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Interview: Marlon Wayans Talks Career, Comedy Franchises & Studying to Play Richard Pryor (‘Haunted House 2’ Opens Today)

Interview: Marlon Wayans Talks Career, Comedy Franchises & Studying to Play Richard Pryor ('Haunted House 2' Opens Today)

With A Haunted House 2, Marlon Wayans takes his brand of comedy
to the same edgy extremes as the original. This film sees his character Malcolm
moving into yet another demon-possessed house with a new family (Jaime Pressly, Awkward’s Ashley Rickards, and Steele Stebbins), for a series of shenanigans spoofing horror
movies like The Conjuring and Insidious, and again involving
Wayans in an extended sex scene with an inanimate object (this time, a creepy-looking
doll named Abigail).

The movie was reportedly made at the
insistence of the studio, who Wayans says “chased us down” to make a sequel
after the success of the first film. The final product is largely a vehicle for
Wayans’ improv skills with plenty of riffing between him and comedians Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett, and Gabriel Iglesias,
who co-star.

Wayans made time to talk with Shadow
And Act
on a recent press tour to promote the movie, which opens April 18. Constantly cracking jokes,
but always sincere about the message he wants to put out about himself and his
brand, he also shared plans for his upcoming projects, including that long-gestating Richard Pryor biopic he hopes to star

JAI TIGGETT: So shockingly, the movie already has a reputation for
pushing boundaries.

right? You have sex with a doll and see how people stereotype you?

JT: Where does that idea come from, simulated sex with a doll?

MW: She was standing there flirting with me,
looking all sexy [laughs]. It was just improv. We kinda just did it. You know
how sometimes your girl is in the kitchen making you eggs, and you come up
behind her, smack her on the butt and before you know it, y’all are having sex?
It’s kinda like that.

I never reach for crazy. Crazy just kinda
happens in your everyday thinking. I am crazy, I am ballsy, I take chances in
comedy all the time. It’s not like I sit there and say, “We’ve gotta go
crazier! We’ve gotta throw boo boo on the walls. We need a fart scene.”

JT: There were a lot of comedians on this set. How much of that
craziness was on the page and how much was improv?

MW: Our approach is always to let people
improvise. Mike Tiddes, our director,
and Rick Alvarez, my producer and
writing partner, I drive them crazy because they’re always like, “Hey, can
we get one as written?” and I’m like, “We’ll get that later!”

There were no rehearsals. We rehearsed right
before we shot scenes, and God bless the cast. Even though they’d just learned
the script, we said, “Alright now throw it out. We’re going to write
something brand new and we’re going to have fun.” It’s kind of like a
writing session as we’re filming. But what I didn’t want to do was a
confection, a bunch of just gags. We wanted to approach it from a story point
of view, believe it or not. We didn’t want to just whore out a franchise. 

JT: Was there anything that happened during filming that surprised
even you, or places where you thought the comedy went too far?

MW: Nope, everything too far is in the movie.
Well, maybe one scene. It was dialogue and it wasn’t until we tested the movie
where we felt that it was like an “ooh” moment. Strangely enough it
was Cedric’s scene inside the church. He does this really fun joke, “Let
me tell you about why I became a preacher. One, it was for the little boys…”

JT: An Eddie Long moment?

MW: He plays it off like a joke [in the final
film], but before that we had a run where he talks about, “One, it was for
the little boys, and not just the little boys but the boys who look like girls,
the little boys who grow up to be big boys, and the boys who ride on bicycles…”

And for us, we were cracking up. My nephew Damon [Wayans Jr] was in the theater
howling. But the audience was like, “Awww…” It kind of sucked the
energy out of the room so we cut it down. And now it gets a really good laugh
and that’s all we need.

I don’t make movies for me, I make movies to
make a large audience laugh as well. So it can’t just be the things that make
my dark ass laugh. I have to make it inclusive. I have to make sure that
everybody’s represented and that I am an equal opportunity offender.

