Fifty Shades Of An American Comedy Dynasty: A Conversation With Marlon Wayans
    • WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2016

    • Posted by: Don Saas

    Marlon Wayans has been in the comedy game a long-time. Coming from the Wayans family -- a veritable dynasty in American comedy -- Marlon got his break on In Living Color (one of the definitive sketch comedy shows of the 90s and the launching pad for countless careers including Jennifer Lopez, Jim Carrey, Rosie Perez, David Alan Grier, and many others) before joining older brother Shawn on the WB's The Wayans Brothers (a show I used to watch all the time when it was on syndication on BET with my foster siblings). Over the course of the last twenty years, the Wayans have left an indelible impact on the course of American comedy, and there's no sign of them stopping anytime soon.

    "I'm just happy and I think that my brother Keenen's happy...he's the godfather and the pioneer of all of this, and I think what makes him smile is that we're all doing what we love and doing our best with our natural ability and the fact that we're happy in life because we do what we love to do. And it just so happens that we love to do films about the way the Wayans see the world.

    I'm so proud of my daughter, and my nephew, and I can't believe my brother's sperm is doing so many great things. I was watching the trailer for that movie coming out with Dakota Fanning and I was like, 'Look at that! My brother's sperm is in a movie with Dakota fanning that's coming out,' and I'm sitting here with my sperm, watching this, and my sperm looked at me and was so proud to see my brother's sperm on the big screen. It was a beautiful moment between all of us and our sperm. At the end of the day, I think the magic of our family is that we're all doing what we love and supporting each other, and that's what I tell to my kids, just to do what they love."

    Marlon Wayans' latest film, Fifty Shades of Black (a parody of the hit novel/film Fifty Shades of Grey) was released last week in theaters nationwide. And Marlon's approach to choosing this particular project for a parody film is an eye-opening look into how he approaches his comedy.

    "I saw all these women reading this book, and they all seemed really enticed and serious about it, and I was like, 'What are they reading? Maybe I need to learn something,'...since there's always new stuff to add to your repertoire. So I kept reading the book, and all I kept seeing were jokes so I started writing a parody book. Then the movie came out, and where everybody was seeing this hot, turn-on stuff, all we kept seeing was jokes. So we were just inspired by the jokes we saw."

    And Marlon wasn't afraid to hold back on what he thought was so humorous about the whole Christian Grey character.

    "....the character because he was so dark and mysterious that he just came off to me as creepy. To me he was more stalker than he was courter so we just kept finding jokes in that, and then we found jokes in the fact that he wasn't that good in bed; he was really basic. And so we were like, "what if he was a really bad lover?" and like worst case scenarios."

    But if you've ever seen Marlon in Requiem For A Dream, you know that he isn't just a comedian. He has a super serious side. In light of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the consistent struggles Hollywood faces in providing people of color with serious roles, I asked him if he thought that Hollywood failed to provide actors of color the same sort of fantasy-driven roles that something like Fifty Shades of Grey provides and his answer revealed a multi-layered look at this uncomfortable reality of Hollywood.

    "Well, for me I think, yeah, we do get short-changed, but I've always looked at it like this; I'm not going to sit around and complain to Hollywood that I really need more roles and this and that, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna take on the challenge and create those roles. I've never had roles tailor-made for me. I'd say 90 percent of the things I've done are things that I've written and produced. And so I take on the challenge, and considering complaining about Hollywood, I bring stuff to Hollywood as a producer to provide many roles to many African-Americans and people of color. My films are cast diversely, and I think what's most important is, instead of complaining about all we don't have, we should take on the challenge of providing that, because we do have a voice, and we are visionaries, and where they're lacking in something is where there's opportunity.

    I look at that as a businessman as an opportunity to provide more films to an African-American audience and provide more roles for African-American filmmakers and more roles for artists, and I mean provide more roles for artists. Look at Latinos, I mean, they've got nothing at all. So for me, I've been looking to create films for everyone, with diversity, and outside of that extending my brand rather than me just having to star in everything. I want to build my production company and provide those roles that aren't out there. It's a big business, and one of my overall goals is to provide that to Hollywood. A lot of people who run things in Hollywood are white, and I'm not saying its their business, but they don't know the culture; they don't know the African-American experience, so they can't really speak to it. I can because I am and I was raised that way. I was raised in a multicultural world in the projects of New York City, and so I want to take it upon myself to provide those opportunities and roles as a producer. I'm kind of glad that it's not out there because it provides opportunities for me as a producer to provide where it is lacking."

    Fifty Shades of Black is in theaters nationwide. You can grab the film's soundtrack and score on Amazon. You can also snag the soundtrack and score on iTunes.

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