Marlon Wayans on the crazy minds behind ''Little Man'': The actor, who plays a tiny con man in the Wayanses' latest comedy, tells Missy Schwartz about working with his brothers
In Little Man, the latest plunge into goofiness from Marlon, Shawn, and Keenen Ivory Wayans, the 6-foot-2 Marlon is shrunk, via the wonders of CGI, into a 2-foot-8 jewel thief posing as a baby. ”There are more special-effects shots in this than in damn Star Wars!” cracks Marlon, 33, the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters. ”It’s kind of like a cartoon, kind of surreal. Basically it’s a fun ride, man.” Well, sure. We’d expect nothing less from the outrageous trio who brought us the first two Scary Movies and White Chicks.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Which of the three of you came up with the idea for Little Man?
MARLON WAYANS: Normally crazy Shawn comes up with this stuff, but this one was the brainchild of Keenen. He pulled it out of his head.
This is the fourth Wayans brothers movie. Are you most comfortable working with your family?
We just have really good chemistry. We’re in synch; I know what those guys are thinking. Keenen can direct me with a sound. We all grew up in the same house, we all have the same frame of reference, but different eras, with a different edge. I might be a little more wild, Shawn is kind of in the middle, and Keenen’s taught me to be more inclusive in terms of comedy.
He’s the leader of the trio, right?
That’s our godfather, man. He taught us the game since we were little kids. He would fly us out to California and get us out of New York, the projects. And he’d make us watch movies. We’d watch Kentucky Fried Movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and he would tell us, ”I want you to watch this and I want you to tell me what’s funny about it, and tell me what you don’t like about it and how you would make it funnier.” And you know, me and Shawn used to write sketches when he came home from California to the projects. We’d cook him French toast, and me and Shawn would show him the jokes we came up with. It was a like show-and-tell.
You and your siblings sure have done right by your parents.
I love them, man. I can never do enough in my eyes. I look at the struggles they had to deal with. I look at my life and I go, You know what? I ain’t got problems. Life is good. Let me shut the f— up and not complain about it. I got two kids, and I got a little money in the bank. They did it with 10 kids, no money in the bank. My dad and my mom were like, How are we going to feed these little ones today? We called my dad an entre-poor-neur. He never really made money, but he always worked for himself. He sold condoms and sunglasses in neighborhood stores and he would sell beads, like Venus and Serena Williams’. They probably wouldn’t have no beads in their hair if it wasn’t for my dad.
You mentioned Keenen teaching you to be more inclusive. How has the Wayans brothers’ comedy brand changed over the years?
It started out kind of like hardcore hip-hop. When we did Scary Movie and Don’t Be a Menace…, we were pushing the envelope. Now I think we’re trying to…open the envelope and fit more people inside. We never want to hang our comedy on race or politics. Our job is entertainment.
At this point, after all of your success, do you think the industry considers you an ”African-American comedy team” or just a comedy team?
I don’t know, I think titles are only relevant when you accept them. I mean, if I look at Oprah, Oprah is black and a woman. But we don’t look at her as a black woman, we look at her as Oprah. My brother Keenen’s not one of the most successful black directors of all time, he’s one of the most successful directors of all time. For us, there is no ceiling — it’s limitless.
What did you think of the last two Scary Movies?
God bless it. It’s a wonderful franchise that we created. People can take whatever they want, but they can’t take your point of view. When we left In Living Color, it lasted a season or two, then it was off. Because there’s a certain point of view that we have, and it’s not manufactured. [Now], it’s like Scary Movie gumbo because you’ve got all these cameos and you’re like, What is it about? But you know, people love the brand, so you can’t be mad. It’s kind of like, you see your son go through that crackhead stage: ”Oh, that’s sad, my baby turned into a crackhead.” But, you hope that he comes out of it and he’s gonna be all right.
Damon directed you in an indie drama about the dark side of the comedy world, Behind the Smile, which is currently seeking distribution. Do you think all four of you will work together some day?
Oh, absolutely. That’s gonna happen. We’ve been talkin’, the four of us. I always call it ”When Voltron forms the head.” That show, Voltron — there’s, like, four lions, and when they form Voltron, the lions come together: one is the arm, the other one’s the leg, one’s the foot, and the red one forms the head.
And what are you, Shawn, and Keenen cooking up in the meantime?
Well, we’ve got a book series coming out with St. Martin’s in the latter part of this year. It’s 101 Ways to Know You’re a Gold Digger, 101 Ways to Know You’re Having a Ghetto Christmas, 101 Ways to Know it’s Time to Get Out Your Mama’s House. And we have Super Bad James Dynomite, which is a comic book that we created; our third issue’s coming out in August. We have Thug A Boo, an animated kids project [for] Nickelodeon. And Damon’s got The Underground, which is a Showtime series. Did I mention everything? I don’t know. There’s probably more, but you know what? I don’t want to feel like P. Diddy. [Breaks into a dead-on P. Diddy imitation] ”I got cologne. Oh, and the cologne I’m a-gonna wear at the cookin’ show, I’m gonna wear a cookin’ apron that say Diddy on it. I got P. Diddy gum. Chew dat, chew dat.” [Laughs]
You’re funny. And you all sure do work hard.
We ain’t gonna stop. We can’t stop because it’s in our nature — we love it. We love to create. My older sister Kim is still writing and producing, and my sisters Elvira and Deidre, they’re starting. It’s contagious. And now there’s more Wayanses comin’ up like roaches. My two nephews Craig and Damien are writing and producing. My daughter is trying to write already. She’s 5. I don’t know what the hell her scripts say, but they say somethin’.