JT: And this could offend. Tell me about who the movie is for.

MW: It’s not for sensitive people. Sensitive
people, stay your ass home. If you want to laugh and you’re not gonna be
judgmental and it’s just gonna be about the joke, then come and enjoy it. But
if you want messages, if you want to cry, I think 12 Years A Slave is still
in the theaters. Until then, it’s A
Haunted House 2
and hopefully it’ll make you laugh until you cry.

JT: How much does social media affect the
content you’re putting out there?

MW: It helps me to know my audience. On
Twitter, the people that follow you really want to know about you and really
like you for the most part. There’s a small minority that follow just because they’re
haters and trolls. So for me, I know what my audience expects from me and I
also know that in this day and age where these kids have access to the internet,
there’s all kinds of insane stuff out there. My little R-rated comedies are
really like PG-13 compared to some of the stuff they see on the web. So I’m
trying to make edgy content that’s a little in-your-face, but it’s still with
kid gloves.

JT: You’ve said that you want to branch out and do other things
beyond comedy. Do you feel your audience is ready for that?

MW: I think they’re flexible and down to see
me do whatever. It’s funny because if you look at my filmography, it is
diverse. There’s nothing I haven’t done. So I just continue to spread my wings
as much as I can, do me and hope the audience follows. I hope that they believe
in me and find something authentic and know that I do it to make them smile.
The effort is there.

JT: Coming from the Wayans family, what are some of the lessons
you’ve picked up from them that you continue to use in your career?

MW: My brother Keenan literally raised me in
comedy, so I’m a disciple of the Keenan
Ivory Wayans
school of comedy. And also from watching my brother Damon, watching those guys take
chances. So I try to apply the fact that you make three movies – you make one
movie when you write it, another movie when you film it, and another movie when
you edit it. So it’s good to have a lot of choices.

I’ve also employed letting actors and
comedians improvise. Write something funny and then you hire someone funny to
make the script funnier. There’s a lot, whether they sat me down and told me
things or it was just being a fly on the wall, watching.

JT: You’ve studied Richard Pryor’s career to potentially play him
in the upcoming biopic, which has been developing for a long while now. What have you learned from him?

MW: That Richard was an artist. Above
anything else, he was a true artist that really took the time to develop his
skills. He wasn’t afraid of offending you. He wasn’t afraid of speaking his
mind. Here’s a guy who could play guitar, he could play piano, he could sing.

As an artist you forever learn, you forever
grow, and you just get better and over time you could put that guy in anything
and just go. I love Pryor. He’s the only reason why I saw Superman 3.

JT: What do you feel you can bring to the role that others can’t?

MW: I think I’m mature enough, and seasoned
and skilled enough in all the different areas in terms of the skill set to play
Pryor. I’ve been doing standup for three and a half years just to prepare for the
role. I hope the movie happens but if it doesn’t, I’m grateful. I started out
wanting to play a great and now I want to be a great.

JT: You’re making movies, you’ve got, and now you’ve
got a new comedy competition series coming to TBS. Are you working to create a
comedy empire? Is that the goal?

MW: The goal is to have a big brand, and my brand
is just to put smiles on people’s faces. If you’re at your job and somebody
gets on your nerves, or you’re about to get fired, or you’re on the toilet and
you’re having a hard time getting one out, you can go over to and
look at some of our content. It may not change your life, but hopefully it’ll
change your mood. The same with my movies. If you’re feeling down, turn on one
of my movies and feel good about it.


A Haunted House 2 will be in theaters on Friday,
April 18

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I'm glad Marlon's going out of his way to make sure people understand it's low-brow humor. Vulgar language, crazy visuals, the works. The first Haunted House was hilarious and just a real good time.


Good interview–good stuff…


Marlon doesn't get enough credit for being a smart businessman. He was also ridiculously underused in The Heat. Who puts MW in a movie and doesn't let him do his thing?

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