DR. FACILIER (voice of Keith David) is a devious scoundrel, the shadowy figure of threat who causes no shortage of predicament and menace to Prince Naveen and Tiana. He’s a smooth operator who works his magical spells and uses his connection to “friends on the other side” to get what he wants by way of his mysterious, menacing and dangerous charm.
“He’s musical, he’s threatening, he’s tall, he’s lean, he’s thin. He can be very sweet. He’s handsome. He’s graceful. And I think all that stuff is, in very contemporary animation anyway, rare to see that type of villain,” says Bruce Smith, supervising animator of Dr. Facilier, “It’s always great as an animator to get the villain, and the villain is always that character that holds up the film and keeps everything interesting and on edge. Luckily, in this case, I’ve really got a very unique villain—a great villain.”
Sandra Varner (Talk2SV): The Princess and the Frog will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of little girls, particularly little black girls throughout their lives. As the father of two daughters, what is your comment about this monumental film?
Keith David: There are good projects, bad projects and important projects. This project happens to be good and important.
Talk2SV: I am of the belief that little girls who have a loving relationship with their fathers grow up to be more confident, or so it seems; tell me about the relationship that you have with your daughters and what was their reaction to The Princess and The Frog?
David: They both loved it. I have a lovely relationship with my daughters and I hope to continue that, I hope it continues to deepen and expand. I love my girls and I think it is important –for girls and boys– to have good relationships with their parents: men and women need good relationships with their fathers just as they do with their mothers, whether they are together or not. I happen to be in a household where I am with my wife and we get to raise our children.
Talk2SV: How old are your daughters?
David: My two daughters are eight and five.
Talk2SV: Did they say anything in particular that sticks in your mind about this film?
David: I mean, they just love it; they have a princess who looks like them. You know, I call them princesses all the time but, now they finally see somebody who looks like them. I don’t think they ever had any sort of identity crisis. They go to school everyday with all kinds of people of mixed race and different ethnicities. For their ages, my children are almost as traveled as I was through my 30’s. They’ve been a lot of places and they’ve seen a lot of the world and they’re very worldly like that; they’re very adventurous like that. As for this film, New Orleans is a very eclectic place which is one of the reasons why I think they chose New Orleans to be the background of this movie. Plus, all the other stuff –the magic and the music– that could be explored. So I think that was a big factor in choosing New Orleans as the place, but the world is no longer lily white; it never was. The world is expanding so that other people are being embraced. We’ve always been here; we just never have been so represented. Now, here we are. So for those people who need a visual image to really have a deeper sense of self, there’s Princess Tiana and President Obama.
Talk2SV: Yes! During the Disney press conference for this film I asked the male cast members if they ever dreamed of becoming a prince as a young boy and the resounding answer I got was they grew up wanting to be a king. What dreams did you have as a young boy and has the fairy tale become your reality?
David: I’m living my dream right now. All my life I wanted to be an actor; that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up, an actor and a singer and that’s what I am. That’s what I do. I did have dreams of being an Indian prince because I have some Cherokee in my lineage but I dreamt of being kings all the time, I was always the chief. And, as a young boy I was always the older guy, an older spirit so, I went straight to the king and the duke (laughter).
Talk2SV: Your voice has been your treasure. At what age did you receive the gift of that rich hypnotic baritone sound that is so uniquely yours?
David: I’ve never heard it put like that, but, my voice has always been on the deeper end. I joined the All Borough Chorus when was 12, and I was always the second tenor, I was never the first tenor. I began a change and shift very early in my life so I was always on the lower end of the scale. I’ve worked on my voice many, many years of my life –as a singer and as an actor– I’m also a speech teacher.
Talk2SV: As a successful and award winning working actor who has done so many films and TV projects, what takes priority for you today?
David: Balancing being able to raise my family with my work; that’s what my priority is, to be a good husband and father. I do that by being able to be happy in my work. I’m away from home right now as we speak. So making sure I’m not away from home too long.
Talk2SV: In closing, you are no stranger to audiences yet there’s so much more to know about Keith David; what would people be surprised to learn about you?
David: Hmmm, my love of horses.
Talk2SV: Any particular kind?
David: No, not really.
Talk2SV: Do you ride?
David: I do ride. I love riding horses; it’s one of my favorite things to do.
A partial list of Keith David’s film credits include:
All About Steve
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
The Chronicles of Riddick
Head of State
Something About Mary