By: Hunter Reis
It’s three strikes for Creative Arts Emmy winner Keith David. The actor has won his third Emmy for his work on the two part PBS documentary “Jackie Robinson” this past weekend. David won the award for Outstanding Narrator, an award that he has not received before.
Both of David’s previous Emmy wins were for Outstanding Voice-Over performance in 2005 and 2008. “It’s always wonderful when somebody recognizes your work,” said David. The recognition seems to come second to him, though, as he describes his work on “Jackie Robinson” as the real reward.
Rewards, to David, seem to be deserved only by merit. He lists off people who have inspired him with their words alone. People like Ossie Davis, Lorne Green, and John Forsythe. “When you hear these actors narrate, there’s something that makes you want to learn more about the subject matter, but they also invite you into it. I want to be able to do that and I hope that’s what I am able to bring to the table,” said David. “When you have such rich, delicious subjects such as Jackie Robinson, I mean, what an important story.”
The story of Jackie Robinson–and the eponymous PBS documentary about his life – is the story of the first African-American Major League Baseball player. In his life, Robinson was a pioneer for racial diversity in sports and an inspiration to people of all races.
“We can never forget who we are as Americans and how divided we were at the time,” said David. “We still have to deal with that today. There are still so many things that we have not dealt with as an American community and society that make that story as resonant today as it was then.”
The documentary – which aired over two nights in April – came during a time of heightened racial sensitivity in the United States. With the Black Lives Matter movement so prominent in culture, “Jackie Robinson” took viewers back to America’s pastime. “Baseball is a great tie that binds American society,” said David, “We face racial issues in every walk of life. American racism is a very particular form and we really do need to deal with it.”
The two-part documentary certainly deals with this topic in a way that is both reflective and timely. The importance of the story, though, really hits home with the universal appeal of Jackie Robinson. “With all the racism that was going on at the time,” explainedDavid, “you couldn’t deny his greatness as a player.”
Robinson was a great athlete, and it took a great narrator like David to do him justice. The voice actor worked closely with directors Ken and Sarah Burns to make the story of Jackie Robinson come to life.
When David is not providing his voice to documentaries, cartoons, or video games, he can be seen acting on stage and on screen. He is currently performing in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.