Good Boys star Keith L. Williams on perfecting that scream and learning from Superbad
This weekend sees the release of Good Boys, the new comedy film about three preteen friends — played by Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon — who take a walk on the wild side as they prepare for their first “kissing party.” If that premise sounds familiar, Williams — who steals multiple scenes as the high-pitched conscience of the gang, Lucas — tells EW that he was drawing on a very specific role model: Superbad.
Earlier this year, Olivia Wilde‘s directorial debut Booksmart also felt partially like a riff on that 2007 comedy, with its premise of well-mannered straight-A students finally letting loose for the first time. But a key difference between the two is that Good Boys was actually produced by Superbad star Seth Rogen. So Williams and his costars had the man himself around to ask for advice.
“We worked with him actually, he was really nice,” Williams tells EW of Rogen. “He helped write it, so he really knew it and was giving us guidelines on how we needed to say certain lines.”
Good Boys isn’t a Superbad clone, though, because its protagonists are just starting sixth grade rather than finishing high school. As a result, the world is still a lot bigger and scarier to them. While the Superbad protagonists are primarily fixated on getting a fake ID to buy party booze, one scene from Good Boys finds Lucas and friends paralyzed with fear while attempting to cross a busy, multi-lane highway. And Williams’ performance includes a signature high-pitched scream — it’s highlighted in one particular scene near the end of the movie — one that no high schooler could possibly utter.
“They wanted me to scream, but they didn’t know I was going to do it like that. So I did my random scream and they were like yes, do it exactly like that!” Williams recalls. Time passes quickly at his age, however. “My voice has gotten deeper since then. I can still do it, I just have to scream really hard. I used to be able to scream so loud it could make glasses break, but now my voice cracks when I try to do it.”
Of course, one of the primary hooks of Good Boys is that its characters are too young to fully understand the movie again. Posters feature Williams, Tremblay, and Noon looking up at a “you must be this tall to see this movie” sign, and the red band trailer opened with Rogen telling the actors they weren’t old enough to even watch the uncensored trailer. Williams admits that, indeed, he didn’t totally understand all the references to sex and drugs that populate the movie — such as a sequence where the boys find themselves in possession of molly.
“When we’re in the woods and they ask, ‘What if we throw pills into the pond?’ And I say ‘No, we’ll contaminate the water. What if a squirrel eats it?’ When I said that I didn’t really know, but now I think I know why it was funny,” Williams says. “Barely.”
There’s a big difference between ages 11 and 12, however.
“A lot of it was left mysterious, but now I’m good,” Williams says. “I’m 12 now. I was 11 when I shot that. So I know now.”
Good Boys is in theaters this weekend.