Loosely inspired by the real life of star Marlon Wayans, NBC’s new show Marlon is an update to the classic family comedy centers on a loving (but immature) father committed to co-parenting his two kids with his very-together ex-wife (Essence Atkins).
While his misguided fatherly advice, unstoppable larger-than-life personality and unpredictable Internet superstardom might get in the way sometimes, for Marlon, family really always does come first – even if he’s the biggest kid of all. The cast also includes Notlim Taylor, Amir O’Neil, Bresha Webb and Diallo Riddle.
Read our exclusive chat with Essence Atkins.
First, congrats on the new show, You’ve been working with the Marlon’s for years now. Talk about working with them on this project.
Essence Atkins: Okay, so Marlon and I, first worked on The Wayans Brothers show in 1995.
Essence Atkins: Right, but back then I was making out with Shawn, but that’s two decades ago. We’ve worked together, he and I, this is our fifth collaboration. Obviously, I think that because we know each other so well, because we’ve worked together so many times, I think what people will see when they watch the show, is the believability that these two were once madly in love with each other, and basically they couldn’t sustain it, you know? It didn’t work, it worked for 17 years but it couldn’t sustain itself and it burnt out and you see why they love each other, you see why they drive each other crazy, and I’m really excited because I think that, the chemistry between us is one that people are gonna feel like it’s real. They’re gonna get sucked into. They’re not gonna sit back and go “Oh Marlon, he’s really funny and this is a funny show.” They’re gonna get sucked into the relationship, the dynamic.
In this day and age sadly, who can’t relate to trying to co-parent, and going through a divorce. If you’re not going through one yourself or you haven’t gone through one. Then, you definitely know somebody who is and, this is a new way to look at family. We’re still a family, we still love each other, we just don’t live under the same roof anymore. So, now what? When I have a date, do I call him to babysit? Is that weird? Well see, that’s what we need to find out, what the audience thinks, you know like, what’s awkward? They’re discovering all of these firsts together and, that’s the journey that you’ll go on. But, you’ll see them trying to figure it out as we go. It’s complicated.
But, you’ve been an amazing TV queen for years. Talk about the joys of television and why you like to do it.
Essence Atkins: It’s weird, I love films and it’s a very intense and great experience. But, being on a TV series for a duration of time, as an artist you feel like you get to explore so many aspects and watch a character grow, right? Watch a character kind of try new things, develop new things and you get to explore for a long period of time. But, I love the idea of having a home away from home, and that’s what TV becomes. You’re working with these people sometimes 14, 16, 18 hours. Sometimes, you’re with them more than you’re actually with your biology, and you get close and, you hopefully grow to love and appreciate each other and it’s not an art form that’s done in a vacuum. I’m not a painter, I don’t work with a canvas and that’s it. It’s very collaborative. Everybody has a crucial role, everybody has an importance. I love that I get to work with another artist, in Marlon, because it trickles down. This is where trickle down economics actually worked. Didn’t work under Reagan. I just outed myself as how old I am. But, anyway, it didn’t work under him, but it definitely works when it comes to show business. Marlon is such an incredible spirit, such a generous person, such a kind person, such an inclusive person, that he really does appreciate every single person there, and what they are contributing to telling the story. Because of that, there’s so much love and gratitude. He makes it a joy, an absolute joy.
We’ve been watching you for so long right now. We love it and we’re so proud of you. Talk about sustaining in Hollywood and how you made it last so long.
Essence Atkins: You just gotta really get good at not taking things so seriously or personally and seeing that the business is in fact very cyclical. It’s like people of color are really in, people of are color not in. It goes through its cycles. Now everyone wants a superhero, now everybody wants Chicago — anything to do with Chicago, Chicago Tailor, Chicago Dentist. We want Chicago Housewives, we want all kinds of Chicago right now. You just realize that you can’t let the environment dictate whether or not you feel like you have a position and a place in it. That’s the precarious line that you walk as an artist. It’s not letting the exterior determine your artistry. But, being committed and really knowing that you have something … you were drawn to this for a reason and a purpose and you have value, we all have value, we all have something to offer.
The show premiere on Wednesday, August 16 at 9/8c.