“Marlon Wayans” and “family sitcom” might seem like one unlikely combo.
Wayans, part of the entertainment dynasty responsible for the Scary Movie film franchise and such ribald TV hits as The Wayans Bros. and In Living Color, is the first to admit that, at 45, he still enjoys creating and consuming in-your-face, “14-year-old-boy” humor. So what’s he doing on NBC, playing a wacky dad of two charmers who is laser-focused on winning back their mom in the family friendly new half-hour laugher Marlon?
In short: Living his truth.
Wayans created the series based on his own home life. He and longtime partner Angelica Zachary, though never married, happily co-parent teenage Shawn and Amai, and navigate Marlon’s globe-trotting, fun-loving ways the only way Wayans knows how — with humor. Hence, Marlon’s Marlon Wayne is also a devoted but unfiltered father of two whose fame (he’s an online superstar), outsized funny bone and comic flair often land him — and sometimes his offspring — in hot water. Not least of all with his exasperated, ultra-together and completely over-it former wife Ashley (Essence Atkins, Mr. Box Office), who can’t get her ex-man to realize they’re not together anymore.
“He dreams and hopes and wishes that they were,” Wayans explains, “but sometimes life don’t work like that and you’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got and what you gotta do. And that’s loving your family, because at the end of the day, how I see it is that you’re never going to stop being family. Once you’re in the blood, you’re always going to be in the blood.”
While Wayans has aspired to “live on TV and make people smile and be in people’s living rooms” since he was a kid, his real motivation is to give viewers a relatable take on what a healthy family unit looks like at a time when “mom, dad and the kids” rarely resembles Father Knows Best. “I’m happy to break down the whole system and take the pressure off of everybody to always act like everything is OK and act like ‘Oh, I’m perfect.’ Nobody is, man!” Wayans exclaims. “Every family — we’re all the Munsters!
“I let my kids know I’m broken. You can’t fix me,” Wayans continues. “Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves as parents to act like we’re perfect. We’re spoiling our kids and enabling them to not be unconditional lovers. We gotta allow people to be who they are and you love all around them. You don’t judge, you just love.”
True to the Wayans family way, Marlon hired daughter Amai and two of brother Keenen Ivory’s kids to work on the series. And if it looks like his onscreen family members aren’t acting a bit when they’re belly-laughing at his antics, there’s a reason for that, too. “The script is a blueprint to me,” he says. “The first take I may do it as scripted, but then after that I’m playing. That’s when you get those genuine laughs because nobody knows what I’m going to be doing. Not even me!”
Marlon airs Wednesdays at 9/8c beginning August 16 on NBC