Out of all the Wayans brothers, Marlon is arguably the hardest worker, and that is saying a lot. After over three decades in the entertainment industry, Wayans continues to churn out content. He never stops going from one project to the next, writing and starring in everything from movies to TV shows to stand up specials. He may be the youngest sibling, but right now he is arguably the biggest star in the Wayans family. Read on to discover more about the Marlon Wayans.
1. Humble Beginnings
Marlon Wayans was born on July 23, 1972 in New York City and grew up in a small apartment on the West Side of Manhattan. His father worked as a manager at a supermarket and his mother was a homemaker.
2. Everyone Got a Piece of the Funny Gene
To say that Marlon has a lot of siblings would be an understatement. He is the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters. The majority of them have pursued careers in comedy, paving the way for Marlon to find success as well. Some of Marlon’s more notable siblings include Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Kim Wayans, and Shawn Wayans.
The funny has even been passed down to some of his nieces and nephews, most notably Damon Wayans Jr.
3. It Pays to Dropout
Wayans graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, but the same cannot be said for his time at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He only managed to complete two years before dropping out to join his siblings in the entertainment industry. It’s safe to assume he doesn’t regret that decision.
4. Exceeding Expectations
In 2000, Marlon and Shawn co-wrote and acted in the horror spoof movie Scary Movie, which would go on to become a massive success financially and an instant fan-favorite. The movie earned $157 million domestically at the box office—$278 million worldwide—on a $19 million budget. The studio would go on to make four sequels, but Marlon and Shawn would only be a part of Scary Movie 2 due to a falling out with the studio.
5. Brother Love Part One
Although Marlon has gone on to create his own path in life, it’s hard to deny the fact that a lot of his success early on came courtesy of his older siblings. While still in high school, Marlon made his feature film debut at the age of 16 in his brother Keenen Ivory Wayans’ film I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.
6. Brotherly Love Part Two
Marlon also owes Keenen for helping him make his TV debut too, as Marlon would go on to appear in 20 episodes of the sketch comedy show In Living Color between 1992 and 1993. This gig came not long after Marlon dropped out of college, so any doubts he may have had about that decision were clearly put to rest.
In Living Color, cast reunion
7. Life Imitating Art
Marlon got the chance to showcase his potential as a leading man in comedy when he teamed up with his brother Shawn to create and star in the TV show The Wayans Bros. The series ran from 1995 to 1999, and Marlon would appear in all 101 episodes. He received a writing credit for all but one of those, and also directed an episode in the final season.
According to the brothers, the show was semi-autobiographical, exploring their real-life relationship and personalities.
8. Family Business
Marlon, Shawn, and Keenen have teamed up for several movies—White Chicks, Little Man, Dance Flick, Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2—with Marlon and Shawn writing and acting in them and Keenen directing them (aside from Dance Flick, which only saw the trio write the script).
9. Not the Critic’s Choice
Wayans’ best-received film just so happens to be one of his few forays into drama. Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream boasts a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Aside from that, the critics have not been kind to Wayans, with all but a few movies receiving negative ratings, eight of them getting 10% or less and the film Naked generating a whopping 0% positive reviews.
Audiences were a little nicer on that last one, giving it a 30%.
10. Billion Dollar Club
In total, Wayans has a lifetime gross of $765 million domestically from 17 movies and a worldwide gross of over $1.2 billion. No amount of rotten tomatoes can take that away.
11. Polarizing Movies
White Chicks and Little Man both generated three Razzie Awards, with Little Man winning two. White Chicks was nominated for Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple, and Worst Actress (not a typo because Marlon and Shawn played women in the film). Little Man was nominated for Worst Screenplay and won for Worst Screen Couple and Worst Actor.
However, the BET Comedy Awards had a different opinion on White Chicks, as they nominated Marlon for Outstanding Lead Actor and he even won Outstanding Writing for a Box Office Movie.
12. The Many Faces of Marlon
Wayans took on his most demanding role yet for the film Sextuplets, in which he played six different characters, which led to him working 15 to 18-hour days for nearly two months straight. Wayans claims, “It took everything that I’ve learned in the last 40 years to execute something like this,” but it was a career challenge he dreamt of pursuing.
13. Turning a Negative Into a Positive
Bombing can be a deathblow for a lot of comedians, new and old, but it is something Wayans embraces and actually enjoys. For Wayans, hearing a joke fail just means that he is learning, so he sees it as a positive and not a negative. However, he does stress that he only embraces bombing when he is working out new material on an audience that didn’t pay to see him.
If people paid, then he is going to do what it takes to kill and give them their money’s worth.
14. Not Your Typical Robin
Wayans was initially cast to play Robin in Batman Returns. However, with an already overstuffed plot and cast of characters, the character ended up getting cut from the script. Wayans still got paid, and it was believed that he would make his official debut in the third film, Batman Forever. Unfortunately, director Tim Burton was fired and replaced with Joel Schumacher.
