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

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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.

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