Marlon Wayans interview: ‘Respect’
Marlon Wayans stars opposite Jennifer Hudson in the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect.” The veteran actor is entering his third decade in the industry and has been primarily known for his comedic chops. In “Respect,” he takes a dramatic turn as Ted White, the abusive and manipulative first husband of Franklin. Wayans explains his “love of the art” is what pulls him away from comedy to take on darker, more dramatic roles. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“I went to a performing arts high school,” Wayans explains. “We didn’t study comedy. I just happened to be funny. We studied the dramatic arts every day for four years. It was very intense. But I grew up in a family full of comedians. So for me, if I know how to do something, why not showcase that? Especially when you find great roles with great directors and a great cast.”
For Wayans, Franklin was a staple in his household and he was determined to take part in telling the legend’s story. “I grew up in a house with six strong, Black women,” he says. “If you don’t think I heard Aretha Franklin sung every day, somehow, someway, you must be crazy. I think my mom learned how to spell ‘respect’ listening to that song. She would word it out and everything, ‘You will R-E-S-P-E-C-T me!’ My sisters had the ‘Sparkle’ soundtrack. They would be by the radio [singing ‘Something He Can Feel’] at like 15 years old and my momma would go, ‘What can you feel? What can he give you that you can feel?'”
While much is known about Franklin’s life, her first husband was more of a mystery. “I didn’t know anything about Ted White,” Wayans admits. “Not much was written about him. There is maybe a minute of him speaking in interviews. Ted was just a moment in her life, which was kind of cool because I got a chance to really create a character from the ground up. give him some flesh and not do an impression, but really do an exploration of that kind of abusive human.”
While Franklin could become quite competitive with her sisters Carolyn and Erma, Wayans says things were a bit different in his household. “I come from a whole clan of comedians,” he explains. “For a long time I was so intimidated to do stand-up because my brothers have done stand-up for years. When you do stand-up you pull from your life. So I had five people doing [it] before me and I’m like, they told all the stories! But then I started realizing that I have my own story and my own point of view about my experience. So our competition is never with each other. Our hearts don’t work that way.”