Marlon Wayans’ new TV show hits close to home

Marlon Wayans doesn’t wait for acting opportunities — he creates them.

“I write most of my movies,” he told CNN. “I write and produce out of necessity, which is a gift. If I didn’t, I would be waiting in a long line with other actors.”

Wayans’ latest creation is one that is very close to his heart and his life.

“Marlon” premieres Wednesday on NBC and stars Wayans as “Marlon Wayne,” a social media sensation who is co-parenting with his ex, played by Essence Atkins.

At 45, Wayans is himself a dad and said the show is “eighty-seven percent” based on his actual life.
“I always wanted to be a show where I could be me,” he said. “I think it’s a different kind of TV dad, and it’s a different kind of TV family and [the character] has kind of a different approach to things. “

The actor, who comes from one of Hollywood’s first families of comedy and who honed his craft on big brother Keenan’s sketch comedy series “In Living Color,” said his 15 and 17 year-old children are aware they are source material for his new show.

“I told my kids, ‘Don’t do nothing stupid or you are going to wind up on TV,'” he said, laughing. “I said ‘Go ahead son, get arrested. That would be a hell of an episode.'”

Wayans can also be seen in the Netflix film “Naked,” which finds him playing a man who wakes up naked in an elevator on the day of his wedding over and over again — like “Groundhog Day.”

The “White Chicks” star said he relished the opportunity to do dramatic scenes and even surprised himself.

“Part of me was sitting there going, ‘Oh snap, I forgot I can act,'” Wayans said. “I went to a performing arts high school, and it’s a muscle that I haven’t been using as much.”

Wayans wants to change that and is hopeful that Hollywood will begin to see him as more than just a funny guy now that he has a romantic dramedy under his belt.

“I’m theatrically trained and it’s good to do it all,” he said. “Every role I do, whether it be comedy drama or action, I just want it to be credible. I want to be like water — pour me in to any glass and I’ll take shape.”

To that end, he works “seven days a week all the time,” which he loves because it “keeps me sane,” Wayans said.
“I’m about to start writing my next movie while I’m prepping to do a special because I want to do a big tour next year,” he added. “I grind.”

But what about playing iconic comedian Richard Pryor, a role Wayans has very publicly talked about in the past as his dream role? Footage of him auditioning to play Pryor leaked online years ago.

Plans for a film have been announced over the years with various stars attached, but the project has yet to happen.
Should the role of Pryor come his way, Wayans said he’s ready but with so much to do, it’s not one he’s sweating.

“I started out wanting to play a great, and now I want to be a great,” he said.

‘Confederate’ backlash born in ‘Game of Thrones’ success

HBO can thank “Game of Thrones” for a lot of things. But high associated with the show’s massive popularity has been balanced this summer by the headaches associated with “Confederate,” a new series being developed under the aegis of its producers.

Hollywood’s creative community harbors a rebellious streak. So when creative talent is awash in success, it’s not uncommon for them to test the latitude provided by taking creative risks with their next project.

For “Thrones” producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, that took the form of “Confederate,” which has prompted a backlash based strictly on its premise: An alternate history in which the South seceded, slavery lingered into modern times and the country is girding for a third Civil War.

However the idea might have sounded, it’s a virtual certainty that HBO felt pressure to say yes to it, lest their marquee creative team take their next program elsewhere. One can only imagine the headlines that a Netflix or Showtime would have made by landing the first new series “from the producers of ‘Game of Thrones'” had the pay channel passed.

Benioff and Weiss, meanwhile, having basked in acclaim and awards for “Thrones,” followed up with a provocative concept — a pattern that has recurred throughout TV history.

In the late 1980s, for example, ABC landed producer Steven Bochco in a sweeping 10-series deal. Coming off major hits for NBC like “L.A. Law” and “Hill Street Blues,” one of Bochco’s early ABC shows was “Cop Rock,” a weekly musical that turned out to be a ratings dud.

Although the show is actually underrated creatively speaking, mounting a police drama with original songs each week was recognized even before its premiere as a major gamble. Asked at the time how he could take such a chance, Bochco told a colleague, “With my deal, how can I not?”

That mentality is common, as producers have leveraged the freedom that comes from a hit to unleash pet projects that can be limited in their commercial appeal. In TV’s olden days, when hit shows routinely drew 30 or 40 shares (“share” being a percentage of the viewing audience), executives were fond of saying, “All producers have a 12-share show in them just waiting to get out.”

