In this installment, Wayans, who plays Malcolm, moves into his dream home with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two kids. The blended family is in store for a myriad of humorous but strange paranormal activity. Wayans, on the other hand, is being taunted by his ex-girlfriend’s exorcist (Essence Atkins). Wayans is joined on-screen by Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett and Gabriel Iglesias.
Wayans says of Malcolm’s story arc, “There’s trouble all around, and I’m the only one actually seeing it,” he says. “What I wanted to do with this was make it about an interracial couple. You got her point of view versus his point of view. It makes for an interesting conversation.” Shot in 21 days, an impressed Wayans had great chemistry with both Pressly and Atkins on- and off-camera. “They’re good strong comedic actresses,” adds Wayans. “They understand how to play a situation. I’m always ripping and trying new things, so I need a strong anchor.”
The Howard University alumnus remembers when he and his older brothers, Shawn and Keenen Ivory, were working on their lampoon of mid-1990s black films, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. The hilarious performer believes A Haunted House’s franchise was born out of that particular project. “It was just a bunch of funny sketches and really thin story. We just got off-the-wall crazy. We just have a very dark, crazy sense of humor. We can take the darkest thing and find light. That’s what ultimately led us to horror,” says Wayans.
Recently in Atlanta as part of A Haunted House 2’s press tour, Wayans, the youngest sibling of the first family of comedy, cracks up at Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. The extremely cautious jokester-turned-filmmaker wanted A Haunted House 2 to develop beyond strictly being a full-blown comedic effort. “It’s a lot less slasher than the Scary Movie franchise,” says Wayans. “This time, it’s a little more grounded in storytelling. You take a chance because you’re desperate to get that laugh. The story we tell is all inclusive. The jokes all come out of the situation.”
Wayans thought it was also necessary to cast ethnically diverse talent. As with similar cases involving black actors and directors in Hollywood, the humorist points out Hispanic talent such as Iglesias are highly underrepresented in feature comedies. The lack of complex roles for black and Latino characters is why Wayans chooses to multitask on-set.
“When I auditioned, I got a lot of roles, but I still wasn’t doing what I wanted to do,” says Wayans. “There are no roles in Hollywood. Your chances of getting those are second to none, so I write and produce so I can act in the kinds of movies I wanna be in.”
Throughout Wayans’ career, he’s appeared on television as a third season regular cast member on In Living Color, co-starred in his own sitcom, The Wayans Bros.., a recurring guest star on the series, Second Generation Wayans and co-creator/voiceover on the animated series, Thugaboo. Wayans’ also acted in and worked behind-the-scenes on comedies like White Chicks, LiTTLE MAN, Senseless, Dance Flick and The Sixth Man.
As for dramatic and action roles, Wayans appeared in Above The Rim, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Requiem For a Dream. The alumnus of New York’s famed LaGuardia High School appreciates that he practiced drama five hours per day as a student. One of the greatest moments on Wayans’ vitae, he says, was being able to collaborate with the Coen Brothers.
“I had a great time,” he says. “I got to be funny, bring things to the table and make them laugh on set. I try to challenge my dramatic ability and work with great directors.” While talking, Wayans knocks his tea over accidentally with his arm. Not distracted, he continues to make everyone in the room laugh.
Joking around is a constant whenever Wayans talks. “Knowing when to be what is one of the greatest keys to comedy,” he says before he jokes again. “I’m dramatically grounded. I’m dumb as f—k, but I can act. You gotta put on different hats. Drama is the easiest thing I could possibly do. I’m not challenged to do comedy. It’s so hard to make everybody feel the same emotion. There’s a fear factor involved.”
Making audiences laugh has been the core of Wayans’ career and identity. He recently launched What The Funny?, a digital comedy network that pokes fun at viral videos, current events and music videos. Wayans just wants the audience to enjoy themselves. “It’s a movie everybody can understand and have fun,” says Wayans. “I just want people to go laugh and not think too much. Go be a kid.”
This article was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.