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Kenan Thompson 'iParty' interview: 'I owe a lot to Nickelodeon'

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Kenan Thompson

© WENN

Some former teen stars might have faded into obscurity, but Kenan Thompson has been working solidly since he first rose to fame in classic Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel back in 1996.

Now a regular cast member on NBC's Saturday Night Live, Kenan recently returned to his Nick roots to film a guest role in one-off special iParty - a crossover between hit shows iCarly and Victorious.

Digital Spy caught up with Kenan to chat about his projects past, present and future, and the secret of his success...

What can you tell us about iParty and your role in it?
"Well, I play myself - or a celebrity version of myself, I guess! One of the kids on the show wants to have a party and uses my 'quote / unquote' mansion to have a party in.

"I come home and I join the party too, then there's a panda running around chasing me. It's been following me to different places and apparently it found my new house and it's giving me problems. There's just wackiness going on like that."

Are you pleased to still be associated with Nickelodeon after all these years?
"Absolutely. They're my extended family and they gave me my first television work. I owe a lot to Nickelodeon.

"I'm very close to a lot of the people that run these shows. Dan Schneider - the writer of iCarly and Victorious - has been my friend for 15 years, and he asked me to do [iParty] so I said, 'Of course'."

How did you find it working with the latest generation of Nick stars?
"It was really cool. It was interesting, because they're really focused and they all have very clear career goals! I don't know if I was that career-oriented, I think I was just a kid playing around! But they're very serious and very professional. But they're awesome - I've watched a lot of them grow up, especially [iCarly star] Miranda [Cosgrove].

"I've watched her since [2003 film] School of Rock when she was little, and now she's grown up and is putting out albums and stuff like that. It's really cool and I'm glad that they have [[a] platform to be able to branch off and do those things, while they work at Nick."

Kenan and Kel
You also host 'The '90s Are All That' programming block for TeenNick, which includes Kenan & Kel - why do you think that show is still popular with viewers?
"I don't know. I think we were just kids having a good time. We weren't trying to put too much on it. He and I were very close, and I think that's pretty apparent when you watch the show. So it was just a good feeling all the way around when you tuned in."

Do fans approach you more about Kenan & Kel or Saturday Night Live?
"It's a mixture of both. If I have a 60-year-old Jewish lady come up to me, she's probably going to be talking about Saturday Night Live! Especially in New York - a lot of the older New York-ers have really been paying attention and stopping me at pharmacies and stuff. It's kind of surprising to see someone so outside of my own age bracket telling me about my work, so that's cool.

"But when younger people come up, or people my age, they talk about Kenan & Kel and ['90s Nick sketch show] All That being back on TV and how nostalgic it is, and how excited they are about it. It's really cool. Very flattering."

Do you mind people still talking about Kenan & Kel after all these years?
"Oh no, not at all. I had some of the best times of my life on that show and I'm very close to a lot of the people still. It's a very sentimental moment for me when people come up to me and they're excited about it - it brings back good memories."

Kenan Thompson with Alec Baldwin
A lot of '90s teen stars seem to have vanished, but you're more successful than ever - what's your secret?
"I don't know! I've always just tried to continue to be a working actor and let the work speak for itself, as opposed to promoting myself as someone who needs to be in everybody's living room. I guess I got blessed by [SNL creator] Lorne Michaels to come and join his family.

"I try to do my job there and going into my ninth season is just a blessing. So I'd say my secret would be just to be cool and get along with people, especially those that give you an opportunity."

Do you have a favourite character or impersonation that you do on SNL?
"I know 'What's Up With That' - the whole sing-song sketch that I do - is one of the higher energy ones. That's one of the most fun to do, because it's involving a lot of the cast and we're all in it together. It's just a crazy time - I'm jumping up, dancing and singing. It's fun."

Do you have highlights or favourite memories from your years on the show?
"Yeah, all of it! From the week before I started, with the audition process and all of that, then moving to New York kind of overnight, and everything in between up until this point. It's really been a cherishable experience. Is that a word - 'cherishable'?"

Kenan Thompson
We'll go with that! You're also one of the longest-serving SNL cast members - do you think you'll beat the record to become number one?
"I'm not sure, I don't know. Darrell Hammond did 14, so that's a lot! And Phil Hartman did 10, 12, 13 - something like that. Even did Tim Meadows did 10 or 11, so I've still got some time before I match them. I'm not opposed to trying, but I still got a long way to go if I want to beat the ol' Hammond!"

Do you still have any kind of dream TV or film project?
"Yeah, I still have goals. I want to get into producing and writing more for myself - setting up my own films and seeing what kind of personal touch I can put on movies, as opposed to just being in them. That's always a goal of mine. As far as particular projects, I don't know, but there's certain people I'd like to work with, like Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence.

"That's just on the natural black side, but as far as the whole spectrum goes, it could be anybody. I'm a fan of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and all these people. If i could end up like Jonah Hill, winding up in a Brad Pitt movie, that would be awesome."

Finally, you probably get asked this question a lot, but do you think we could ever see a Kenan & Kel reunion show?
"That's an interesting question. I don't know, I have no idea."

Is it something you'd be open to?
"I don't really know, I have no idea, honestly. It would be interesting. I think the show lives better where it's at, in the time it was in. I wouldn't want to taint that."

iParty airs on Friday, October 7 at 6pm on Nickelodeon.

'Leave It All To Shine; featuring Miranda Cosgrove & Victoria Justice is available to download now

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