There was a time when anything the Wayans Brothers touched turned to comedic gold. They held down TV with the groundbreaking In Living Color. Their Scary Movie franchise made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. But all of a sudden, around ’02 or ‘03, something happened in America—it grew the hell up. The farcical, lowbrow humor of White Chicks and Little Man started feeling really old really fast. Marlon, the youngest of the ten Wayans siblings, was a big part of those last two misses. On January 11 though, he’s giving the leading man thing another go with A Haunted House, a spoof on the found-footage horror genre made famous by Paranormal Activity.
Marlon, 40, is proud of the finished product because it’s his first without his big brothers’ help. We’re proud of the homie for not flinching at our questions about his family’s relevance, his failed projects and the rumored Richard Pryor biopic.
At what point of the creative process do you get the feeling that something’s going to be good or bad?
You feel it in the script, and then you feel it because of the excitement with the script. Then when you get on set. See, you make a movie about four times. You make a movie when you write it. You make a movie when you film it. Well, three times. And then you make another movie when you edit it. [During] all three of those phases I felt something special with A Haunted House. It worked each time. That’s why I’m excited to promote it. Because I feel like the first three quarters was good and now, in the fourth quarter, I feel like I want to bring it home.
When projects don’t do as well as you’d like, what keeps you going?
What keeps a baseball player going when you strike out? The next at-bat. Every time you’re up to play, you just make sure you take in every pitch, and you assess, and you take your time with your swing. I speak about sports a lot because sports is an analogy that we can all use for life in general. But I’m not afraid to go back up to the plate just because I struck out or got hit by a pitch. That happens. It’s the game.
What’s the toughest part of staying relevant?
Trying to convince people who do movies that relevant is all relative, that at the end of the day, comedy is always going to remain comedy. I’m not some young, hot actor who is known for his good looks. I ain’t fine. I’m aaight. I’m known for being funny. As long as I can maintain funny. I’m actually getting better at being funny than I was when I was younger. I’m smarter about my comedy. It’s like how [when Michael] Jordan —not that I’m him— was younger he could just dunk. But then he learned to shoot, he learned to pass and then he learned the 3-pointer. He put a couple of people around him and got his team. That’s how that man won six rings. He got better at foul shots. You just gotta get better. I’m here to get better. Sometimes you take off, like that break we took between G.I. Joe and this [movie]. That break that I had, it was good to sit back and observe and watch where things are going and then go, “Ahh, I know what to do.” So, you know, you’ve got to be a student in order to do anything great. It’s easy to make your first album hot. What makes Jay-Z dope is he’s on album No. 12 and he is still dope. And he is still relevant because he is not going to change; he’s only getting better. And I’m only getting better. Now I feel like these are my years. Before, I felt like I was preparing for something. Now I can execute. These are my years to do me, to do something great. These next 20 are about really putting my stamp on things and going, “Here’s what I worked towards.”
You and your brothers definitely had folks laughing with In Living Color and The Wayans Brothers. Where are those kinds of shows now?
It’s on the internet.
Are Fox and other networks just scared to try again?
See, here’s the thing: What I love about this generation is I think that everybody is so eager to make it, and everybody is so hungry and creative, and they put that stuff on YouTube. But what I would say to this generation is slow it up. Don’t be so eager to make it. Be eager to learn. Be eager to get better. Be eager to grow. Don’t be eager to put your stuff out there. Wait until you grow and you’ve got something special to put out. Look, I’ve been doing stand-up two and a half years. I’m not special yet. I make people laugh. I get standing ovations. But I’m not special yet. Why? I didn’t do my time. Do your time. What you don’t want is to get an opportunity and you fail that opportunity; it makes it that much harder for you to make it. If you prepare for opportunity, you will be able to be successful and stay successful.
I know you’ve been preparing for your chance to portray Richard Pryor. Marlon, is it ever going to happen?
I hope it happens. And hopefully, this will do well and I can raise some money for it and make it happen. But it’s something I want to do and, if God allows it and everybody’s willing, it will happen. I started doing stand-up two and a half years ago. I am preparing for my moment. I’m not going to wait until I’m on set. No, I’m preparing. I’ve read seven books on the man. I am preparing for my moment. Because when it is time, I’m going to lay the sh*t out.