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Marlon Wayans Discusses 'Marlon' and his Return to TV

Marlon Wayans Discusses 'Marlon' and his Return to TV

Marlon Wayans made a name for himself on television, appearing in hit shows including In Living Color and The Wayans Brothers. Since then he's made the jump to the silver screen and is most notable for his various parody roles in film. Nearly 20 years later his making his big television comeback with Marlon, a family sitcom that pulls from his own life experiences, coming to NBC on August 16th. Shakefire sat down with Marlon Wayans to talk about his return to TV. In addition, he just released a new film on Netflix this month. Naked is a Groundhog Day-esque story in which relives his wedding day, naked, over until he rights all his wrongs. He's been quite busy this year, no doubt.

 

Shakefire (SF): What’s it like coming back to television and doing your own series? I believe you’ve guest starred here and there, but it’s been awhile since you had a sitcom like this.

Marlon Wayans (MW): I don’t think I’ve guest starred. I don’t think I’ve touched television except for Leno or Letterman. The Wayans are weird. We always like doing our own. When we’re doing a show, like this sitcom, I want it to be my show because I want to use the writer and the producer in me and be able to make the right choices and do lines I’m comfortable with doing. Be the floor general and help out the cast and let them be comfortable. I just like the vibe of the Marlon set. When we did Wayans Brothers I liked vibe of the set. It’s your whole aura. It’s your matrix. It’s in everybody; your spirit’s in everybody on the set. It’s exciting. For me, it’s the only way to kinda do TV, and I felt like I never left. It’s crazy because it’s 20 years since I did it. I wanted to do it in front of a live audience because I just love working with live audiences and that first laugh I was like, “Yo, I never left.”

 

SF: It felt like riding a bike I imagine.

MW: Yeah, yeah. And actually not riding for awhile I’m better now than I was because of the journey I’ve been on. Like Wayans Brothers I would take lines and do my best to make anything funny, but Shawn was the guy going, “Let’s changes this, let’s change that,” and I started doing that too as I matured. But this time I’m going, “Umm, I don’t like the story. I don’t think the story is connected. It’s not resonating truth to it. So here’s how this happened. And here’s what we should do with the characters. And here’s how we respond.” So you’re walking people through it, and you have a much better perspective on yourself and your situations and jokes, and I think stand-up for the past seven years have helped me with articulating those thoughts.

 

SF: Why did you design the sitcom around a divorced situation?

MW: Because it’s what I knew. I think you got to write what you know. It’s my family; it’s my life. It’s based on my life. I was never married, but we went through a breakup and remain best of friends. We don’t even call each other exes. I still call her baby; she still calls me baby. I’ll always love that woman. I don’t think that just because you breakup that you have to not talk or have animosity. We’re actually better friends now than when we were when we were together. When we argue now we go, “Okay, what’s the solution? It’s this. Okay, my bad. Alright. I’ll work on it. I’ll work on that too.” Whereas before, you go six days of angry. So it’s good to do truth. The only thing I changed that’s not as truthful is that the kid on my show is more rambunctious than my son. My son is too cool for TV.

 

 

SF: So your son is not following in the Wayans tradition?

MW: No, my daughter is. My son is a ball player. He’s an athlete. He has our work ethic. He’s just getting better and better every game. I don’t want my kids to do what I do. I want them to do what they want to do. “What’s your great? You do that.” If you go to college and you’re not studying what you want to study, you’re wasting my money. You go do you. Whatever you decide, I don’t care if it’s rocket science, if you’re studying inchworms, I don’t care. Just make sure you love it. If you love, I support you. Don’t do what you think I want you to do. This ain’t about me. This is about you. You have to find your smile. I got mine.

 

SF: Were you at all disappointed they moved Marlon to the summer time versus the regular season? Does it matter or make any difference to you?

