davey is so down-to-earth. His eyes just light up when you are talking to him. He just has so much energy. His wheels are always turning because of all the creativity that he has in his head. Sometimes when I was talking to him, I felt that he was writing my character. [Laughing] You could see his creativity when you talked to him and also when it came to the page. During some of our table reads we would just look at each other like this is dope—this is really good. In the table reads, you could see how the characters started to evolve. We started to get excited at the table reads. We would see new characters come on, like co-stars and stuff like that, and we would already know who their character was because we could just tell that casting was doing a great job filling in these roles.

I keep on waiting for John Stamos to appear. [Laughing] [In his own special way, John Stamos saved the day.]

Isaac Keys: [Laughing] We all keep waiting for John Stamos.

Ed is awesome. He’s always taking care of business. What does he do when he has time off?

Isaac Keys: Thank you. I appreciate that. Right! I’m still trying to figure that part out too. What does Ed do when he has time off? Amara (Lidia Porto) keeps him pretty busy. As you see in some episodes, he starts to show you different things that he likes or is intrigued by. There is a scene that comes up, and it’s kind of subtle, with Amara going to L.A. and of course she can’t go without Ed. Ed gets a glimpse of this L.A. lifestyle and you can see different things that draw his attention. Wow! That’s something new, that’s different. I didn’t know that I liked that. There is a funny part where he goes into the office and Louis (Sean Bridgers) offers him snacks. Ed’s eyes light up a little bit. There are a couple of scenes where he throws a snack in and it sticks with him for a little bit. [Laughing] That was funny because when we were on set talking about it because Ed always gets straight to the point. It was hard sometimes because obviously you know that the other characters get to play with different personality aspects, or they light up when they say things through their tone and their physicalities. Ed doesn’t do any of that. Naturally, I’m the type of person that shows a lot of personality and energy when I talk or move and Ed doesn’t do that. Everyday I would have to tell myself to be Ed—calm down and just be Ed.

Did Ed end up getting a bear claw?

Isaac Keys: Oh, I know exactly what you are talking about. No, he didn’t get a bear claw. He got something else that he seemed to like. [Laughing] I think Ed has a good appetite.

How do you think Ed would describe his job to someone that’s not in the field?

Isaac Keys: I think Ed would keep it simple and say that he has to do what he has to do.

I do love when Amara just nods her head and Ed knows exactly what he has to do. [Laughing]

Isaac Keys: Yeah. Amara and Ed seem to really have a connection. He knows what she wants and he handles it. I’m always curious to know later on if he’s conflicted by some of the things that he has to do, or if he’s not bothered at all and just does what he has to do. I know that there is a good storyline behind Ed that I hope Davey and the other writers explore going into season two. Even maybe shed some light on how Ed got with Amara, or what goes on with it. That’s another direction that they could possibly go to.

Yes! Their relationship is fascinating. Actually, my next question was going to be if we are going to find out more about how everyone came about working together, maybe a backstory episode.

Isaac Keys: It was weird because before we started shooting Lidia Porto, who plays Amara, we were talking and while we were having lunch we created this whole backstory to make us feel more connected. At first we got to know each other then worked on ideas about why I’m so loyal to her and why does she look after me, in a sense. We came up with some crazy things, but it wasn’t too far fetched from what they ended up showing with her backstory. Hopefully, the fans will attach themselves to Ed and be curious of how he got there.

What would Ed’s advice be for someone questioning what it takes to work for Amara?

Isaac Keys: Get it done. Just get it done.

What would she have to do for him to cross her?

Isaac Keys: I think it would take some time. I think Ed has a voice with her. She does trust him and listen to him. If there comes a time where he feels as though she may have crossed a line, I think he would be able to say something to her. It may not be towards him, it may be towards an action that she wants to take. You’ll see some nuances. Like when he came to the car, he wanted to know what she wanted to do. He came to the car when he had burned down the house. He gives her a look. I think it would take some time for him to be able to get to a point where he would have to turn on Amara.

I loved when Amara had Ed read the script to her.

Isaac Keys: That was fun. I loved it because it gave Ed a chance to kind of step into the unknown. It was unknown to everybody, the script. I remember the first time that I read a script and I saw EXP. I didn’t know exactly what it was but I figured it out. I know how it is to read a script for the first time.

The cast is incredible. They did such an amazing job. Can you talk about working with them? Do you have any funny stories from the set that you can share?

