The Wayans family started their movement in the 80s with work on memorable films like Im Gonna Get You Sucka and Hollywood Shuffle, and in 1990 they premiered the classic comedy sketch show In Living Color. Even though the content was humorous, the Wayans were able to keep a conscious edge to much of their work.
While Keenen Ivory Wayans may have set the pace for maintaining creative control of their projects, it wasnt long before younger brothers Shawn and Marlon took their own path. The duo flexed their directing and producing skills with their own series The Wayans Bros. from 1995 to 1999, and moved into the new millennium with bigger goals. As actors, writers, directors, producers and consultants, their collective legacy grew with the highly successful Scary Movie series and other feature films like White Chicks and Little Man.
Although its been nearly two decades since Hollywood Shuffle debuted, there are still a lot of issues with African-American actors getting good roles in Hollywood. We took a brief time out with the forever-busy Shawn Wayans to find out what is coming up for the family, and discussed why it is so important for them to maintain creative control with every project they touch.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You have a new movie coming out at Christmas that youre promoting right now. Tell us about that film and what inspired you to get involved with it.
Shawn Wayans: Yes, its actually a childrens animated special called A Boo Crew Christmas, which is the second follow up to our Sneaker Madness special that we did for going back to school. The Boo Crew Christmas is a throwback to the old school Charlie Brown Christmas specials in a sense. The Boo Crew is a group of kids growing up in the hood of Boo York City who go through the trials and tribulations of everyday life, universal themes like never giving up on your dreams and blood is thicker than water, your everyday standard universal stuff.
Its a multi-ethnic group of kids hanging out and getting along. When you look at the landscape of television theres a lot of crazy, funny shows out there, but theres nothing that connects with kids everyday experiences. So we wanted to do something to make kids laugh and have a good time, but we also wanted to educate them in a fun way. Also, for A Boo Crew Christmas there is a soundtrack on iTunes to go along with it. Its a cute little kids Hip-Hop Christmas album. No cursing, just nice feel good music.
AllHipHop.com: Do you plan on moving into the more dramatic things, or are you more comfortable in the comedy realm?
Shawn Wayans: Im completely comfortable in the comedy realm, and I dont really have plans of doing the dramatic thing. We definitely have plans of expanding our brand and branching off into other areas such as animation and things like that, but my thing is keeping it comedic. Im not saying Ill never do [drama], it just doesnt excite me.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel theres still a challenge in Hollywood for Black actors to get the bigger and more serious roles?
Shawn Wayans: I definitely think its challenging for African-Americans to get roles of substance in Hollywood still. That is one of the reasons why we choose to write the stuff that we do, because if we didnt write then we wouldnt have any roles either. So I think that one of the things that African-Americans getting into this business actually have to start thinking about is getting into the behind-the-scenes as well as just being actors.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of stuff do you feel people have to do to get into the behind-the-scenes world? Aside from going to school, what are some important steps that people can take?
Shawn Wayans: Well, a part of it is going to school and educating themselves in that area. The same way they would go to acting class, they would take writers and producers course and kind of see the business in a complete form. So that its not just trying to act, but knowing how to direct, write and produce so that you can do all of that. Its a lot of work – dont get me wrong its hard as hell. But its also hard as hell and frustrating trying to get a role that actually allows you to get off.
AllHipHop.com: When you guys write your movies and sketches, who do you bounce the material off of to see if its really funny or it really clicks?
Shawn Wayans: Each other. Over the years weve all developed a really good sense of humor and our skill set to the point where we know whats gonna get a laugh and what isnt. Were out there in the comedy clubs every night getting out laughs. I know whats gonna be funny and whats not for the most part. Theres always a few that hit and a few that miss, but for the most part you kinda know whats gonna get a laugh.
AllHipHop.com: Do you guys feel youre your own harshest critics?
Shawn Wayans: Yes we are. If we can get each other to laugh, then for the most part the audience is laughing.
AllHipHop.com: How do you guys go about picking projects to produce?
Shawn Wayans: People who we trust come to us with stuff and well go yay or nay. If we go yeah, then we help them shape and develop it so that they are able to go off and execute that.
AllHipHop.com: Do you still DJ?
Shawn Wayans: I never DJd, [laughs] I was an actor on a sketch show [SW-1 on In Living Color]. I do standup comedy though.
AllHipHop.com: Right now as far as the landscape of television is concerned, is there anything youd like to see more of?
Shawn Wayans: On TV? I dont even watch TV anymore, theres nothing for me on there. Its like all reality shows now. I wanna see more original content and stuff thats written.
AllHipHop.com: What upcoming projects do you have for next year?
Shawn Wayans: Right now me and my brothers are writing a couple of movies, one to [act] in and two to produce. One I cant really speak on, the other one were taking the TV show The Munsters and making that into a feature film, but were not in it, were just writing and producing it. For TV we have a show that we sold to VH1, kind of in the vein of Entourage but set in the world of Hip-Hop.