Glynn Turman is shivering. The air conditioning inside this palatial mansion in Buckhead, Atlanta, is working too hard to compensate for the modest heat outside. The Hollywood veteran speaks in whispers as shooting for Marlon Wayans’ comedy Sextuplets takes place in the expansive backyard outside. In the story, Wayans is an orphaned man named Alan, who is about to have his first child with his wife, Marie, played by Bresha Webb. Her stern and forthright father, Judge Watkins, is played by Turman, who many know from either his early role as Preach in Coolie High or Colonel Taylor from A Different World. Turman smiles with his eyes as he talks about the dynamic Wayans family and his work with them directing several episodes of The Wayans Brothers sitcom in the 1990s.
“Marlon, he’s always been driven,” he begins. “Even when I was directing him and his brother Shawn, it was hard for me to call my cues because he’d have me cracking up, improvising and going off script. Marlon’s always had that quick wit, but people don’t realize how trained an actor he is. He went to the High School of Performing Arts in New York. Though it seems like he’s doing it off the top of his head, he’s really calculative about it all, which makes it even more admirable, in my opinion. He knows his craft.”
While Turman has nothing but praise for Marlon, in the film, he is pretty hard on his character, Alan, challenging him to learn more about himself before his child is born. With some help and insistence, the judge sends Alan on his quest to find his birth mother and uncover his roots, which includes five other siblings.
Shooting Sextuplets has been more than a full-circle moment for Turman and Wayans, like Alan, Turman has reconnected with his own roots during the shoot.
“My people are from here in Georgia. My mother’s people are from Atlanta, but my father’s people are from a little town south of here called Thompson. So, I just went down there over the weekend and spent time with my family on the family farm, which is something I had never done in life, ever. I’d visited but never spent the night.”
"Marlon’s always had that quick wit, but people don’t realize how trained an actor he is... He knows his craft." – Glynn Turman
Turman pauses to show some photos of his grandfather’s homestead, beaming with pride.
“I’m a farmer even though I’m from New York City. I own land in California. I grow peaches and raise horses, but I didn’t know where I got that from. I’m from Harlem, so people always asked me, where do you get that from? So it’s interesting to be a part of a movie where I’m able to carry the same scenario into my personal life. Filming in a location that lends access to be furthering that knowledge of my own personal journey. We had a great time.”
Turman is joined by the incomparable Debbi Morgan, who plays his wife, Janet, a very powerful attorney. She is throwing a grand baby shower for Alan and Marie and has invited all of their relatives, which is noticed by Alan. Morgan, a screen legend who spent 29 years on All My Children, echoes Turman’s sentiment that while Sextuplets is a comedy, it does touch on some real issues for African-Americans.
“I remember when I started in the business in Roots the Next Generation, working with Alex Hailey, and one of the things he kept saying to me was no matter what you do, talk to the older members of your family so you can get the history. Because once they’ve passed on, it’s totally lost," she says. “So even though this is a comedy, it’s really interesting that it has some heart to it. Alan’s character has been so ashamed and embarrassed that he has no support. He never knew his family. He grew up in the foster care system. Here he is married to this woman whose family is VERY supportive. And he doesn’t have that. That’s the heart of the movie, that he’s so passionate about finding his mother.”
Catch Glynn Turman and Debbi Morgan in Sextuplets on Netflix.