The youngest Wayans brother is giving us a glimpse into a comedic take on his love and family life in the NBC series “Marlon,” premiering Wednesday. From tackling co-parenting to dodging recurring feelings for his ex, divorce isn’t the only relationship obstacle he has to deal with in the 10-episode series. Enter Stevie, Wayans’ unemployed confidant who’s spent the last two years crashing on his couch.
Played by Diallo Riddle (“Silicon Valley,” “The Last O.G.”), Stevie would probably be kicked to the curb if Wayans — a popular social media vlogger in the series — didn’t feel indebted to him for “launching his career” by encouraging him to post his first video post-college.
“Stevie’s arc this season is going from slacker-layabout on Marlon’s couch to slacker-layabout on Marlon’s couch with heart,” Riddle said in an email interview. “But seriously, you will heart him.”
Putting Wayans’ “friendly divorce” from former girlfriend Angelica Zachary on display, Stevie and the rest of the characters are all loosely based on people in the comedian’s life. Wayans (played by himself), Zachary (played by Brooklyn native Essence Atkins), their two children and longtime friends all pop up in the series.
“There is a ‘Stevie’ in real life. He wears glasses. He’s incredibly brilliant. And yes, he stayed on Marlon’s couch for a few years,” Riddle said in an email interview. “So, no, I had nothing to go on when playing this character,” he joked, adding that real Wayans’ family and friends stepped onto the California set quite often to give the crew some pointers.
“They said we were getting it all wrong and were, quite honestly, being a little insulting with our portrayals,” he said — but remember, they’re loose interpretations. TV Stevie, for example, is a near-graduate of the fictional Howell University who continuously insists he’s “three credits shy” of various degrees like psychology and African American studies.
Dubbed the “dumbest smart guy” by Riddle, if Stevie is anything aside from lazy, it’s likable. While Wayans brings the jokes with ease, it’s his sidekick who helps offer the perfect punchline every time — just take Stevie’s unpublished college essays from the ‘90s (“The internet, a passing fad,” “R.I.P. rap music,” “Steve Jobs, he don’t know”), for example.
And the humorous dynamic between Wayans and Riddle continued off-screen, too, leaving the actor to call the role the “funnest gig ever.”
“There was a scene where Stevie had fallen asleep on Marlon’s couch and to get back at him, Marlon pelted him with cereal. We shot that scene for several hours. Marlon enjoyed shooting it a bit too much,” Riddle said.
“Marlon” airs at 9 p.m. on NBC.