Keegan-Michael Key hits the right notes as a musical villain

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Keegan-Michael stars in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, a Netflix fantastical holiday musical (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Keegan-Michael stars in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, a Netflix fantastical holiday musical (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

It’s the time of the year for festive feel-good films and Netflix joins the party with Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. This fantastical holiday musical is set in the Victorian era and tells the tale of Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker), a master toymaker whose astounding workshop would leave Santa and the North Pole in the dust. 

His success comes to a screeching halt and his life is left in ruins when his villainous apprentice, Gustafson, played by Keegan-Michael Key, steals the blueprint to his most magical idea and becomes the next big thing. Years later, Jeronicus’ witty granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills), learns of the sad tale and jumps at the opportunity to help her grandpa make his comeback, with an even bigger and better invention.  

Emmy-winner Keegan-Michael, who also sings in the film, says he had a blast shooting the Christmas flick. “I love the magical aspect of this tale and the fact that it’s almost like a Victorian science-fiction Christmas movie. It’s almost like, if Charles Dickens had a laser gun; it has that kind of [feeling] – that I’ve not seen. I mean, you see Christmas magic in movies, but this has literal magic in it.” 

(Photo: Netflix)
Keegan-Michael Key transforms into a villainous apprentice, Gustafson in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Photo: Netflix)

For the love of it

The 49-year-old has been showbiz for more than 20 years. “By the time I was 13 I knew I wanted to do some kind of performance. Television was always so magical to me, and once I had a sense that I could do it, and people were supportive, I threw myself in 100%.” 

Best known for his sketch performances in Key & Peele and Mad TV with director and friend Jordan Peele, he’s also a writer, producer and game-show host and has appeared in Friends from College, Parks and Recreation, the comedy Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and voiced characters for several animated films, including The Lion King (2019) and Toy Story 4 (2019).  

Comedic royalty 

The actor says he admired late greats Richard Pryor and Peter Sellers. A career highlight was acting alongside Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name (2019).  

“Getting to work with Eddie Murphy was one of the greatest experiences of my career because it’s very surreal to have an opportunity to work with a hero – to work with a person who got you into the business. You find yourself on set going like, ‘Okay, is  today the day that I’m going to tell Eddie that he changed my life?’”  

  • The musical was 20 years in the making. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’s director David E Talbert (54) says he first had the idea for the movie in his early thirties.
  • The all-star cast includes Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin and Anika Noni Rose. 

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is streaming on Netflix now 

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