MW: I was actually happy. I was confused at first, but then I realized their biggest show is America’s Got Talent. So they’re launching me behind their biggest show, and they’re giving me the best shot to win. So when you look at it from that lens, I’m grateful. Everybody wants this time slot, and they believe enough in the show that they gave me this time slot. It’s a funny show. I watch it, and I laugh, not because it’s me. It’s a good show. I showed my kids a couple of episodes and they’re like, “Wow dad, I didn’t know you could be funny being appropriate.”

 

SF: There’s a lot of physical comedy to the show. Were there a lot of takes? Did you get exhausted from all the running around? What was it like on set?

MW: I get exhausted, but we have conversations about things I do beforehand. Because when I’m in it I’m sweating. I don’t let makeup, hair, nobody come. I’m in it. Just leave me alone. Keep me wet; let’s go. I do two to three takes; they’ll be long takes. And then from there, when I’m inspired, let me go until I’m tired. When I go I just go, and everybody knows I don’t want to do 10 takes of that. That’s why we got four cameras. I’m going to give three dope ass takes and then from there it’s what do we need? What didn’t we get? So I’ll go in a do a take and let’s punch in for that. Because for me I’m sitting in the editing room so while we’re shooting I’m going, “Did we get this angle? Did we get that joke? Alright, cool.” So I know once we get to editing I can chop this up and we’ll be fine.

 

SF: So I imagine there was a lot of improv on set then.

MW: Oh absolutely. I’m a crazy man. We write really funny stuff. I just challenge myself to try and top it every episode, every time we get in front of that live audience. They know. Monday through Thursday I do script. Once they say Action, I do one on script and then from there I’m playing because I walk it all week long going, “Hmm, you know what I could do here...it’d be funny if I did this here...it’d be funny if I did that there.” Then I get this audience in front of me, and I just go with what makes them laugh. But I try to remain in the scene. I don’t want to be physical for no reason. If we’re doing a bit, it’s because in the scene that’s how we do it in real life. If I’m being physical it’s because the situation allows me to be that way. What I love is that I can do all this and still have those moments in the tent where we have a real conversation about real things, and it’s about the emotional content in the story of the show. That’s what allows me to be physical.

 

Nowadays I don’t feel comfortable being physical if I don’t have a good story. It’s the same thing with Naked. I knew because the guy is trying to get married and he’s a little selfish and he’s a little immature and I knew that the story was good. We played the story. When it was time for me to be emotional, I was emotional. When I was getting cursed at, I was getting cursed at. When I had to be the hero, I had to grow to be the hero. We played those moments, and then I get those crazy, fun, physical beats because of a reason. God and the universe puts him through this so it’s not like I’m doing physical for no reason. The situation brings the character to the physical, and it’s for a good reason and a good intention. So I feel comfortable doing it now because the stories are good. I don’t want to do physical just to be physical. I want great stories and then I can take physical as I gift that I can take it anywhere. I just really want good stories that make people feel good.

 

 

SF: So you felt comfortable being naked?

MW: I don’t think any man ever feels comfortable being naked except for the old guys in the YMCA gym for some reason. Cause the thing when you get older, when you hit like 70, everything drips and droops and you’re like, “I don’t care.” I did this. I worked out as hard as I could for the time I had allotted, and then from there I removed my ego and I’m going, “Let’s do this. Let’s not worry about this. Lemme play the character. Lemme play the scene.” I didn’t do ass makeup. No. I did the best I could with my body up until that moment, and all that ego goes out the window and I’m in the scene.

 

SF: Any more dramatic roles coming up?

MW: Naw, I mean one day hopefully. I try to put drama inside the things I’m doing now whereas before I wasn’t. I was just doing parody, and that’s why I stopped doing parody because I wanted to flex all the different things I could do comedically and dramatically. So Naked I got really good dramatic scenes. There’s a scene at the end of the movie that’s really nice. I get to have a nice dramatic beat. I’m comfortable with that. And if a great drama comes around I’ll do it, but if not, comedy it is.

 

Marlon premieres August 16th on NBC at 9:00pm ET. Naked is now available to stream on Netflix.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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