Riding high on NBC’s “Family Ties,” producer Gary David Goldberg created “Brooklyn Bridge,” a deeply personal single-camera show about growing up as part of a Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1950s. Like “Cop Rock,” the CBS series was impeccably produced but didn’t last.

Similarly, Bochco’s “NYPD Blue” co-creator, David Milch, followed his acclaimed HBO western series “Deadwood” with “John From Cincinnati,” a surreal surf drama that was largely panned by critics.

At the time, New Yorker critic Nancy Franklin wrote, “It’s maddening to see a show this bad from someone so talented, but that’s how it works when you’re a real artist, and that’s how it should work. The person who creates a ‘Deadwood’ is also probably going to make a ‘John from Cincinnati’ one day. If you let him.”

More recently, “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes tested the strength of her clout at ABC with “Still Star-Crossed,” a drama produced under her Shondaland banner that sought to continue the story of Romeo and Juliet — and quickly met a fate similar to those ill-fated lovers.

As noted, Hollywood’s leading creative figures have earned the right to take chances — and should. But as the reaction to “Confederate” underscores, pushing boundaries raises the likelihood of falling over the edge, or somebody pushing back.

‘Death Note’ appeal gets lost in translation

“Death Note” has spawned a cottage industry in Japan, with the graphic novels (or manga) adapted into animation, movies and TV. Netflix’s film based on the property, however, seriously loses something in translation, yielding a thriller that practically suffocates on its own convoluted plot.

The basic premise seems promising enough, with a high-school student, Light (Nat Wolff), having a book labeled Death Note literally fall from the sky into his possession. It’s then explained to him by the mischievous creature Ryuk (voiced by Willem Dafoe) — who resembles a cross between “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Groot and a porcupine — that any name Light writes in the book will die, provided he can think of their face.

A series of grisly accidents follows, as Light and a classmate (“The Leftovers'” Margaret Qualley) go on what amounts to a righteous killing spree, one ledger entry at a time. The owner of the book is dubbed “the keeper,” and instructed by Ryuk to help him “separate the wheat from the chaff,” or pass the mystical tome on to someone else who will.

The rapid pile-up of bodies naturally catches the attention of the authorities, including a brilliant detective who goes only by the name L (Lakeith Stanfield) who deciphers what’s happening with almost comical speed.

After that, “Death Note” begins to careen off the rails, descending into an elaborate cat-and-mouse game between Light and L, with the former’s dad (Shea Whigham), who happens to be a detective, caught in the middle.

Director Adam Wingard (“Blair Witch”) brings a comic-book-esque visual flair to the proceedings, but he can’t create much order around the complicated, increasingly ridiculous set of rules. Wingard has already stated his desire to do a sequel, and given the unsatisfying ending, the movie seemingly leaves open the possibility of that to its detriment.

Netflix continues to improvise its way into the movie business, and “Death Note” is part of a reliable genre given the popularity of past Japanese horror imports that yielded U.S. adaptations like “The Ring” and “The Grudge.” Just in terms of the “If you liked this, try this” feature, it’s probably better tailored to proceed than most.

Underneath it all, “Death Note” potentially has something to say about the corrupting nature of power and unforeseen consequences, but never gets its act together enough to register a coherent commentary.

Instead, the movie merely delivers a dim dose of ho-hum horror — one whose demise, by all rights, can be attributed to natural causes.

Shailene Woodley may run for office

Add actress Shailene Woodley to the list of celebs who are considering tossing their hats into the political ring.

The “Big Little Lies” star told The New York Times she has mulled a run for Congress.

“There was a point last year when I was working for Bernie Sanders where I thought, ‘Huh, maybe I’ll run for Congress in a couple years,’ ” she said. “And you know what? I’m not going to rule it out.”

Woodley is an activist who was arrested last year while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In an essay she later wrote about her arrest, the actress encouraged others to take a stand.

“Whatever your cause is. Whatever your passion is. Whatever you care about most … none of your efforts or hard-earned opinions will matter when the planet and the people you’re fighting for have nothing left to show for it,” she wrote.

Shailene Woodley pens essay about her arrest in pipeline protest

The “Divergent” actress is just the latest celebrity to share possible political aspirations.

In July, rocker Kid Rock launched a Kid Rock for Senate site and teased a “major announcement in the near future,” while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson told GQ magazine that a presidential run may be “a real possibility.”

Kid Rock tweets tease US Senate run in Michigan

Woodley didn’t offer a time frame for her possible campaign.

“Who knows?” she told the Times. “Life is big, and I’m young.”