For those who know anything about comedy, the name “Wayans” is sure to ring a bell. Comprised of 10 brothers and sisters who do everything from acting and writing, to directing and producing, the Wayans have made their name synonymous with funny. And that is only in the first generation, who have given birth to an entirely new line of actor/writer/comedian/directors.
Marlon Wayans, the youngest of the siblings, made his film debut in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) at the age of 16. Although he only had a small role in his brother Keenen’s directorial debut, it would be the start of an epic career spanning the last 26 years. And things don’t look like they are slowing down any time soon.
In honor of the release of A Haunted House 2, the sequel to his hugely successful 2013 comedy (which grossed over $60 million dollars worldwide on a $2.5 million dollar budget), Marlon came to St. Louis to talk about the film and his long-running career.
The interview began after a lengthy conversation about The Walking Dead (which we found out Marlon is a huge fan of).
Marlon: What do I have against dogs? They used to chase me when I was little.
Because I mean, you’re killing them right and left. PETA is going to be after you.
Marlon: You know, I thought they would of. Thank God it’s fake dogs. I really would love to do it against cats, but I can’t. I’m allergic to cats. But, you know, I don’t have nothing against dogs. What’s crazy is, that dog… I named Shilioh. Which is my kids’ dog’s name. And they named him after Brangelina’s kid shilioh. So, you know, it’s to have fun with Shiloh.
So, is your son worried about HIS dog?
Marlon: No, he knows I’m not going to hurt his dog. I love that dog. It loves me. It’s the fist dog that ever loved me. I grew up in the projects… every other dog ever chased me… ever. Because they were trained to chase me.
Did you have something in your pocket, or…?
Marlon: No. The Puerto Ricans used to call them N***a chasers. And buy these big dogs that looked like… not even a dog at this point. This rottweiler was so big… in the guetto they don’t have dogs. They got dinosaurs. And this dinosaur was literally chasing me up fences, and they would call them killer names. Rambo, Conan… you know, Mauller. And this was chasin’ me.
No, I don’t have nothin’ against dogs… kinda.
You having fun in St. Louis?
M: Yeah, man.
You’ve ever been here before?
M: No… yeah… I don’t know. I travel around, I might have come here with my brothers when they performed here maybe 20 years ago. Shawn and Damon might have come here. Actually it’s a really cool city. You know, I didn’t know like, how nice of a city it was. You guys have a new ballpark, that’s nice. The ballpark park looks nice. You know, the food is good. It looks like down by the water over there, a lot of people get drunk. It looks fun. So… I wanna come back, listen to some jazz, and cool. I’m actually gonna set up a gig here. I want to spend some time…
There are actually several black comedians from St. Louis.
M: Yeah, Cederick… Cedy…he’s in the movie.
Also, Red Fox is from St. Louis. Dick Gregory is from St. Louis.
M: Oh really? Awesome.
And Rudy Ray Moore is not from here, but he lived here for many years.
Well he made a movie called “Petey Wheatstraw…”
M: Yeah, “Petey Wheatstraw” that was my…
It’s based on a famous St. Louisan… Petey Wheatstraw was a nightclub owner here in St. Louis… back in the 50s.
M: And they called him the Devil’s…
The Devil’s son-in-law…
M: Yeah, Petey Wheatstraw… The first five minutes of the movie… starts out with the woman giving birth, and she gave birth to a watermelon. And I said… this is… this, is Petey Wheatstraw! Then he taught the kid karate, that was my joint, Petey Wheatstraw. So bad it was good.
Well, he was a musician actually. Petey Wheatstraw, who opened the club. He made him more of a gangster…
M: Petey Wheatstraw… you old rat soup eatin…
So, it was said that you were possibly going to play Robin in Tim Burton’s “Batman and Robin.” And you opted not to.
