Monday, January 12, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Marcus Scribner (Andre Jr) ABC Sitcom BLACK-ISH

By Belinda Trotter James

Black-ish is the newest ABC sitcom which is a hilarious show about a suburban wealthy Black family that allows the viewers to peek inside their lives and really think about the melting pot of cultures from all over the world under one American umbrella.  It’s a brilliant way to open a dialog with how people see each other and the misconceptions that come from not knowing other cultures and traditions. It stars the Johnson family played by Laurence Fishburne Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown and Marsai Martin.

In this exclusive interview I had the honor to speak with the eldest son of the Johnson family, Andre Johnson Jr., which is played by Marcus Scribner.  He started his young career at 10 years old and has been a featured guest star on The Wedding Band and Castle.  For most of us this is the first time seeing Marcus Scribner on a weekly national platform in a major spotlight with phenomenal actors as such Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Anderson and Tracy Ellis Ross.  It has got to be a wonderful feeling landing on a hit show.  Out of many who auditioned for the role of Andre Jr, Marcus nailed it...  "I think the major reason why I got the part of Andre Jr. is because I took the time to become Andre Jr.,” explains Marcus.  “I really tried to feel out all of his nuances to see what Andre Jr. would do in certain situations.  I think that's what really helped me get the role.   When I went into the auditioning room the person that was reading with me was actually Anthony Anderson and I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is so awesome!’  So when I went in there, I really felt like I was Anthony Anderson’s son, Andre Junior.  I was able to say the lines as if we were having a real conversation and I think that's what allowed me to get the part. It feels amazing to be on a hit television show. I just feel so blessed. Blackish is a great show and I am excited to see where it goes."

I am sure that anyone who gets an opportunity like this would be screaming up and down for joy. "Oh most definitely," Marcus adds "When I heard I got the part, I was running down the street with my dog chasing behind me. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I was so excited."  At that moment I got a clear picture in my head of Marcus with his hands in the air running down his neighborhood block screaming for joy, "I got it! I got it!"
Marcus is working with some of Hollywood’s finest icons… Laurence Fishburne has got to be a major intimidating factor to a young actor such as Marcus. "Definitely he's an icon. I was just stunned that I was going to be able to meet Morpheus himself!” says Marcus.  We all laughed because it's true. The great Morpheus from The Matrix is on Blackish!!!  "Luckily Lawrence is super supportive of my career and he's just a great person and he was always giving me advice and acting tips," says Marcus.

Besides being in the same space as Lawrence Fishburne, Marcus is also working with the fabulous Tracee Ellis Ross and the remarkable Anthony Anderson. "Yes, it's great being able to work with Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson and Lawrence Fishburne," says Marcus.  “They are just amazing people when it comes to acting and being able to act opposite them is just awesome."

Marcus’s TV family also includes siblings, Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown and Marsai Martin. I'm sure that made the experience even more enjoyable.  "Oh definitely! The first day we were on set we just immediately felt like a family", explains Marcus.  "We didn't even have to get used to each other. We just immediately bonded. It was just great being able to work with such awesome siblings."
It must be great having a second family and I am sure there are some similarities between Marcus’s real family and his TV family. "I think the major similarity between my family and the Johnson family is probably our fathers," recalls Marcus.  "Andre Junior’s father and my father are very similar to each other in the way that they both want their children to play basketball and stuff like that. I think that the Johnson family is really relatable to anybody in my family in general because both families are just fun and loving. It’s just awesome to have a great set family and a great real family."

It is said that your family members are your first teachers when it comes to dealing with the outside world and the various personalities you may have to encounter. This seems to be the perfect role for Marcus.  He has been preparing for the role of Andre Jr. through his real family all of his life. Maybe that's why he is so good at playing Andre Jr.  This role was heaven sent and created just for Marcus.

Because of his age one would assume that his parents may have started him in the entertainment industry however, since he is older, he may have a different opinion of being or staying in the industry. Marcus explains, "When I was younger, I was extremely shy and I talked to my mom about being shy.  We both decided that maybe taking acting classes or participating in a sport would be a cool idea to help me get out of my shyness.  I was really excited about acting because seeing all these great actors on the screen was like awesome to me. When I started acting, that's what really set it off and made me love acting and improvisation. I think the industry is great and I love being an actor."  
I don't like improv because it puts you on the spot to think of something immediately. Wayne Brady is a master at improv and Marcus seems to really like it as well. You can't get a job with Larry David on his show Curb Your Enthusiasm unless you have mastered the art of improv.  Actress Vivica Fox was on the show and she said if you couldn’t do improv and be funny, you were off the show.  Therefore, the fact that Marcus loves improv only strengthens his skills as an actor.  "I love improv because I've been doing it at such a young age and it's great to be free to come up with your own ideas on what you want to say.  I really feel like it sharpens your acting sword because acting is such an art and a craft so improv is a really great tool."
For Marcus to be able to recognize his shyness and want to do something about it is incredible insight for a young child. It's also wonderful to have a mom who is a super mom. Most moms are super when it comes to nurturing and empowering their children with the tools needed to live a wonderful life. Because of her 'take action' attitude we have an incredible young actor in the making. Some of Marcus's favorite actors are Jamie Foxx, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Johnny Depp. "Those would be my top four," says Marcus.  "I feel like they are all great, versatile actors who are able to do both comedy and drama which is something I'm looking to do."

