No Laughing Matter: Marlon Wayans Talks Seriously about Hollywood, Racism

Marlon Wayans was once considered somewhat of a comedy phenom. The youngest of 10 children, he appeared to seamlessly combine all of the positive comic traits of his older brothers, Keenan and Damon. Couple that with his own vocal inflections and his wide-mouthed smile and you can see how some may have thought the younger Wayans could quite possibly be the most successful Wayans. “In Living Color”, “The 6th Man”, and the first two installments of the “Scary Movie” franchise are only a few of his notable comic endeavors. Wayans, now 40 years old, sat down with me to talk about his upcoming film “A Haunted House”, which he is producing, directing and his starring in.

Eventually my line of questioning led to “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and if Wayans, who starred in the first film, looks forward to the second installment.

“I’m not in it. Rip Cord steps on a landmine. They blew his black ass up,” said Wayans in a half joking manner. “The last one they realized the black guy was the hero of the movie. So, they said ‘You know what? We’re going to do the sequel just so we can fix that. Let’s kill the black guy’.”

Wayans, and his entire family, are known for pushing the boundaries when it comes to racially-charged jokes so I initially thought this was just another joke. But when he gets serious it’s usually no laughing matter. Rip Cord, a black character, was the one who saved the day at the end of “G.I. Joe” and he was romantically involved with the character Scarlet, played by Rachel Nichols. Rip Cord and Duke, played by Channing Tatum, are actually more like dual heroes in the film. I thought the character Rip Cord was a leap forward in terms of how Hollywood perceived black heroes. Apparently, Hollywood did not although “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” made $302 million worldwide.

“I always say to people that there are lessons and blessings,” he explained. “It’s one of the greatest blessings ever for me to be written out of that franchise because it gives me a chance to be creative. I hold my head up. I don’t sulk. I put my head down and made my first movie. I obviously had a ball making it, and this is like my coming out party. This is my ‘Control’ album. Hopefully it’s not that bad album Janet put out there.”

To be black and working in Hollywood is a test of will and patience. The issues of racism is bound to come up when black actors are passed for parts or killed off early. Yet, Wayans has a different way of looking at it. “Here’s the thing about me, I don’t blame it on race. I blame it on taste,” he explained. “When people didn’t know what hip-hop was, and even to this day, they thought it was an urban, black thing. But urban is not black. The reality is that young white kids are buying hip-hop music. The studios think that because you’re black, you don’t have overseas. But I’m overseas. All of my movies have grossed overseas. ‘Scary Movie’ made $167 million overseas. All of these movies are made on foreign value and they don’t think there’s any foreign value in black films and stars, and there missing the opportunity for black people to do well for them because they don’t even try.”

“But I never blame the race card because when you pull the race card what you allow yourself to do is give up and allow yourself to have an excuse,” said Marlon. “I don’t give blame, I accept blame so that I can continue to grow, challenge myself and to persevere in my career. I just say ‘Meh, I can do something else’. I haven’t accomplished half the things I wanted to accomplish because I wasn’t given those opportunities. So, that allows me to go out and create those opportunities. Put some pressure on yourself to create the opportunities. When Jordan was triple-teamed he still found a way to score. That’s what made him a great player.”

Is Wayans saying, the next time you get pulled over by a police officer whose clearly using racial-profiling as a tactic should you say “It’s my fault for being black. Next time I’ll try harder not to be”? I understood what he’s was getting at, and it is a noble approach towards racism to be certain. However, it is what it is bruh!

“They’re going to be however they’re going to be. That’s not going to change. What’s got to change is you,” he countered. “It is what it is. If I had to call it something then I can call it racist or I can call it a blessing. Racism is based on fear and ignorance. The studios are afraid to place black people in those kinds of movies because they’re afraid that there’s no international value in it.”

Black people in positions of power, fame and notoriety can rarely get away with being perceived as angry. Marlon, being a writer, producer and actor, can’t afford that stigma either. But if he were to yell “racism” it’s not like he’s a house cat chasing shadows. It’s a reality in America but a reality that Marlon chose to bend in his favor.