M: It was really sad. No I didn’t opt not to! That was a great experience, because it prepared me… I got the role, I auditioned and got the role. We were negotiating, and I actually told me manager, “I don’t want to be stuck playing Robin for five movies! There are other things I want to do. So they got me the option to only do one movie… which was stupid! I should have signed for twelve! Man, what’s wrong with me?
“The next one will be Batman and Robin.” And then they changed directors, and it was Joel Schumacher. And he was just like, “Um…no. You’re not cute enough. Chris O’Donnel!”I don’t know, Tim Burton said that they were introducing Catwoman, Penguin… there were so many different story-lines that they just wanted to get Batman and Robin their own movie. And he’s like, “The next one will be Batman and Robin.” And then they changed directors, and it was Joel Schumacher. And he was just like, “Um…no. You’re not cute enough. Chris O’Donnel!” And so, yeah. I got written out of that one, and replaced. And then… but that set me up. That prepared me for when they wrote me out of GI Joe 2. I was like, you know, this just happens in Hollywood sometime. So you know, I didn’t cry. No funerals. I just went straight to writing and creating a movie.
I’m surprised there wasn’t a funeral. You’re very big with your pet funerals in your movies….
M: You’d have though… I’d be like, can a brother get some dog tags at least… but see, I didn’t feel as bad when I died in GI Joe. Because they killed Channing too. I was like, they got the white boy! You crazy! Oh…. Paramount is gangsta! Haha!
You know, everything happens for a reason. And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better. Because when I was saying that it was to make myself feel better, but in hindsight, 20/20, you realize that it’s supposed to happen. If it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be writing, producing my own franchise. I mean, I wish I had the GI Joe budget. But I don’t, and it’s a lot of fun to work with this great of a cast for the budget that we have.
That being said, with a $3 million dollar budget that you had, most is going to go to special effects. Does that mean everybody had a back-end deal?
M: Uh, yeah. Back-end basically. Everybody. Nobody gets… I didn’t have a trailer. My trailer was like the guestroom of the house. That’s where all the grips go to the bathroom, so… You can imagine what that smelled like.
It’s grueling in some… it’s not your Hollywood movie experience, but you know. I’m from the old school where I’m just happy to make a movie. It’s such a blessing to be able to go make a movie. Especially in this climate. You know, I’m just always excited that every day I go to work, or drive to work, and I’m like, “I’m going to make a movie! Lunch sucks… but I’m going to make a movie!” You know?
M: Thank you.
So Jared Leto just won best supporting actor…
M: Am I jealous? F**k yeah!
Do you keep up with him? And what are your thoughts on that?
M: Um, no. We don’t really keep up that much. You know, Jared is in his band. You know, he’s a weird dude, Jared. He don’t know what character he’s playing. Depends on if Jared… sometimes I see him out, you know, and shows love. We had our ‘Requiem’ days, we had a great experience and, you know, that was a grueling… not grueling, it was fun… but at the same time we did a lot of research together. In terms of ‘Requiem.’ You know, we walked the streets, we found out what it was like to buy drugs…
It’s such a realistic movie. You really got into the role.
M: Dude… we really had to, you know. Darren threw a need in my arm, my God! Try this! Sleep…
Working with a director like Darren, who’s really hands on… I went to New York. I was supposed to start filming in June. I went out there in February, because I wanted to rehearse. I wanted to be around. And you know, he has this thing when Darren’s doing a movie… You really want to be there, you really want to be present. You’re not only being a part of the movie, but you’re actually a student. And you’re learning so much about filmmaking. Not just from the acting perspective. But as a director, he walks you through what the colors of each season’s gonna be. What the angles are… like, you really get absorbed in Darren’s world. At the end of the day, you’re just a mannequin in his world, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. And be able to be in his movie.
Was that your first real dramatic role? You obviously come from a background in comedy.
M: Well, I did this wonderful… wonderful PSA for United Negro College Fund… Other than that, yes. That was my first, correct.
