Dance Flick: The Wayans Family – Next Generation

“Dance Flick,” written and directed by the Wayans Brothers, is being released May 22, 2009 by Paramount Pictures.

There have been few screen comedy families who have successfully passed the torch from one generation to the next as the Wayans family has. The Wayans brothers – Keenen Ivory, Shawn, Marlon and Damon – along with sister Kim, first burst onto the screen with 1988’s blaxploitation parody, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” which led to their groundbreaking Fox comedy sketch series, “In Living Color.” The show not only brought the Wayans clan into the public consciousness, but also launched the careers of such other major stars as Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Lopez. Keenen also wrote and starred in the film “Hollywood Shuffle.”

The brothers have continued into the millennium with a string of successful theatrical comedies, including the “Scary Movie” horror spoofs, “White Chicks” (2004) and “Little Man” (2006). Additionally, Shawn and Marlon starred on the hit WB series “The Wayans Bros.” for five seasons (1995-1999).

The new decade has brought to light a new, and equally talented, Wayans generation, including Damon Wayans, Jr., Craig Wayans (son of Wayans sibling Deirdre) and Damien Dante Wayans (son of Wayans sibling Elvira Wayans), all of whom honed their skills writing and/or directing episodes of “My Wife and Kids,” as well as contributing material to the brothers’ recent feature films. Other Wayans offspring who have made contributions to “Dance Flick” include Dwayne Wayans, Jr., who co-composed some of the film’s music (with Erik Willis) and Michael Wayans, Damon Jr.’s brother, who appears briefly in the film.

When it came time for a new Wayans comedy, the brothers decided it was time to showcase the new generation. “We’re doing with them what my brother, Keenen, did with Shawn and myself with ‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,'” notes Marlon Wayans. “It’s kind of like we’re teaching these guys how to fish, but we ain’t going and getting them no fish – they’ve got to do it themselves. And stay out of my pond,” he laughs.

The film stars Damon Jr. and is executive produced by Craig Wayans, who also co-wrote the film with his uncles and with cousin Damien, who directed the movie. “We were talking about beginning the second generation movement, and we’ve written other movies, plus Damien and I worked together for three seasons on ‘My Wife and Kids,'” explains Craig Wayans. “So we said, ‘We want to present ourselves as the next generation.'” Adds Damon Jr., “We’re just trying to find our own niche, and this is the beginning.”

While most Wayans features have been directed by Keenen, when it came time to select a director for “Dance Flick,” the brothers decided to give Damien a shot. “He’s been around television and movie sets his whole life,” explains one of the film’s producers, Rick Alvarez. “He came up under the tutelage of his uncles, and the guys really wanted the next generation to have an opportunity; it was just time.”

Says Craig Wayans, “Being an actor himself, Damien is very good with actors and being part of the family, he gets their jokes. So, if you get jokes and you’re good with actors, you’re doing great. Some directors get too caught up in trying to get certain shots which don’t necessarily work in comedy, but he’s a great comedic director.”

The results have more than justified their expectations, say the elder Wayans. “It’s great to be able to extend a hand into this generation, to see how they’re coming up. It makes you proud, like a proud father, to watch your cubs,” says Marlon. “They’re like little brothers, they’re like my sons, they’re like my friends. To see them achieve, to go through this process, makes me smile.”