July 2001
An Interview with Shawn and Marlon Wayans : “Getting the job done by making us laugh, again”

Interviewed by Alberlynne “Abby” Harris (Los Angeles)

An Interview with Shawn and Marlon Wayans : “Getting the job done by making us laugh, again”

The Wayans family name has become synonymous with comedy and Scene from Scary Movie II pushing the envelope on what is in “good taste.” As a family the list of memorable accomplishments include “In Living Color,” and “The Wayans Brothers” to name a few. Last summer, Shawn and Marlon Wayans furthered the Wayans legacy by walking the tight rope of satire with the release of “Scary Movie.” The movie was the summer blockbuster comedic hit of 2000. Not only did the brothers star in the film parodying teen slasher-flicks like “Scream,” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” but they also wrote the script. With the help of brother Keenen Ivory Wayans, who directed Scary Movie and now returns for “Scary Movie 2,” Shawn and Marlon return in the sequel with heightened expectations and the increased pressure of giving the audience more laughs. Shawn and Marlon share with blackfilm.com their thoughts about embarking the “Scary Movie” sequel and propelling the family name into even greater Hollywood glory.

AH: How surprised were you at the success of the original “Scary Movie?”

MW: It was totally unexpected. We cried, “We Free!” It was truly like creative emancipation for our family. I was happiest for my brother Keenen since he has been in the business so long; I think 20 years now. And he [Keenen] finally got the success and recognition he deserves. We were able to be a big part in helping him achieve that, and we did it as a family, so that’s how we celebrated.

SW: We cried even harder when we got the final figures.

AH: Did you guys get any points from the first one?

Scene from Scary Movie II

SW: The Clippers got more points!

MW: It’s all about deal making. You get what you are worth … at the time.

SW: You have to step up to the plate, and then hit one out of the park. Then you get more participation and more involved in the back-end. We expect to do alright with “Scary Movie 2.”

AH: How do you feel about “Scary Movie 2?”

MW: I feel good, we feel good – so long as people are laughing, I am happy.

SW: People are expecting things. In the first one, no one was expecting anything. They were saying things like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe these guys are doing this.” But for the second time around, they know what happened in the first one and now we have to hit them from a different angle.

MW: Now people will sit there and say, “Make me laugh.” We have to keep changing things up. But our movie is a comedy and if you laugh, we did our job. Don’t look for us to change the world, but if you laugh, we did our job. Sometimes, what we think is funny, people don’t find funny. The key is not necessarily to top it, but to stay in pocket. If you try to hard to top it, you’re not going to be in pocket. You become gross, and that’s where it got tricky.

AH: How would you categorize this film - - as a gross-out film or as a parody?

SW: We have always had gross humor. But we try for funny, not gross. In the first one, a lot of the jokes had some build-up to some nasty stuff. But most of it was all character situations leading to what the ultimate payoff would be for that character.

MW: As a parody, you have to take things to the ceiling. You can’t go in-between. They have to see the joke. In taking it to the extreme sometimes you get caught out in the gross thing. But we don’t want to be gross; we want to be funny. We’re not “Porkies” or a teen comedy. We are a parody; which is a genre within itself.

AH: Can you talk more about the stress involved with coming out with a sequel, and coming out so soon?

SW: A lot of stress, but it taught us how far we could push ourselves creatively, as artists. I feel like we tapped into the best of us, really, and came with a lot of really funny stuff.

MW: We wrote so much in six months. Some people might be more talented, but nobody can out work us.

SW: We had two years to write the first script. It was written while we were taping the “Wayans Brothers Show.” This [Scary Movie 2] was six months. We wrote while we filmed, promoted, and produced. There were challenges with production because of the special effects. There are just some things that, although written, special effects just isn’t able to do. We dealt with the difficulties in writing funny and thinking production-wise to meet the July 4th date.

Scene from Scary Movie II

AH: Marlon, you have been extremely busy, even experimenting with different styles of acting, like “Requiem for a dream,” “Dungeons and dragons,” etc. How do those projects compare to “Scary Movie 2?”

MW: Nothing compares to this, you know. When you’re writing on a movie, starring in a movie, you got to promote the movie, produce, and re-write constantly. With comedy you have to perform. With drama, all you have to do is be truthful. Good comedians can be great actors because we live truth. We are fools everyday. So to open your heart in drama is easier. But for comedy, you have to be and stay on your toes. You have to be thinking funny. It’s about timing…you have to perform comedy.

AH: What was it like working with Keenen again?

SW: He did such an amazing job.

MW: Normally you have two months; he did it in two weeks. Keenen is the overseer. He is really great and he is the guy we have to pitch all the jokes to. We are his lieutenants.

AH: Did you look to him and your other siblings for validation of your comedic style/capability?

MW: We always came to Keenen with ideas.

SW: Keenen and Damon taught us everything we know about comedy. They really held our hand and made sure we knew what was going on. We watched them, sat in on meetings, and pitched them ideas. We’ve always been a part of the creative process, even as kids. But now, finally, we’ve developed a point of view.

AH: One of your next collaborative projects is an animation called “Roaches.” Tell us more about that.

Scene from Scary Movie II

MW: It’s like “A Bugs Life” and “Antz” but this is “Roaches.” Every bug represents a different race. The roaches are the bruthas, the wasps represent white people, the Spanish flies – Hispanics, you got your fruit flies that represent the gay community. We have a little bit of everybody because that’s what the world is. It’s a movie, an interracial love story between a wasp and a roach.

SW: Its like a “Westside Story” with bugs based in a New York kind of city. We kind of looked at society and turned it into animation. The script is written and now we just have to set it up. We have meetings set right after “Scary Movie 2” comes out.

AH: You guys do a lot of projects together. What else is next?

SW: We are actually about to do the buddy comedy thing.

MW: Yeah, we are going to try to rock a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis thing. We grew up watching buddy style comedy. Laurel and Hardy...

SW: Abbott and Costello…huge fans

MW: We didn’t like the “Three Stooges” because there were three of them and only Shawn and I.

SW: We like writing with each other; it’s fun.

AH: Are you guys already looking ahead to “Scary Movie” part three?

MW: We just want to get past part two. Right now, part three will be called “Sleep!”

SW: If people dig it [“Scary Movie 2”] the way they dug part one, then part three would be inevitable; but one step at a time.