Schumacher’s vision of Robin didn’t match up with the one Wayans and Burton came up with, resulting in Wayans being replaced with Chris O’Donnell. Wayans later admitted in an interview that he’s somewhat glad he didn’t get to play Robin, as he was too young—19 years old at the time—for the level of fame that would have come his way.
15. Looking Outside the Box
Put Wayans on the growing list of actors who would love to get their own superhero franchise—but maybe create a separate column for him, as his choice isn’t the typical mainstream character. When asked if he could play any superhero in a movie, who would he pick and why, Wayans chose Plastic Man. He believes the character’s powers mesh well with his comedic skill set.
His choice isn’t that obscure, however: comedian Ben Schwartz has also made his desire to play Plastic Man in a film widely known. May the best (plastic) man win!
16. Give Them What They Want
Wayans would gladly do a sequel to White Chicks, a favorite of his filmography and a movie he considers to be one of the most underrated comedies ever. He thinks the fans deserve a sequel and he wants to provide it, but he is extremely busy at the moment with his acting, writing and stand up career.
17. Putting in the Work Before Work
For the female role in Sextuplets, Wayans would spend seven hours in the makeup chair to get everything applied, and then another hour and a half at the end of the day to get it all removed.
18. That’s Hollywood for Ya!
After the surprising success of Scary Movie, Wayans claims that Dimension—the studio behind the film—rushed he and his brother to write a sequel. It showed in the end, at least according to Wayans, as even he has admitted that it wasn’t as good as the first movie. Wayans also claims the studio stole their idea for the third movie before ousting them entirely from the project, a fact they learned the same time as the public when it hit newsstands.
They were subsequently asked to return for Scary Movie 5 but they declined the offer.
19. His Mouth Writes Checks His Body Can’t Cash
Marlon got into a lot of fights as a kid, mostly as a result of his comedy. He would beat people in what he referred to as “snap contests” and they would want to get even by beating him up. However, no matter how big the kid who was delivering the beating was, Marlon claims they never hit as hard as his brother Shawn.
20. All by Myself
Wayans built his career on writing, filming and starring in movies and TV shows with his brothers, but he finally got to say he did something all on his own in 2013. A Haunted House, released that year, was the first movie that Wayans wrote without any of his brothers—or at least, the first one that ended up getting made. He attributes that to the genre, the budget and the fact that all of his brothers were busy with other projects at the time.
21. Friendly Father Figure
Wayans considers himself “the most inappropriate dad” when it comes to his kids, as he doesn’t censor himself around them or censor the world to them. He’ll swear in front of them and take them to R rated movies. He doesn’t live with his kids, but since he visits them four times a week, he sees himself more as “Uncle Dad,” there to have fun with them.
22. Different Times
Wayans had a tough relationship with his father growing up, as he admitted that his dad would beat and spank him, along with his other siblings. However, Wayans doesn’t hold any resentment towards his father and claims they have a great relationship now, albeit one he wished they had when he was a kid.
23. Earning the Part
The character of Ripcord in G.I. Joe was originally written for a white male, but Wayans got the part instead because he embodied the character in a way that transcended race. He pointed out that acting is more “about the attributes of the character and not so much the color of the character.” Plus he had experience playing a white woman, so he assumed he could play a white man, too. Makes sense!
24. Going Out on His Own Terms
After appearing in the first G.I. Joe movie, Wayans was left out of the sequel. However, he found time to joke about his exit, tweeting that he wouldn’t be appearing in the second installment because “Ripcord got shot in the face by friendly fire.” The real reason was never fully stated, but it was speculated that the poor reviews and box office return played a part.
As for Wayans, he used his newfound time off to write A Haunted House.
25. Mom Said You Have to Include Me
Marlon works hard for everything he has accomplished in his career, but one role he can’t attribute to his talent is in the 1992 movie Mo’ Money, written by his brother Damon. Marlon’s role of Seymour Stewart was originally intended for Kadeem Hardison, but Damon claims his mom made him cast Marlon instead.
26. Evolving With the Times
Wayans got into the YouTube game in 2018, teaming up with the production company Shots Studios to help launch his channel. Originally, he was planning on releasing weekly comedy sketches, but after about five months he shifted gears. He re-launched his channel to be more personal in an attempt to let his audience get to know him better.
The channel currently boasts just over 206,000 subscribers.
27. How to Make a Hospital Fun
When Wayans’ son was diagnosed with osteomyelitis—a bone infection—Wayans spent a month and a half with him in the hospital. During this time, he could see how hard his wife and daughter were taking it and how it was rubbing off on his son, so Wayans decided to brighten the mood.
He smuggled in a flat-screen TV and an Xbox for them to play with and take their mind off of the situation.
28. There’s Humor in Every Situation
While his son was in the hospital, all Wayans could think about was, “What’s funny about this?” That may sound awful, but it was the route his comedic brain took him, as he wanted desperately to lighten the mood and calm his son and family down. He ended up finding the humor in the situation and turned it into an episode for his TV show, Marlon.
