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Marsai Martin's Favorite 'Little' Moment Involved Issa Rae and Icees

We talked to Marsai Martin about her new film "Little," working with Hollywood giants, and becoming a boss.
March 28, 2019, 7:31pm
Marsai Martin in Little
Photo courtesy of Universal Picture

It was a hot summer day in Atlanta when Marsai Martin and Issa Rae filmed the hilarious spanking scene in their new film Little. Martin's character Jordan Sanders has just transformed from a grown woman (Regina Hall) to a 13-year-old with a severe attitude problem. Ahead of her entering middle school for the first time in decades as a shrunken version of herself, Jordan gets into a fight with her personal assistant, April (Rae).

"The day we filmed the fight scene it was so hot," Martin tells Broadly. "We were shooting in Atlanta and Issa and I were just sweating so much. So after the scene was shot, we grabbed icees from a truck in the parking lot. They had icees for everyone–it was fun."

Known for her witty character Diane Johnson on ABC's black-ish, Martin is an anomaly in Hollywood. Little made her the youngest executive producer in Hollywood history, she just signed a first-look deal with Universal Pictures, and she has been named one of Time's 25 Most Influential Teens. By all accounts, Martin is taking over the industry. But unlike her character in Little, she's doing it with a humble grace.

"With Little, I was nervous in the beginning, so I was practicing the script over, and over, and over again until I actually got it right because, of course, this is my first feature film in something that I'm the EP [executive producer] on, so I wanted to have the opportunity to not be stressed out and just really learn without being stuck any way," the actress says.

"In the first three days of Little, I was just practicing the script fully all the time. And then it was to the point where I would be comfortable in it, and I'd just get to work and be like, 'OK, this is fine. I've got this.' It was pretty smooth getting to that point.

One of Martin's first forays into performing was none other than Beyoncé, whose songs she would cover in Youtube videos.

After noticing her serious interest in entertainment, her family moved from Plano, Texas to Los Angeles where she soon got a national commercial campaign and then her role on black-ish alongside Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, and Yara Shahidi. And all of this happened before she was ten years old.

"She is contagious," says Tina Gordon, the director of Little who also co-wrote What Men Want, ATL, and Drumline. "Her energy and excitement for creating content and being creative, it's contagious. In terms of working together, I know that she not only is an actress, but she is going to continue to learn to be a producer, and learn the ins and outs of film making."

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"Not only would we discuss her role, but I would give her context for the shooting days," Gordon says about Martin's approach to the role. "You know, we would have conversations about the scene, not just as an actor, but how it functions in the whole screenplay."

With her first lead role in a major film under her belt and the Universal deal for her production company Genius, Martin hopes to continue storytelling and showcasing a wider spectrum of her talent.

"I want to be an assassin. I want to be a super hero," Martin says. "Just those types of characters that you don't really get to see often portrayed by a person who looks like me. That's the type of stories I want to create." Adding, "I want to tell stories that you don't see often, especially in a kid's mind. I don't want it to be like, this is a kid's production company—but I want people to see it as this is a production company that is doing their own thing, which happens to be ran by a 14-year-old girl."

Martin is also well aware of the magnifying glass on her—and is ready and willing to step up to the challenge. "I want it to be something where they don't judge the book by its cover, because I am just a minor that knows so little. I think that's what people come to see. But I want to create things where I think we just all feel welcome."

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