Marlon Wayans, the youngest of the wild and wacky Wayans brothers was recently in Philadelphia to promote his latest film, “A Haunted House,” and he’s just as out of control in person as he is on screen. As I walked into the studios of CBS3 to conduct our interview, every monitor in the building showed Wayans at the “Talk Philly” anchor desk enthusiastically “helping” Ukee Washington deliver the noontime broadcast.
About 30 minutes later during our one-on-one interview, I discovered that if you’re a willing participant such as myself, Wayans will pull you right into that crazy comedic vortex with him. Even so, I did manage to get him to talk about “A Haunted House,” his outrageous new spoof on the current glut of films about paranormal activity.
The fast-paced film is the hilarious saga of Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Keisha (Essence Atkins) an attractive young couple that decides to move in together. However, their relationship immediately hits a major snag when immediately upon her arrival, Keisha runs Malcolm’s dog over with her truck, and that’s just the beginning. When she enters the house, it becomes painfully evident that the once blissful couple is not alone.
“This is something new and different,” says Wayans, who calls “A Haunted House,” now open in theaters, a “mash-up” rather than a parody. “It’s really a horror comedy with parody moments. It’s about a relationship and how another man, which is a ghost, comes between this guy and this girl, and it’s about two people learning to live with each other. It’s about love. It’s about lust. It’s about a lot of things, but it’s about acting the damn fool at the end of the day!
“If you’ve never seen a paranormal activity movie, this movie still is funny, and the premise is paranormal activity if it happened to a Black couple. (I’ve heard Wayans refer to this as “paranormal blacktivity.”) We’ve seen white people do it. We’ve seen them make their mistakes. But Black people, we do it a little bit different. That’s the truth that I wanted to hit. When [Malcolm] moved? That’s the movie right there! When he goes, ‘Aw, hell no!’ and he packs the moving van up and peels off, that’s the classic [theme] in my head.”
In addition to being inspired by the paranormal craze that is currently enjoying box office success, “A Haunted House” is also the result of the limited opportunities for Black actors in Hollywood. “I did it out of necessity really, ’cause they don’t make many Black movies in Hollywood,” Wayans said. “They make less movies, period. You know if they have white actors going, ‘There’s no work out there!’ that means brothers ain’t got nuttin’! They gonna start bringin’ slaves roles back soon! So for me, I just go, ‘If there’s no roles, then you’ve gotta create ’em.’”
Although he considered numerous actresses for the role of Keisha, Wayans maintains that the animated Essence Atkins, who currently co-stars in the sitcom “Are We There Yet!” with Terry Crews, was the perfect fit. “’Cause she’s dope and she funny and she’s sweet and she’s has great comedic timing,” he said. “We know each other and she helps ground me. We bounce off of each other, and we just had a great chemistry. We’d worked with her before on ‘Dance Flick’ and we worked with her on ‘Wayans Brothers,’ and she’s a vet, but she looks young. We’re both veterans, but we look young. She’s somebody you want to see and you’ll care about, so when she’s going through the exorcism thing, it’s like, ‘I feel so bad for her!’ So she worked perfect — and she was down to be a fool!”
While older brothers Keenan and Damon led the way, mainly through their groundbreaking sketch comedy show “In Living Color,” comedy is apparently part of the Wayans family’s DNA. “Me and Shawn wanted to do comedy since we was four and five years old, before Keenan and Damon ever made it,” said Marlon. “We used to watch Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and go ‘I’m Daffy Duck. You’re Bugs Bunny.’ I was Daffy, of course!”
Although there appear to be similarities, Wayans wanted to emphasize that “A Haunted House” is in no way related to the “Scary Movie” series that he and his brother Shawn created.
“[‘Scary Movie’] was a great franchise and we left it after part two,” he said. “We haven’t been a part of it. They keep trying to give us credit for (parts) three and four, but I’m like ‘No! That BS ain’t mine! I’ll take credit for my BS!’ But we kind of departed from there. Basically, the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise, we raised it — that was our baby. But then it was like your kid grows up and goes off to college and becomes a crackhead. That’s the way I look at ‘Scary Movie 3, 4 &5.’ I want nothing to do with them. That is not my child!”
After watching “A Haunted House,” and laughing at Wayans’ shameless antics for about 45 minutes, I was compelled to ask, “Is there anything that the Wayans brothers won’t do on camera?” “Absolutely not!” he said without hesitation. “We are one thousand percent fools! I don’t care! This movie is a lot of, ‘Oh no, he didn’t!’ When 65-year-old white people are going, ‘Oh no, he ain’t! He ain’t doin’ that! No!’ You know you hit a chord!” (Rated “R”)