29. Criminal Record
Wayans had his first brush with the law when he was six years old after he attempted to steal candy from a store and got caught. Wayans admitted his life of crime began and ended that day, but who knows how his life would have turned out if he had gotten away with it…probably the exact same, aside from Wayans maybe developing a sweeter tooth.
30. No Dogs Allowed—Except One
Dog lovers may want to skip this next fact, as it is about how Wayans is not one of them. He’s actually afraid of dogs, but makes an exception for his kids’ labradoodle Shilow, who is named after Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, the son of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. No word on whether or not he prefers cats or if he stays away from both species entirely.
31. Funny Knows Funny
With Wayans’ larger than life personality and comedy background, it’s no surprise that he hosted a reality competition show for comedians called Funniest Wins. On the show, contestants from all comedic backgrounds—stand up, sketch, social media—competed in challenges revolving around comedy, with the winner receiving $100,000 and the opportunity to create their own show on Wayans’ What The Funny website.
However, the show ended up getting canceled after one season.
32. Write What You Know
In 2017, Wayans created another show loosely based on his life. This one was called Marlon, and he played a father who continues to live with his ex-wife for their kids’ sake. He claims about 85% of the show was based on his real-life, prompting him to jokingly warn his kids that if they did anything wrong, he’d put it in an episode. Marlon lasted two seasons before NBC declined to pick it up for a third.
33. On That Grind
Although Wayans’ star may not be as bright as it once was, he still has an unbelievable work ethic. He never seems to rest, going from project to project and sometimes working on more than one at a time. That work ethic clearly started at a young age, as Wayans got his first job when he was only 11 years old, working at a pizza shop.
34. Earned Every Dollar
Wayans has done well for himself financially over the years, grinding his way to a net worth today of over $40 million.
35. The Ultimate Shout Out
Various Wayans brothers have appeared in rap lyrics throughout the years, both individually and as a collective. The majority of them tend to be aimed at Damon and Keenen Ivory, but Marlon has received his fair share of callouts too, with the biggest one coming from Eminem earlier this year. On the song “Bang,” Eminem raps, “Y’all want drama, we can make a scary movie like Marlon Wayans.” Sorry Shawn, better luck next time.
36. Lists on Lists
Speaking of rap, Wayans has revealed that his top three favorite rappers of all-time are Jay-Z, Nas, and Biggie. And since we’re on the topic of favorites, Wayans has Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor at the top of his comedian list and considers The Bridges of Madison County his favorite movie. Now that last one is an eyebrow-raiser.
37. Bad Breaths Worst Enemy
Wayans is a self-diagnosed gum addict, telling Queen Latifah on her talk show that he chews five packs a day. He even demonstrated for her how he manages to run through that much, which essentially consists of speed chewing a piece, spitting it out, and immediately popping in another.
38. Shedding Light on a “Serious” Issue
Wayans’ gum addiction paid off in more ways than one in 2011, as he was named the spokesman for Dentyne’s Safe Breath Alliance, a made-up organization that encouraged people to practice safe breath. Wayans appeared in fake PSA commercials for the company during its run.
39. Role of a Lifetime
In 2009, Wayans was cast to play late comedian Richard Pryor in a biopic about his life, a role that was originally attached to Eddie Murphy. The movie ended up falling apart after never receiving a green light from the studio, but Wayans’ test footage ended up being leaked, allowing people a peek at what could have been.
40. Better Late Than Never
Last year, Wayans recorded and released his first-ever stand-up comedy special, Woke-ish. This comes after three decades in the comedy world as a whole, but not nearly as much time spent performing stand up comedy. It wasn’t until Wayans started preparing to play Pryor in the comedian’s biopic that he decided to give stand-up a shot, and he quickly fell in love with it.
41. Unlikely Easter Egg
Wayans’ middle name is Lamont, and for those wondering, yes, it is based on Lamont Sanford, the son in Sanford and Son, which just so happened to be Wayans parents’ favorite show.
42. Not Another Video Sharing Platform
Wayans teamed up with Funny or Die co-founder Randy Adams to launch the comedy site What The Funny, which was described as “an urban-skewing comedy site.” It started off hot with over 1 million visitors after a soft opening near the end of 2013, but the site is no longer active today.
43. Through Thick and Thin
Wayans married longtime girlfriend Angelica Zackary in 2005. They have two children together, a son named Shawn—named after Wayans’ brother—and a daughter named Amai. The couple got divorced in 2013 but remain friends and continue to hang out. According to Wayans, there is a deep bond you share with someone after having kids with them, and he will “always have nothing but love and respect for that woman.”
They continue to co-parent their children, as well.
44. Love Over Hate
Wayans 19-year-old daughter Amai is a proud member of the LGBTQ community and Wayans has shown nothing but love and support for her since she came out. He made a point to defend her and her life choice as well after people criticized a photo he posted of her on his Instagram wishing her a Happy Pride Day.