But, I went to Performing Arts High School for Dramatic Arts… so you know, me and Omar Epps… we’re actually best friends to this day. We were classmates together. And you know, that experience always stays with me. I would love to do more dramas, there’s just not that many…
Obviously you’ve shown you can do it, but you’ve always came back to comedy – which is where your roots are.
M: I’m hoping that one day I do a drama, about a comedy, hopefully I can fuse the two. And if I can get to do the Richard Pryor story, that would be awesome.
Does the Richard Pryor script… exist?
M: Yeah. Awesome script. Right now Lee Daniels has been tapped as director. I got it when it was Bill Condon. We had an amazing screentest that we did together. And we walked through the character. It was a grueling, crazy… and I keep saying grueling, because it really is lot of work when you prepare to do these type of things. You know, Bill came to my house and showed me the screen test. He was like, “this is magic.” And you know, everybody was like, “Yo, this is great!”
But then, you know, in Hollywood… things that are supposed to happen often don’t. It’s a lot like watching a soccer game… “Oh! Yeah, he’s gonna…. and he didn’t score…” And you’re doing that, like most of your career. You know? So Lee Daniels is now directing, so it’s going to be his choice. I’ve been through the whole change of directors thing. I understand that directors have their choice of who they want to pick. And when those hands change, you respect their choice and decision.
For me, I started doing stand-up because of Richard Pryor. Three years ago. Honestly, if I don’t wind up playing the role, I know that the preparation I did to try and become Pryor… I wanted to play it great. But now I want to be a great. And that’s why I travel the country doing stand-up. Because I love the art of Stand-up comedy.
Did you ever meet Pryor?
M: I met Pryor… when he was in a wheelchair. And he was at the Comedy Store. And he was doing stand-up. In a wheelchair. And I just thought that was the bravest, most beautiful thing I ever saw. Because he was just an artist, and all he talked about was his MS. And how his body was acting a certain way… and how his d**k wasn’t working, and how it wasn’t getting hard. And he couldn’t drive. And him talking to girls, and how he still thought he had it… but he didn’t. It was really funny. But just watching him, that night… I met greatness. It was like my son meeting Labron James. My son met Labron four weeks ago for his birthday, at the Clipper game. And Shawn, my son, is a really good basketball player. But the day he met Labron, I saw his game elevate. I was just like, wow. It’s the magic of meeting somebody great like that. And having that recollection of meeting Pryor, now when I do stand-up comedy, you know…. I feel like I met a great, so I’m fearless when I hit the stage.
I still suck! But… I’m really great at something!
I’ve heard that writing parodies is one of the hardest genres…
M: It looks easy, but yeah. It’s tough.
What was the hardest part for you?
M: Everything. Because when you talk about this… I’m glad I was raised in parody, and raised in sketch. Two of the hardest mediums that you’re going to take on in comedy. Because everything is a joke. Literally. Your slugline… this one’s different because it’s a horror-comedy – with parody moments. But you know, when you look at doing parody, everything on your page is a joke. Except for the number, and the scene… Those things aren’t jokes. But for the most part, the description of where you’re at. The character has to be funny. The dialogue has to be funny. What the response from the other character has to be funny. What’s the action that they’re doing? The location… everything is a joke. And you’re doing this for 110 pages. So you are just like [rapid fire]… and you’re throwing out thousands of jokes, only to keep a hundred. Of which, maybe ten may kill.
You’re on all the time. Is that harder than not doing a parody. Do you find that exhausting to be ready all the time, joke after joke?
M: I’m on in my sleep! You should see me.
I think we did in the film, but you were [sleeping] with a doll!
M: Who? She came on to me!
Were you worried about splinters?
M: Definitely not. I wore a condom… for most of it. Haha.
We saw that come off….
