Craig Robinson Graduates to Leading Man, Live Audiences in 'Mr. Robinson'

'The Office' alum talks about moving to multicam for his new NBC sitcom.
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Craig Robinson admits he had hesitations about changing his new series from single-camera comedy to multicam.

"I was so used to The Office, and I really like that the audience has to find a laugh for themselves." he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "[I said], 'Let's see how it goes,' and then it ended up being incredibly fun, playing with the crowd and making that connection."

It helps that Robinson has experience playing to live crowds with his band, The Nasty Delicious — a gig he was able to tap into on multiple levels in his new series, Mr. Robinson.

Premiering Wednesday at 9 p.m. on NBC, the show stars Robinson as a journeyman musician who gets a job as a substitute high school music teacher. The character, like his real-life counterpart, spends a lot of time playing with his band. (And yes, Robinson's real band appears on the show as his character's band.) "The way it worked, to have my actual band onstage with me, is a dream come true," he said. "And it's a sweet schedule. Like, The Office — oh man — sometimes you would go 15-hour days."

Mr. Robinson is a departure from his longtime TV home in many regards. After pitching the series years earlier, Robinson teamed up with The Office's longtime showrunner ` during the acclaimed workplace comedy's finale season and shot a single-camera pilot in 2013.

The series marks not only Robinson's first starring TV role, but also his first time producing. "I didn’t feel a tremendous pressure. It's just go to work and do your best and let it do what it do," he says. "Hopefully, it made me a better actor because one part of the producing part is sitting in on auditions and getting to see that side of it."

The project wasn't ordered to series until January 2014, but with Robb and Mark Cullen taking over for Daniels. "There was definitely that worry because if you got a Greg Daniels, you got a Greg Daniels. He's top of the game," says Robinson. "But the only thing that made that [loss] soothing was the Cullen brothers coming in."

Coincidentally, the Cullen brothers cast Robinson in his series regular role on FX's Lucky in 2003. "We hang out," says Robinson, "so it was like, 'OK, if it's not going to be Greg, then bring on the Cullen brothers. They're the craziest dudes in Hollywood so that helps."

After another long delay — a year and a half to be exact — Mr. Robinson is finally hitting the air, albeit with an unconventional scheduling commitment. NBC plans to air two back-to-back episodes every Wednesday, which means the show will be off the air just three weeks after it begins. "But then again you're back-to-back so you're really drilling into America," says Robinson. "I believe I'm in good hands. They do their thing. I cannot focus on those kinds of things. Because you go crazy."

As Robinson explains, "I'm happy we got six episodes. I'm just happy they’re committed to put them on. That's where I'm at."

Mr. Robinson premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.