It’s hard to think of Marlon Wayans and not thing about family. The actor and comedian is one-tenth of the comedic royals The Wayans have had their flag planted in Hollywood since the late '80s. After building a foundation with culture-shaping shows like In Living Color and films like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Scary Movie, the siblings of the Wayans family have splintered off like members of the Wu-Tang Clan, forging successful careers of their own.
Marlon, the youngest, has paved his own path in Tinseltown with a string of films that have ranged from drama (Requiem for a Dream) to action (G.I.: The Rise of Cobra) to his bread-and-butter comedies like White Chicks, Little Man, Fifty Shades of Black and Naked. His latest for Netflix is an ambitious comedy called Sextuplets, where he plays an orphaned man named Alan who is about to have his first child. Alan is challenged by his father-in-law, played by screen legend Glynn Turman, to find his roots and figure out what he is adding to his family’s gene pool. Alan goes on a search for his birth mother, which leads him to discover that he is one of six siblings she gave birth to on the same day; Russell, Ethan, Baby Pete, Dawn and Jaspar.
What sets Sextuplets apart is that Wayans has chosen to play all of the siblings, which has drawn obvious comparisons to his family friend and mentor, Eddie Murphy, and his work in The Nutty Professor. While visiting the set in Atlanta, I asked Marlon if he gets paid more for playing multiple characters, and he replied, “I wish. Because then I’d be 23 people in my next movie. It’s one check divided by six people. It’s kind of like doing a Wayans movie if all my brothers was doing it.”
Unlike The Klumps, Marlon has the advantage of 20 years of movie makeup advancements and body doubles (one of his nephews helps there) to have his on-screen siblings actually interact with each other from one hilarious scene to the next. But at times the commitment became literally heavy to Wayans.
“He has someone pumping air in him constantly,” says his co-star Bresha Webb, who plays Alan’s pregnant wife, Marie. “He wasn’t able to breathe for a second. He was getting lightheaded. He’s in pounds of prosthetics and makeup. It’s a lot to carry.”
Months later Sextuplets is completed and Marlon is hosting interviews in a Miami Hotel, and he looks like the struggle of playing multiple people has finally caught up to him. This is his last interview of a long day, but he is still engaged and pleasant. Eddie Murphy hasn’t seen the finished product yet, but Marlon hopes to make him proud.
“I’ve known Eddie since I was 8 years old. He’s always been a great friend of the family. He’s like a big brother to me. I love the man. I hope I made him smile. I know when we did Norbit, to hear him laugh, that moment in my career was one of the best. And I hope he sees that we did something different. I didn’t set out to try and do a Klumps rehash. None of these characters are anything like anybody in any of his movies, except for maybe the size… I hope I make him proud. I hope I make all my brothers proud. I think this is my best work.”
To play Alan and all of his siblings, Wayans drew inspiration from his own life as a father and brother to infuse each character with personality.
“I’m an old school actor, so I always give each character a body language, a walk, like an animal,” he explains. “In some way they represent something, so when I’m inside the character, I did the work, I know who that person is. And I just allow myself to just be. And it’s crazy, but none of these characters are anything alike. You’re going see my face in them, but you’re not going to see ME in them.”
In one hilarious scene, Alan and Russell are making a great escape in Alan’s car with Russell behind the wheel. The problem is he doesn’t know how to drive, so he gets a literal crash course in driving on the fly. As stressful as that may sound, it doesn’t compare to Marlon’s first real life driving lesson.
“My crazy big brother Dwayne gave me my first driving lesson,” Marlon reveals. “He was just out the military. He took me and my brother in my dad’s truck that had no seat belts. The first place he took us was the FDR Drive [in New York City]. Now we’re on the FDR Drive, and my brother is screaming like a madman: ‘Turn the damn wheel! You better turn the wheel, pig!’ -- because my brother was a little crazy -- and I started laughing… it was funny to me. He’s spittin’ out of his mouth, ‘I said turn the wheel, pig!’ I start laughing, and he punches me in my eye, Bop! [Then he] grabs the wheel and goes, ‘You can’t drive no more. Shawn, here take over.’ It was the scariest driving less of all time. But it made me a better driver.”
Thankfully, Marlon’s work with his family isn’t usually that stressful. White Chicks, directed by his brother Kenan and co-starring his brother Shawn, turned 15 this year and still stands as one his most popular and financially successful films. The story of two FBI agents going undercover as white women to solve a pair of kidnappings was funny, controversial and timely commentary on the cult of celebrity. Despite being panned by critics, it grossed $113 million at the box office, making it one of the highest grossing comedies of 2004.
“I’m just confused why someone hasn’t stepped up and said, ‘We need to do a sequel.’ Because I think if we do a sequel to that one, it will do crazy worldwide numbers,” Marlon says confidently. “I know me and my brothers, we can make a film just as strong as the first one. So much has happened right now, there’s so much going on in society, and so much going on between race relations and all this time. I think it’s a perfect time for us to drop a movie like White Chicks 2.”
In the meantime, Marlon’s fans can catch him dressing up and showing out in Sextuplets, streaming on Netflix now!