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MARCUS SCRIBNER
ON 'BLACK-ISH' AND THE FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT

We meet the vibrant young actor who's using his platform for good.

At just 21 years old, Marcus Scribner has been breaking boundaries with his unique work and powerful voice. With seven years on award-winning sitcom Black-ish under his belt, he’s come of age in Hollywood, but used it to his community’s advantage. “I’ve honestly been fortunate enough that every role that I’ve taken has shown African American people in an extremely positive light,” Marcus tells tmrw, “we’ve been able to elevate an advanced narrative that is above the story and reflects back on real life.”

Now ready to take the next step, Marcus is looking to take on the worlds of writing and production. After going through the trials and tribulations of lockdown, he’s keen to take in as much life as possible, to be as creative as he can possibly be. Looking at all his projects as opportunities to spread positivity and awareness, Marcus Scribner thoughtfully finds roles and scripts which push expectations, and celebrate the diversity of the Black experience.

We meet the rising star to talk all things Black-ish, and to find out where Marcus is off to next…

How has the last year been for you?

It’s been, it’s been a tough one. I’ve definitely focused in on my craft and been able to expand into other avenues: I’ve been able to write, to contemplate life and just think about where I want to go. It was a difficult time, but I’ve been trying to use the free time that we’ve been given, we’ll never get an opportunity like this ever again where the world just ceases to move. Obviously, my heart goes out to all those people who have been struggling to the pandemic. I’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19, it hasn’t been an easy year.

Have you struggled to be creative?

Honestly, for me personally, I feel like I’ve been able to be more creative. It’s been an opportunity to step back as everything in Hollywood ceased. I’ve had the opportunity to really focus on the business side as well as the creative moments, honing in on my craft. I’ve had to do a lot more tape auditions. I also did a virtual play, I’ve been doing a lot of writing and producing, I’ve got some projects set up that I’m working on. Creativity for me is sparked by days of sitting here having nothing else really to do, so I can just let that imagination run free.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Has this changed over lockdown?

It’s been difficult, I definitely do draw a lot of inspiration from my family and friends as they help push me, that’s what gets me up in the morning each and every day to kind of get back on the grind and deal. The world around inspires me too, which has been difficult to take in when you can’t really go outside or do too many things, you can’t experience life. I feel like that’s the muse of all great actors, writers and creators: experiencing moments of life because truly what we’re trying to do is just reflect those into our work. So that portion has been difficult but I draw a lot of inspiration from our family and friends so I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough that I’m still surrounded by my close family, and have been able to use them as a kind of a muse.

“I feel like that's the muse of all great actors, writers and creators: experiencing moments of life because truly what we're trying to do is just reflect those into our work."

Who has had the greatest influence on you in your career?

One creator who’s career trajectory has inspired me is Jordan Peele’s. I love how he transformed his career from a comedic actor into a serious Hollywood executive who is able to create these films that have a much deeper meaning, with levels and nuances, while also putting Black people at the forefront of those narratives. I also love Steve Carell, I think he’s just one of the most talented people in Hollywood. The duality that he has in every role that he takes is insane. He’s able to go from pure comedy to one of the best dramatic actors out there. That’s really cool, I’ve always thought that diversity of being able to switch it up on the fly is one of the core skills that you should have as an actor, it’s the whole goal of our job. I am definitely inspired by Michael B. Jordan. I think it’s cool how he’s taken his love of superheroes and anime and making it his own.

How do you choose your projects, what do you look for in a role?

Yeah, I’ve honestly been fortunate enough that every role that I’ve taken has shown African American people in an extremely positive light, we’ve been able to elevate an advanced narrative that is above the story and reflects back on real life. I’m lucky enough to have that happen to me but, as I’ve grown older, I’ve been looking for more and more projects that are like that where not only is the story amazing and retelling something, it’s exciting and entertaining to watch. Obviously, you go to the movies as you want to be entertained, but also we’re able to be a positive representation for that little Black kid who looks up on the screen and sees somebody who looks like him. For him to be proud, excited and would want to be creative as well. So that’s the goal with the projects that I’ve been producing and writing.

