By Mary L. Datcher Defender Senior Staff Writer | Interviewed by Caryn Lee
The Wayans name is a brand associated with big box comedy and has a solid reputation for producing a wealth of talent from one family. From the creative mind of the Wayans’ eldest sibling, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and the success of “In Living Color”—audiences have been captured by the Wayans’ comedic touch.
The youngest brother, Marlon Wayans, has carved out a unique place with brother Shawn to begin a successful career on their own.
As an actor, producer, comedian, writer and film director—his films have grossed more than $736 million—from the duo’s first blockbuster film, “White Chicks,” which grossed $69 million in the U.S. to horror film spoof movies “Scary Movie” and “Scary Movie Movie 2,” directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans.
Marlon’s film credits are long and his television career has brought him into living rooms making him a household name with shows “Second Generation Wayans,” “Childrens Hospital” and WB’s “The Wayans Bros.”
In the last few years, Marlon Wayans has entered a new landscape of comedy by doing stand-up—performing both with his brothers and solo on tour. His real-life persona has created the script for NBC’s newest sitcom “Marlon,” loosely based on the comedic actor’s real life. On the show, the father of two, co-parents with his ex-wife, played by actress Essence Atkins. The show debuted as the network’s summer line-up and has received great reviews by television critics.
Having both a Netflix comedy, “Naked,” and the new television series simultaneously out, the 45-year-old actor is on a roll.
You’ve had a long career in comedy and drama. What appealed to you about doing the family sitcom?
Because I have a family. It would be interesting to put my experience on screen and do something that I felt had some gravity and meant something to me. When you do TV, you want to do 100 episodes, and for me raising my children, I got episodes. I have a 20-year relationship with their mom. Right now, I feel there’s a lot of broken families that are just “broken.” When the family breaks, you can always put together the pieces of the shared glass and make a different photo, a different kind of art, a different kind of family. I feel some kids are growing up in hate. They can grow up in love and two adults can handle their issues and raise their babies. They can love enough to make them, they can love enough to see them through.
Do you worry that your wife Angela is concerned about what people may think since the show is inspired by your life experiences?
Creatively, I do what I want. The show is called “Marlon” not “Angela.” I often tell her that. She says, “I don’t know if my character would do that.” I tell her, “Angela, this is loosely based on your ass.” [he smiles] This is my interpretation but she always feels she has a say-so. My son says the boys won’t like me. So, I had to make it fun. My daughter loves her character because she’s a bookworm, just like me. But the “Wayans Bros.” was the same; at the time it was 22 years so we knew our relationship. This is a relationship that I know, and these babies I’ve known since they were sperm. Sperm and egg–you know your family.
How old are your kids right now?
My son is 15, my daughter is 17.
I wanted the characters to be younger so I can capture their younger years.
I had to take a personal journey to learn in order for me to be successful, I had to learn. From me being the youngest, my brothers wanted to protect me. I know it’s brave to go outside when it rains and take an umbrella, but I still want to go outside and dodge the rain because maybe I don’t need an umbrella. Then I come back and say, “maybe I should’ve taken an umbrella.” I learned something new. Trailblazers go out and venture and come back with something and say, “Alright, you did it this way but when I went out and did this, it went that way.” Now you have an intellectual conversation that is based on respect and knowledge that each person experienced; you have to be a strong finger in order to be part of a fist. I’ll rather be a strong finger.
You have a series comedy and the movie “Naked” on Netflix, but we noticed you still do a lot of stand up. Do you think stand-up keeps you sharp or do you continue to do it because you love it?
I love it. I’m new to it so I’ve been doing it for the past seven years. It’s made me better. I look at the work that I do now and it’s different. Stand up has given me that. I perform so much that I get tired. Now, I feel I’m going to think of some funny stuff but I’m not going to do it but I’m going to say it. It’s like getting your feet nailed to the ground but it’s made me a better storyteller.
When I think about “Marlon,” the stories are really good. I pay more attention to the stories than I do the comedy. I look at the scene and say, we need to change this up and we need to change the set pieces but the story is something you have to have crafted. People really like stories. If your jokes aren’t funny, people will become tired at a point . A good story, it’ll never get tired.
Watch the full season of “Marlon” on the official NBC show website.