Isaac Keys: I agree. It is an amazing cast. I think because we shot in Albuquerque it made us closer. I think that helped because when we talked beforehand we didn’t know where our characters were going when we first started shooting. I had a conversation with Sean Bridgers and Goya Robles and we really didn’t know how we were going to play our characters before we started shooting episode one. We did a table read for episode two and while we were reading it, it was just starting to develop to the point where after we took a break, I saw Sean in the restroom and he said, “Hey, you’ve got to trust the process. Trust the process.” We were both ecstatic. As actors, you are always trying to figure everything out ahead of time and the writing became so good, it laid it all out and that made it easier for us. I thought that translated in the episodes. We spent a lot of time together in Albuquerque. Whether we were shooting or going out to eat to try different restaurants. They put green chili on everything in Albuquerque. We tried a lot of green chili and different foods out there.

A funny story would be when there was a scene when I had to kick a door in. I think it was episode two or three. When we were trying to shoot we were having problems with the door. They told me that they wanted me to kick the door down. When they said action, I went to kick the door but, not knowing my own strength, I didn’t kick the door hard enough. Everybody was so ready for the door to go flying open, but when I kicked the door it didn’t even move. Chris O’Dowd said, “That was a shoddy kick.” [Say it with that sultry Irish brogue.] [Laughing] Chris O’Dowd just started laughing. I was embarrassed and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was a big scene. Adam Arkin even walked in and asked if I even pushed the door. It became a big thing and after that I was going to knock the door off the hinges. The door won the first round.

I just watched the next couple of episodes and I have to say that this show just gets better and better. It’s so good. There is never a dull moment, especially in the lives of Miles, Louis, and Rick.

Isaac Keys: I tell people that every time they ask me. It gets really good. A friend of mine keeps saying that he thinks something is going to happen between Miles and Ed. I don’t know. I like to keep the cliffhanger out there.

You were a producer on The Therapist. If you produce more projects in the future, are you getting some tips on what to do and not to do?

Isaac Keys: Definitely! That was a project that my friend and I were working on. He wanted to shoot it and I was tired of auditions. We just came together. He wrote it and then we went through casting. I learned a lot of what not to do. [Laughing] You appreciate that when you work on bigger projects, like having the lighting and sound guys. When you are doing your own stuff those are really the big things that you should have. If you don’t then it, kind of, deters the show. Let’s just say that we learned a lot from the first one, but we are proud of it. We are proud of The Therapist. Seeing what they did on Jurassic World—the production, the control room, the dinosaurs that they made—I have so much respect for production and the efficiency on what they do and accomplish.

Miles and Louis are definitely giving you some tips. [Laughing]

Isaac Keys: Yes, Miles and Louis have an uncanny way to go about things that I don’t know would necessarily work for me at the moment. [Laughing]

Without giving too much away, what can you say about what’s coming up and what we have to look forward to from Ed?

Isaac Keys: I think you are going to look forward to Ed show a little bit more personality. He’s not just going to be a stiff personality. He’s going to evolve and you may see how he’s drawn to some of the other characters. He may see himself in maybe a little bit of Miles, or what he’s doing in his life. I think it’s intriguing. He’s protective, but at the same time he’s also very conscience of what’s going on. I’m excited about people getting to see a little more of Ed.

You’re going to be starring in The Oath on Crackle. What can you say about the series?

Isaac Keys: I play a character named G. G is in kind of a mob or street gang run by a character named Neckbone (Kwame Patterson). They didn’t hold back on the names with some of the characters on the show. What I love about it is that again I was fortunate to work with another amazing cast—Cory Hardrict and Ryan Kwanten, to name just a couple. The reason why I mention them is because they kicked my butt. I even knew Cory before. We had a great scene and you were talking about not necessarily having to take hits anymore from football. Oh man, they had us running on cobblestone and I busted through so many doors. Not like the door I did in Get Shorty, I learned from that. [Laughing] I really became a professional on breaking down doors and going down steps. I think people are really going to enjoy some action and a different type of show. It’s really going to have them on the edge. They are going to attach themselves to characters and it’s going to pull at their emotions. My character is different for me because I got to show a little bit more range. I ended up being a little submissive at some points, which I loved. I think people are really going to love The Oath.

So, you got to work with the Jason Stackhouse. I definitely can’t wait to see The Oath.

Isaac Keys: Jason Stackhouse! Yeah, we had a couple of good scenes. Ryan is really in tune to his character. I love what he’s doing. It’s coming out sometime in 2018.

I just want give a prayer and I hope that everyone is safe in Puerto Rico. That was our location where we were shooting at. The hurricane is going to shut down production for a little while. I hope everyone is safe.

Photos: Epix

Photo: Keli Squires

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