Kenan Thompson Is a Big Kid Among Children in 'Lil Interns'

The comedy veteran stars in shorts about workplace expectations and children—things plenty of parents know all too well.

Kenan Thompson on set of Lil Interns

Old Navy/Broadway Video

Former child actor turned history-making comedian Kenan Thompson has spent three decades solidifying himself as a household name. He’s been gracing TV and movie screens since age 16, displaying mastery-level sketch comedy chops and classic comedic timing. Now, the 44-year-old veteran actor is the longest-tenured cast member in SNL history, among other mainstays of the career he was always meant to pursue. 

While his path seemed clear from an early age, Thompson told Kindred by Parents that each step leading to his milestone career was a victory. It’s not only the ideal that helped to shape him, but it’s the advice he’d share with people who are parenting stars in the making

“I think a parent can identify when their kid is kind of obsessed with something or passionate about something,” Thompson told Kindred. “And, you should just support it the best way you can and keep your dreams realistic and grounded. And, just take it step-by-step and victory-by-victory.” 

These steps can be as big as landing a show or as small as getting an opportunity to audition.  

“Landing an agent is a victory or landing an audition even is a victory,” he said. “And then if you land the role, that's another win. You just pile them up and try to stay professional.” 

Parents should allow their children to lead this path, providing the emotional support necessary as the child builds a career. 

“Follow the path and stay diligent and [don’t] take the word ‘no’ personally,” Thompson said for young people seeking their entertainment break. “And, just continue to follow whatever your destiny will be in that venture, but don't get brokenhearted just because you don't book a certain role.” 

Thompson is a wealth of wisdom in the industry, especially for children hoping to follow the path he’s walked. Luckily for him, he was recently surrounded by kids in a new six-episode workplace comedy called Lil Interns, directed by Jason Woliner and produced by Broadway Video. 

The series, which features child-friendly length episodes ranging between about four-to-six minutes each, casts Thompson alongside a multicultural cast of elementary-aged children to serve a weeklong internship at Old Navy. There’s just one catch, Thompson’s self-portrayed character has no idea that the internship is meant for children. The grown-up star finds himself making friends and even an “Archie nemesis” among his co-interns as the group learns all about human resources, marketing, finance and retail. 

As an actor, Thompson hasn’t quite been surrounded by so many children on set since his own days as a child actor. 

“Working with little kids and daunting tasks over four or five days or whatever – they don't really understand work, necessarily,” he said. “They're just kind of like wanting to play and just do whatever. So, when you have a shooting agenda, it makes it kind of challenging. I had to make sure I was entertaining them, alongside being a good example of getting the work done at the same time.” 

While working to ensure the children enjoyed themselves, Thompson also had a great time. 

“It was fun – there was a lot of interacting with kids that were wanting to be actors, and then some kids [who don’t]. It was cool to see the mixture of the two,” he said. 

To make the interactions as seamless as possible, he drew upon both his experience as an actor and his parenting skills. 

“The one thing I've learned about kids is that you kind of gotta let them be themselves, [because] they're gonna buck against what's not comfortable for them,” he said. “You just gotta shift the play area to let them go, so I think that came in handy when we were trying to give direction and stuff like that [and when] they recited lines.” 

Patience was essential, and the learning curve swung in both directions. 

“Comedy is kind of formulaic, so we definitely have to do it a certain kind of way,” Thompson said. “So by having patience and laying out what we're trying to get, we started to learn that we needed to do it piece-by-piece. So we learned from them, they learned from us, you know, it was a great back and forth.” 

There was, of course, lots of amusement in the process. Thompson’s favorite part – being a human playground. 

“Anytime the kids wanted to attack me in any sort of way, I was always a lot of fun,” he said. “I just became kind of the adult jungle gym, and that's always a good time.” 

The family-friendly show can be found on its child-appealing website, which features bubbly images, vibrant colors, and eye-catching fonts. 

Lil Interns appears to be working towards a follow-up season and requests companies interested in being the next setting. 

As for Thompson, he’s working on fulfilling a few more dreams, including his recently-launched production company, Artists for Artists

“That is a major endeavor that I'm very excited about because it's pivoting me into my producer dreams, so that's kind of next on my career milestone agenda; kind of so excited about that.”

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