M: It was crazy. I don’t know where we were going with that. You know what was funny? A lot of the times when we do that stuff, that’s improv man. It was literally… we weren’t planning on doing that one. I was just on set, and said, “Heeyyyy…” Mike looked at Rick, and they were just like, “here he goes.” And I just started doing the scene. And before you know it, Mike is setting the camera, he’s pulling my pants down, going “here” and… makeup and hair don’t even need to come in, caus I’m literally sweating out. Jamie Presley was in that day, and she’s like, “what the hell!?” She was at the monitor like, “is he really doing this!? I can’t invite my parents to see this movie!”
I know, and it’s so foul, and so raunchy. I know my kid is going to be like this [covering his eyes] on that part. But, I don’t know… I just think it’s good to be silly, and good to not care. Some people are going to judge you, and some people aren’t going to like it.
You know, I try to make me laugh. And if I make me laugh… you know, I don’t laugh a lot. Comedians are funny because, we go, “that’s funny.” But it’s rare that we’ll laugh. And when you laugh, normally that means a lot of other people are going to laugh too. Or cry.
Honestly, I cannot stand the “Paranormal Activity” films. I think they’re stupid. But if it gives you ammunition and fodder – keep making them.
M: Thank you. The first “Paranormal Activity” though, I would say, for me as a filmmaker… or me as a guy, who would like to make movies… when I took on making this movie, it was honestly just trying to find a way to do a low budget comedy because Hollywood was only making big action movies. Or superhero movies. And I was just like, I want to do a low budget comedy. And I watched Paranormal Activity, and I was just like… Man, it’s tension, tension, tension… for an hour and fifteen minutes. But the last ten minutes is action, action, action. But it’s kind of brilliant when you are trying to make a low budget movie. Make it in a house that gives you a good paradigm and a good construct for all up-and-coming filmmakers… that want to make a movie cheap. Because they give you the diagram of how to do it. It’s a simple, one location, controlled environment. Not many special effects. With a small cast. That goes to student filmmakers, that goes to upcoming filmmakers. You want to make a movie that is inexpensive – do that. And if you do a comedy you can make them really inexpensive. I’m glad they did it. First one I thought was actually good. Second one was a little off. Third one I was like, OK, now it’s tired.
Have you ever had any paranormal experiences yourself?
M: I grew up in the projects. Ghosts don’t go there.
What scares Marlon Wayans? What are you afraid of?M: Cops! Like, why are you chasing me? Just the thought of jail. I’m claustrophobic… jail frightens me. Nevermind the big prisoners, looking for man love. The scariest part to me is being closed in a cell, not being able to get out. That would really freak me out.
At the Q&A (after the screening in St. Louis) you mentioned trying to get the family together for a stand-up tour and possibly film. Is there talk amongst the family about doing an “In Living Color” reunion?
M: No, not an In “Living Color Reunion.”
Can’t get Carrey?
M: You can’t get Damon… Carrey… you can’t get the dancers. You can’t get J Lo, and Carrie Ann Inaba. Everybody blew up. You can’t get the writers back. That’s a tough one to bring back, and that’s going to be a very expensive pilot.
But, I will say, that I think me, Shawn, Keenan and Damon – we have been talking about doing a stand-up tour together, and making it into a movie. And then do some sketches as well. And eventually doing a Wayans Brothers movie.
I’m very happy you are doing standup. It’s my very favorite type of comedy and I love seeing it because… it’s just you and the microphone, and an entire audience that can end… your life if they want to. And it just seems very honest, and I do appreciate you doing it. Was there anybody besides Pryor that made you want to do that?
M: You know honestly, watching my brother Damon intimidated me from doing standup. I was just like, I’ll never be as good as him. So why even try? Because Damon had a twisted life. He has a club foot, you know, he has a colorful life. He’s been to jail… he smoked weed… he did it all. Me… My feet are pigeon-toed but they weren’t twisted up like his. I’ve never been to jail. I was a good kid, and didn’t get in much trouble. So I thought you had to have a dark kind of experience. But I realized that with stand-up you can still have your own point of view. All you have to do in stand-up is be true to the individual that you are, and tell your story. I realized that me and Damon have very different points of view, but similar styles. I’m very physical. He’s very physical. He’s not afraid to tackle any subject. I’m not afraid to tackle any subject. We’re both kind of fearless in that way. But we’re different.