Black-ish is such an incredible, impactful show. What’s been the most impactful part of it for you?

I think for me just learning as a bystander. It was obviously my first foray into the whole industry so it was an extreme learning experience growing up on the show from 13 to 21. It has been a long road, but being able to sit there and watch as Tracy [Ellis Ross] and Jennifer [Lewis] make all these amazing projects and give me a tonne of advice. It’s all been one great big learning curve. I don’t even think I could pick out one thing in particular. It’s kind of just been my stepping stone into what I want to do for the rest of my life so I couldn’t be more fortunate or blessed.

How did it feel to grow up on screen in that way?

Yeah, it’s really cool to look back and see the body of work that I’ve been able to amass, that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. Black-ish has been an amazing experience and I love every single episode that we’ve been able to complete together. It kind of feels surreal, you never think this is going to happen as an actor, then you just kind of get lucky and here we are. Growing up on screen, I think you definitely mature quicker, which I don’t know if that’s a positive or negative. You’re surrounded by adults, you’re working all day and you’ve got to get back and work on school at the same time. So definitely get more mature about your time management, focus and then know what you want to do a lot earlier in life. I love when people come up and tell me how much they appreciate the show, that they relate to the characters and that means I’m sure I’m bringing some truth to it.

How do you feel your story on Black-ish will evolve?

Well, Andre Jr’s relationship with Olivia is evolving, which is exciting. Jr is definitely stepping out and trying to make his way in the world so we’ll continue to see his maturity level evolve as he tries to become a young man, he’s still got a lot of room to grow. But I feel like he’s learned a lot and matured a lot over the years, it’s gonna be exciting to see that evolution reflected in the way the writers narrate his tale.

What about personally, where do you hope your career will take you next?

I’ve been writing which I know I’ve said a lot, but it’s been on my mind because it’s been a good time to get behind the cameras and create work for my people. I’ve got some stories coming up, I’m adapting a novel, I’m producing and looking to create work. I would love to direct at some point, I’ve always had an interest in filmmaking as a whole so each and every aspect is exciting for me.

What sort of projects are you looking to produce?

I’ve always loved fantasy and sci-fi, I’ve always been a pretty big nerd [laughs]. Obviously, comedy as well: combining those genres would be dope. I want to see more Black superheroes or heroes of the narrative to inspire young black kids out there. So that’s the work that I’ve been trying to create and get on and producing a lot of fun.

“We’re able to be a positive representation for that little Black kid who looks up on the screen and sees somebody who looks like him."

Do you feel like cinema and TV can impact social change?

I don’t want to give media too much power, but it definitely can start the conversation and get the ball rolling. Black-ish has been able to create conversation a few times in the past which has been really exciting to be a part of. When it comes to whatever’s going on in the world, media is the biggest format of conversation, it definitely has the power to inform people and increase social change. It’s how a lot of people consume information so why not use it for positive change. As we’ve seen recently with being able to increase voter registration, to hold all police accountable on media and social media.

What’s your personal relationship like with social media?

Pretty good, I had a flip phone for the longest time, and so didn’t get on social media for a while. But I have a pretty decent presence, I love fashion so it’s nice to be able to do little photoshoots and get that out there. Or spread positive messages and inform people of what’s going on in the world. That’s always cool, that’s the portion of social media that I love. Also just scrolling through memes all day. Memes are the best thing that social media has given us for sure [laughs].

What’s coming up next for you?

I’m looking forward to the vaccine, I’m telling you! I can’t wait to go to some restaurants once I’m vaccinated. I’m excited for the projects that I’ve been producing to come to fruition, and hopefully, start filming over this summer. Just continuing to do the work.

Words by Kitty Robson

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