Aside from being a very good child actor he is also an honor student. How is he able to juggle being on a hit television show and maintain the focus it takes to be an honor student? Marcus replies,  "Well I think since I've been doing this at a very young age, I think I've had a lot of experience with the juggling school and acting,” explains Marcus. “I think that they are both major priorities because I do want to go to college. I think it's been a great experience learning time management and figuring out ways to be able to do my school work throughout the day and also be able to act. So I think time management is what allows me to juggle school and acting at the same time."
Since Marcus is not home schooled, he does attend a school with other children which allows him to make friends and be a normal kid. However, does he have time for school friends and do they treat him differently because he is on television.  "I do have school friends," says Marcus.  "I have a really great supportive group of friends. They don't really treat me differently because I'm on television. I'm just still 'old Marcus'  which I think is really awesome because I can still be myself around them.  The people that I meet are always really supportive so I am lucky to have a great set of friends."

In interviews with the late, great Michael Jackson it was often written that he did not have a childhood because he was always working. Some may say that Marcus may be missing out on his childhood by working and going to school however, he disagrees...  "I think I've had a great childhood because of my amazing and supportive parents and always having a loving home to come back to and it's just been a blast acting. I feel like acting has actually made my childhood better because it's fun meeting new people who also enjoy the same interests and the same craft that I enjoy. I feel like if anything, acting has boosted how awesome my childhood has been."

Life  for Marcus isn't all work and school; he does take time out to play sports. For the last seven years he has been a competitive lacrosse player. Maybe that's something he may want to do for a living if he ever gets tired of acting... Marcus replies, "I love lacrosse, but I feel like lacrosse is more of a hobby that I've taken up and I really don't see myself doing that for a living. I think acting would be my first choice as a career path."   Actually I don't blame him. Lacrosse can get kind of rough. He laughs and adds, "Yeah! Lacrosse is like football, but with a stick."

It looks obvious that Marcus will probably be an adult actor however; he’s still young enough to change his mind and do something else when he grows up... "When I grow up, I think that I want to be a journalist or go to school for journalism", says Marcus.  “I think it would really be great to be the type of field journalist who brings news to the people. I feel like news is the most important source that you can learn from and it would be awesome to be able to provide that to people as a career. I would be super happy to do that and I think that's what I would like to major in when I go to college.  Acting is really a great thing to have in your pocket if you want to be a journalist because journalism and acting go hand-in-hand, but acting would definitely be my top career choice.
There is a little sister in Marcus's real life and I'm sure he got plenty of practice being a big brother to her and now he is able to use those experiences with his TV siblings. Maybe she'll want to follow in her big brother’s footsteps as an actor.  Marcus reveals, “The only acting that my little sister does is acting up," he laughs.  "She's really great at sports and she loves basketball so I think that's what her heart is really set on."

These days fans can be really nice or really outrageous.  Marcus didn't say if fans started sending him their teddy bears or had candy left at his doorstep. In his neighborhood he can still pretty much walk down the street without creating a mob scene.  "I walk my dog so I can walk down the street without being mobbed by fans,” says Marcus.  “I think that my experiences with my fans have been really great. I love meeting new fans and they are really supportive. I would really love to meet some more in the future."

In this day of modern technology fans can have access to their favorite celebrities more than ever before because of social media outlets and the Internet. However, it can get pretty dangerous and crazy when fans get abusive in trying to contact their favorite celebrity. On the other hand it's important that fans can actually talk to or meet their favorite celebrity. Marcus comments, "I think if social media is used in a correct way, it is an amazing outlet that you can use to connect with your fans. It's always great hearing supportive comments from my fans that follow me on Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook. I feel like keeping in touch with your fans is a major part of acting because they are the people who support you and they are the reason you are able to act. So I feel that social media is a great thing if used in the right way."  Whew! For a moment I thought he wasn't in cyberspace, but luckily fans can reach out to him on Instagram  and Twitter

So far it has been an amazing journey for Marcus and he isn't even out of high school yet.  I wondered if he knew just how amazing his life is at this moment in time.   “I think that my life is amazing at this moment,” reflects Marcus.  “I feel like everything that has happened to me like being able to play lacrosse and having a great family has really helped to boost my life. I love where I'm at right now and it's really great with all the support I'm getting from my family and friends. So right now I feel like life is great.”

Life got even better for the young superstar when he got a NAACP nomination for best supporting actor for Blackish. “I am super excited to be nominated for a NAACP award,” says Marcus.  “I think it's great to be nominated with great people like Sidney Poitier and Laurence Fishburne with an organization who has honored those people in the past and being able to sit there with the big dogs. I'm just so proud and happy that I was nominated for an award.” Along with being nominated there will also be eyes watching him walk the red carpets.  He better be fashionista ready…  "Yes I am going to try to stay as fresh as possible," laughs Marcus.  "I would say that I'm decently fashionable.  My dad is a pretty fashionable person for his age so he helps me out a lot.”

Marcus may still be a youngster, but he has insightful advice for his fans who would also like to follow their dreams.  “I think the major thing that would help young actors is to always follow your dreams and follow your heart. I know this sounds corny, but follow your heart when it comes to character choices and what you want to do with your life. I think it's always important to make choices for yourself,” advises Marcus.

This will not be the last you see of Marcus Scribner.  He didn't want to give away too much, but there are some projects in the works for him so we will keep our eye open to see what he has up his sleeve for the near future. I'm sure it's going to be fun and exciting for all concerned.

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