We were in New York, and we were doing stand-up. And he would go on at the Comedy Cellar, and I went on right after him. And he was just dark… dark as hell. And the first thing I said when I came up on stage was, “uh, I just want to say on behalf of the Wayans family, that Damon’s views do not represent all of the views of the Wayans family.” But you know, Damon did that on purpose because he felt the audience clenching up. And he doesn’t like how nowadays audiences are so judgemental. Whereas before, you were free to express yourself on the stage. And that’s the great thing about going to a comedy club. You are free to hear all these different points of the world that we’re all living in. And it used to be a safety zone. But not people video tape you, and then go… “[there], he said it.”
They’ll real-time tell you to F off on Twitter, as they’re watching you.
M: Yeah, watch me. I curse them right back out.
How do you deal with the criticism?
M: They have something smart to say, I curse them back out. What the F**k you doing with your life? And, you know, sometimes you have to do that. I believe people like this about me, that I don’t believe I’m above anybody. I’m a real dude, and you say some foul stuff – I’m gonna say some foul stuff back to you. And then some of my best friends, I made them after we fought. Me and Omar Epps, in high school, we almost had a fight. Had each other in a headlock. And was like, “You know how to do a headlock? Yeah, you got the same technique!” Best friends after that.
Sometimes I’m just a New York cat. So it’s good to be real, and it’s good to, you know, let people know that you’re human. There’s a better way for them to voice it. I think social media makes people think they can say anything. Because they don’t even put their face up. They’ll put like a pack of gum… Sometimes you go back and forth with ten people. I’m a comedian by trait – I don’t take anything seriously. So, they have some stuff to say to me, I look at their thing, I break them down and have some stuff to say to them, and then we leave with, “alright, that was funny, that was funny. Alright, cool. Respect.”
With “Scary Movie” you obviously reignited the spark that Airplane, Naked Gun, all that stuff started. And now you’ve spawned this whole new generation of the parody film.
M: I’m sorry about that. I really want to apologize, because some of them…
There’s obviously a reason why they took off. They were so good, and you were involved with 1 and 2. Keenan directed those, and you wrote on them. When are you going to get behind the camera, and in the director’s chair?
M: You know, right now, I like my director Michael Tiddes. We have a great bond, a great chemistry. I trust him. He’s been working with us ten years. As a producer, I get to make decisions. I have final cut. So I don’t want to direct just to go, “I’m directing!” I think when you direct you have to be able to sit in the editing room, at all times. You have to be able to make all the decisions, all the time. And for me, I don’t want to do the micromanagement things. I want to macromanage, because I have all these other things I want to do. And build my digital comedy network, whatthefunny.com. I have other movies I’m trying to produce. I’ve got “Funniest Wins,” which is the TV show that’s got 8 episodes finished for TBS. I’m doing so much that it would be disrespectful to myself, and disrespectful to the other people on the movie, if I was to allow my ego to go, “I want to be director too.” I have a really good director in Mike Tiddes, and he’s teaching me things. So when I’m able and ready to direct, I will really be able to take it on. But he’s really smart with cameras, and I’ve learned more with making movies with Mike than I’ve probably learned my whole career. We’re hands on… he’s a nerd. He’s a geek. He tells me about cameras, you know, about the chip inside the camera. And I think that’s awesome, the knowledge I’m retaining. One day when I’m directing, and he’ll be my producer to help walk me through it the same way I walked him walk through the comedy. So it’s a good marriage. All respects to him. He does a great job at doing what he’s doing. I don’t want to take that.
Who are you picking for the Final Four?
M: I’m going to take a shot in the dark. I’m going to go with Syracuse… I like Orange and Blue, I think the colors go really nice together.