Keith David’s initial fear was that he would be asked to be inarticulate. As a speech teacher, he was acutely aware of the way English words sounded and feared he would be directed toward clichés. More than anything, though, he had to get used to acting for a camera. On stage, one needs to broadcast a performance to the back of a theater, often exaggerating. When the “audience” is a camera lens only a few inches from your face, a small eye twitch or facial movement can communicate just as much. David needed screen veterans to point the way. He told L.A. Weekly:
“I’m a speech teacher, so I spent the six or seven weeks prior doing my speech-teacher training. My experience as an actor was in the theater, and one of the things I was afraid of was that I’d have come in saying things like ‘Muthaf***a,’ but wasn’t going to be able to drop all the good American speech that I was just practicing. Childs is the strong, silent type, so I had a one-line response to most things, like ‘Oh, hell no!’ or ‘What, are you kiddin’?’ I learned a lot just by watching guys like Kurt Russell and Donald Moffat.”
Moffat, of course, also frequently worked in the theater, but Kurt Russell grew up in front of cameras. He appeared in movies as a young child and starred in several college-set films for Disney as a teen. If anyone was to teach David about ease in front of a camera, it was those guys. The lessons seem to have taken. David communicates a lot through small looks and scant dialogue.