“But that’s OK. When a door closes, there’s a thousand others that open,” he continued. “You just have to look around. If I sit there staring at that one door like a dog waiting for a ball to be thrown then so many things will pass me by. I was supposed to be the first Robin in ‘Batman’ 15 or 20 years ago. If I was still salty about that then I wouldn’t be where I am now. I’ve written, starred in and produced something like 8 movies since then. I’ve starred in and produced over 100 episodes of television. It’s made me into the beast that I am and I’m so grateful. I’m thankful to Hollywood for all the trials and tribulations that I’ve been through on my journey. I’m not mad at the industry. I’ll show my value and then we’ll do business. That’s how black athletes became some of the best in the world. When Jackie Robinson was dealing with people calling him the n-word when he was trying to run the bases he would hit home runs so he didn’t have to be on the bases. He could just come on home. Michael Jordan had to be great. If he wasn’t they would still be calling Larry Bird the greatest basketball player ever and I tell my son the same thing.”
Marlon Wayans’ A Haunted House hits theaters today.

26 Responses to “No Laughing Matter: Marlon Wayans Talks Seriously about Hollywood, Racism”

  1. King Rickey

    That’s deep stuff. He kept it 100% real the whole time about everything, gotta love him. Much continued success, Marlon!

    • Gerald Moniz

      In exactly what respect is are these “real words”? Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is half black and is being promoted as the primary star of GI Joe 2, so how are any of Wayans ascertations remotely real or believable? They dont want the black guy as the hero? Um, he was the heros sidekick. They just made the primary hero of the sequel ethnic so ..yeah. Those words are real something…real bullshit

  2. Q.

    Good interview. Marlon is no dummy, and he’s a great actor. I wish he took more serious roles and spent less time coonin’ though.

  3. Tre C

    It would help if our black actors stop taking those simple roles. wearing dresses/gay roles/ignorant black man. Marlon can speak with intelligence and drop whatever knowledge. He’s not ignorant but you, me, and especially white people remember him for Don’t be a Menace, Scary Movie(s), Wayans Bros, White Chicks. Don’t get rich and then righteous.

    • Jordan Pauley

      There is something more to it. Fact is, great roles are not available to new black actors like they are to new white actors. A new white acting superstar seems to be made every year… Most black acting superstars become so after paying a lengthy set of dues. Kerry Wilson? She’s been around for years and she’s just becoming a household name… Jamie Foxx was already a superstar and a household name before he was given a shot at a big-time role. So, I hear you… But there is more to it. Anytime down, educated, and informed brothas participate in coonery, it becomes pretty apparent that there is something serious going on behind the scenes.

  4. Gerald Moniz

    The most disappointing aspect of this is that the valid points and truths Wayans comments on lose all credability when he makes clearly false and ridiculous claims a la the G I Joe sequel. Obviously the situation is nothing remotely of the sort he claims as the stare of the sequel, the Rock, is half black and is promoted in a more featured role than his character. To state the obviously false claims he does is in order to self promote using a racism angle is of low character, I expected more out of him. No respect for this guy at all any more and I question the integrity of anything he says.

    • Conway Alphonso

      I don’t know the validity of his assertions, but too many times I guy like this will say the things he says only to be told he has a chip on his shoulder before anyone takes what he says as serious. He’s obviously talented which does lead you to wonder why he hasn’t featured more highly in his career. He obviously has the drive and temperament to act, so left with those obvious traits he’s gonna question the level of success he’s had and compare it to his peers. There is an obvious bias that usually takes a certain cognitive dissonance to ignore. The glass ceiling many people have complained about still exists, maybe to a lesser degree than before but that doesn’t excuse it. For someone who is apparently in his position he can only be subjective about it in his own personal goals, achievement and struggles, but if he comes across too many people with the same perceived problem in his profession, anecdotally, he’d be stupid to keep quiet about it.

  5. Jon

    The Wayans writing, directing and staring in pieces of garbage like “White Chicks” and “Little Man” is what has prevented them of getting the respect they are looking for. Don’t tell me there are no good roles in Hollywood for black actors when your family is part of the problem. You have never seen the “Van Peebles” making fool of themselves as the Wayans do.

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