Child star Marsai Martin is making waves across the world for doing the things most 14-year-olds only dream off.
Marsai’s claim to fame came from the award-winning "Black-ish," a sitcom about an upper-middleclass black family living in a white neighbourhood in Los Angeles.
When the show began airing, she was 10 years old. She stole the show and won over millions of hearts with her character, Diane, who’s the spirited and elder twin sister. Diane is the brainiac of the Johnson family and has no filter when it comes to saying how she feels. In its fifth season, we’ve witnessed Diane morph from a sassy, intelligent girl to a scheming, calculating, dangerous, eccentric, scary and intimidating adolescent. However, there was one episode that addressed colourism, where she drifted from her usual hard-ass character and showed us a softer side – and her fans got to see her acting versatility. With that she did what some actors try to do for decades – and fail.
Fast-forward four years since the premiere of "Black-ish," Marsai is the star of her first big-budget movie, "Little". That she is in a movie is not news, but did you she also serves as an executive producer? Now that’s a game-changer. This makes her the youngest in the world to do so.
Marsai, who last week bagged two National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People Image Awards, was interviewed on the red carpet where she summed up the essence of “Black Girl Magic” – a topic she eats, breathes and sleeps.
"It's about being powerful and confident in who you are. A lot of people try to bring us down for what we look like and how our features are, whether it’s our hair or colour, but bump them! It’s absolutely amazing to be us," she said.
Marsai is also the youngest person to get a first-look deal with Universal. This means she gets first dibs on scripts. "Little" is about a black woman, played by Regina Hall, who is transformed into her younger self after being wished upon by a little girl with "Black Girl Magic" powers.
It’s a comedy about the price of success, the power of sisterhood and having a second chance to grow up and glow up right. Issa Rae plays Jordan’s long-suffering assistant, April.
Directed by Tina Gordon, "Little" brings an all-new perspective to body-swap comedies we’ve seen in the past like "13 Going On 30," "Big" or "Freaky Friday".
What most people don’t know is that the film was pitched by Marsai when she was 9.
Teen Vogue reports that a part of the reason why she pitched it was because she believed there weren’t enough films from a black perspective for young people. She wanted to see what a bodyswopping story would be like for a younger black woman.
(“You never see our story. So, we thought, ‘how about we do it this way?’) “I’m so grateful they trusted me with this idea and that as an executive producer I have so much input into the making of the film. I hope that in 21 years we won’t have to be the first anymore: first black woman to do this, or first black man, or first women to do that. “I hope that we always have diversity, that we have equality and representation every step of the way.”
Marsai said that when she watched movies with her parents, they always asked: “What’s missing from the plot to the people of colour or diversity in general?” She and her family have also set up their own production company, Genius Productions. Marsai is the chief executive, her father is president and her mother, vice-president. While she might be only 14, the legend in the making is hungry for success.
In the same Teen Vogue interview, Marsai said that although kids weren’t allowed to drive or drink, they could do other things adults could. “My peers are still growing and they have so many ideas, too. Sure, we can’t drink or drive, but we can do the same things adults can. “When they recognise us for what we’re actually doing, they’ll see us in a different light. That actually motivates me to keep going.”
The first film being developed by her production company, Genius Productions, is called Step Monster. It’s going to be a comedy about a teenage girl (Marsai) who is adjusting to life with a new stepmother. If that’s not enough, last year Marsai made the Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 class of 2018 list, which puts extraordinary young women and girls making strides in their industries in the spotlight.
She featured among other youngsters like 15-year-old Elsie Fisher, who started in "Eighth Grade," a visceral portrayal of the inner life of young women, and actress Josie Totah, 17, who said she was transgender.
The article also reported that Marsai said in 10 years, as she approaches her 24th birthday, she hoped to be a screenwriter, director and producer of various projects, even reality TV.
“I have new genres that I want to keep on moving and expanding towards. I don’t want to be known as just an actress. “I want to be known as an entertainer and entrepreneur… I just want to keep making my family proud.”