Marlon Wayans is out making the publicity rounds to drum up attention for his new spoof comedy "Fifty Shades of Black," which opens Jan. 29. But wherever the actor goes, he's being asked to weigh in on the many shades of gray in the complex and far more serious #OscarsSoWhite issue.
"I can't promote my movie!" Wayans told The Times Wednesday, laughing. "I’m going to have to change my movie from 'Fifty Shades of Black' to 'Fifty Shades of White' just so it can be mentioned at the Oscars!"
#OscarsSoWhite: Full coverage of the boycott and Hollywood's reaction
While Wayans expressed solidarity with the aims of the those who've criticized the Academy for the lack of any actors of color among this year's nominees, he stopped short of endorsing a boycott.
"I always go, 'Let’s try to be productive instead of counterproductive.' Instead of just sitting out, I’d rather go, 'Let’s come together and communicate.' That’s how you solve issues.... I think the remedy could be a peaceful one. I don’t know if there needs to be a loud boycott. But there definitely needs to be some sensitivity toward it."
While the Academy has come in for some blistering criticism in recent days, Wayans says it is incumbent on everyone -- including filmmakers, studios and the audience -- to push for greater diversity in movies.
"Does Hollywood need to make more movies [with minorities]? Absolutely," he said. "Do we need to make movies of the quality that will be recognized by the academy? Sure. It falls on everybody in the film community, and we all have a job to do. I use it as inspiration and invigoration."
"My brothers taught me, 'You don’t knock on the door of Hollywood and ask to be let in. You kick it off the hinges.' I don’t know what complaining is going to do. I don’t want a consolation prize, like 'Best Black Actor goes to…' I take on the challenge, and I know we’ve got work to do. It’s nothing new."
Part of the problem, Wayans said, is that black-led films rarely command the kinds of budgets that other major studio movies do.
"We should have a sit-down with the Academy, but we should also have a sit-down with the film studios because we’re not getting the budgets that we need to get that kind of consideration," he said. "Look, 'The Revenant' was made for a lot of money. The bear alone was $100 million." He laughed. "And I’m sure the Oscars are going, 'What are you angry about? The black bear was awesome in 'The Revenant!' "
While Wayans expressed support for the message Jada Pinkett Smith offered in protesting the Oscars' lack of diversity, he jokingly questioned her timing.
"I agree with what Jada said. I don’t agree with her timing because, as her friend, she looked like an angry wife. You don’t shade no sister’s husband. She’s like, 'No, I know my baby was good in that damn 'Concussion' movie. And I’m going to give the Oscars a damn concussion if they don’t recognize him. They shaded him on 'Ali.' They shaded him on the movie with my son. And now you’re going to shade him on 'Concussion?' Not today.”
As for the question of whether Chris Rock should stay on as host or drop out in solidarity with those who've called for a boycott of the Feb. 28 telecast, Wayans -- himself a stand-up comic in addition to an actor -- was unequivocal.
"Should Chris Rock host? Sure. Everybody just gave him a ton of material. This is going to be a lot of fun. He should put himself in every single one of these Oscar movies as the black guy. Just superimpose himself in every last single one."