Why Serenading Meryl Streep In Netflix's The Prom Was An ‘Important’ Experience For Keegan-Michael Key

Live theater is one of the many industries currently suffering as a result of global health issues. And while Broadway theaters remain dark until audiences can safely gather, a movie version of hit musical The Prom recently arrived on Netflix. Directed by Ryan Murphy and helming all-star talent like Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, the movie released last weekend and has been trending on the streaming service since. The cast also includes Keegan-Michael Key, who explained to us exactly why his song "We Look to You" was so important to his process.

Keegan-Michael Key plays Principal Hawkins in The Prom, and is a fierce advocate for the movie's protagonist Emma. He also shared a connection with Meryl Streep's character Dee Dee, and they share a number of scenes together. In "We Look to You" Key got to serenade the Oscar winner, as Hawkins explains the importance of live theater for audiences. In the above video he shared with CinemaBlend's Sarah El-Mahmoud what it was like working with Streep, and how his real-life feelings informed the performance. As Key put it,

It was very inspiring I guess is the word I would say. I don’t want to say it was easy. But there’s this thing that where if you can just anchor into your own feelings and access your own feelings about a situation you find yourself in. So I was actually allowed to express through song to a person that I would want to tell those things to. Obviously it’s a little different. To be able to stop Meryl and say that to her as myself, I could have done this myself. And the fact that there was this vehicle for that is amazing. It became very important to me, the song was very precious to me. And being able to access the emotions you need to to sing that song effectively actually wasn’t that difficult. Because there was no stretch there.

Well, there you have it. Because while Keegan-Michael Key is obviously different from his character in The Prom, singing his big number "We Look to You" was somewhat easy. Namely because the song celebrates an accomplished actor, and his scene partner was the legendary Meryl Streep. After all, she's arguably the most celebrated actress of all time. #RelatableContent.

Keegan-Michael Key's conversation with CinemaBlend's Sarah El-Mahmoud shows what it's like for people who get to work with Meryl Streep. The three-time Oscar winning actress has a reputation for a reason, something she shared with her The Prom character Dee Dee. Streep's work means so much to so many, so it was somewhat easy for Key to slip into character and sing a tribute song to his co-star. And by also including his own feelings about his co-star, he was able to truly tell the message of "We Look to You."

Keegan-Michael Key's role in The Prom is only the latest project where he got to show off his pipes. He also recently appeared in Netflix's Christmas musical extravaganza Jingle Jangle and got another song of his very own. Key also played a role in the recent remake of The Lion King, but his character Kamari the hyena didn't get any vocal lines.

Ryan Murphy assembled a killer cast to bring The Prom to life. The movie opens up on a quartet of familiar faces, namely Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Andrew Rannells. Some other familiar faces include Kerry Washington, Hamilton's Ariana DeBose, Keegan-Michael Key, and Tracey Ullman. This movie musical is the closest thing we'll get to Broadway for the time being, so it's a welcomed addition for many.

The Prom is currently streaming on Netflix. Be sure to check out our 2021 release list to plan your trips to the movies next year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.