Actor Marcel Spears Talks About his Inspiration for Acting and Working with Cedric The Entertainer
From Shakespeare to the silver screen Marcel Spears is an emerging force in Hollywood. The promising young actor and producer is known for roles such as K.T. Clifton in the ABC sitcom The Mayor, Carlton Blakeston Jr. in the BET romantic comedy Always a Bridesmaid and currently Marty Butler in the CBS sitcom The Neighborhood. In an interview with QG, he shares how his education helped paved the way for his career, his unexpected admiration for Shakespeare, and what it's like to work with Cedric the Entertainer.
Spears accredits his success to earning a Masters of Fine Arts in acting at Columbia University. His education laid the foundation for his now flourishing career and was vital in helping him hone his craft as an actor.
"The people that I met and the training that I got was invaluable," he said. "And I think it serves me still to this day. It's like a once in a lifetime experience that I'll never forget; getting on the plane to go to New York. So just going to New York opened up my world view and shifted my perspective about just how big the world is and how impactful art can be."
Like attending Columbia University, Spear's experiences with theater acting were unforgettable. His time performing on humble stage settings while surrounded by small audiences provided a learning curve. He reflects on his time acting in theater and recalls memorable moments that led to his growth as a performer.
"The thing that I think I remember the most is being able to create something out of nothing and using limited resources to create these impactful shows," he recalls. "I had a heavy, heavy Shakespeare training at Columbia. I remember when I first got there, man, I was like, Shakespeare is not for me. This is not accurate. That's not what I do. I didn't feel like there was a place for Black people in Shakespeare. I wasn't feeling it at all, not even a little bit. And as I started to train and learn more about it, I became so attached to it. And I love it so much because it's just human stories and being able to use this heightened, poetic language to tell a real human story was so powerful to me. And it allowed me to appreciate writing differently.”
Alongside being immersed in Shakespearean acting, he also fondly remembers having the opportunity to watch a live performance of an August Wilson play and the impact the experience had on him.
"In Houston, growing up in the South, you read these plays, or you hear about them, but you never really see [any of] it," he said. "So when I got to college, that was the thing that sort of inspired me to act, reading the work of August Wilson. To get a chance to see some of his shows perform live lit a fire under me."
In television, Spears co-stars as Marty Butler, Calvin's son, in the CBS sitcom The Neighborhood. He shares what he most appreciates about the character.
"Marty is the youngest son of Calvin and Tina, played by Cedric and Tichina," he explains. “And he's an aerospace engineer that works at JPL, the jet propulsion laboratory. He's incredibly driven. He's really smart, really savvy, [and] very career conscious. He's like a little bit of a nerd, which is a beautiful thing. But Marty is also very green. He's really naïve. He's a little shady, [and] he's like the perfect millennial."
Spears also describes Marty as funny, endearing and the typical millennial who pokes fun at his parents for being behind in the times. While reflecting on the joys of portraying the character, he also expresses how much he enjoyed working with Cedric the Entertainer.
"Man, working with Ced is like the best comedy training you could ever have," he said. “Cedric, I mean, he's the King of comedy. He's so funny and he knows humor inside and out. And so I feel like there's no better training than working with somebody like that. I try my hardest. My goal when I stepped into the scene with Cedric is to make him laugh. I'm trying to break him in the scene and push him out of his character. Because I feel like if I can do that, then I know that what I'm doing is 100% funny. And I'm proud of myself for those moments that I can push him because he's not easy to catch off guard."
According to Spears, Cedric the Entertainer is not only a gifted comedian but also very business savvy. He holds the veteran actor in high regard. "I couldn't ask for a better mentor. As an executive producer of the show, Cedric puts in the work, and to see his relationship with CBS and see how he guides the show behind the scenes, I think, is inspiring for me at this stage of my career to see a Black man do that.”
What Spears enjoys about being a part of The Neighborhood is how the talented writing team can spin aspects of everyday reality in ways that are amusing but also relatable to viewers. As great as the first two seasons of the series have been, he says there is even more in store for fans this season.
Also, Spears offers a few snippets of what's to come. "In future episodes, they're going to be talking about homeownership in our funny classic way. They're going to be talking about men's health in our funny way. The boys start to learn a little bit more about manhood and becoming adults on their own."
Despite having a noteworthy lineup of accomplishments, Spears looks toward the future for new opportunities and remains hopeful amid the current pandemic.
"I feel like it's whatever God allows, and I'm gonna work my a** off to be the best artist that I can be. I love telling stories," he states. "I feel like this is what I was called to do. This is what I was put on this earth to do. So I'm going to do that to the best of my ability. I've started writing so, I'm excited to get behind the camera and be able to tell stories from my perspective."
Photo Credit: CBS