Just a 'Little' black girl magic
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 4/9/2019, 9:51 a.m.
By Lisa Respers France, CNN
(CNN) -- Marsai Martin might want to work a little harder.
At least that's the joke her "Little" co-stars Issa Rae and Regina Hall made to CNN when asked why there haven't been more films like theirs, starring young actors of color.
"Cause she's lazy," Hall teased Martin. "One movie and you're 14 already."
"'Oh, I just started a production company just now,'" Rae said, pretending to be Martin.
"I've been busy, I'm sorry," Martin said in a mock exasperated teen voice.
Indeed she has.
As one of the stars of ABC's hit comedy "Black-ish," Martin already had plenty on her plate.
But when she was 13 she strolled into a pitch meeting with Universal Studios to suggest a reboot of the 1988 Tom Hanks hit, "Big," modernized with a black female cast.
"The pitch meeting was actually pretty smooth," Martin told CNN. "I wasn't nervous at all, because I didn't even know what nervous or afraid even meant."
The meeting eventually evolved, Martin said, into those gathered sharing memories from their childhoods.
The young actress said she went to the "Little" pitch meeting dressed in a blazer to embody her character in the film, Jordan Sanders, the temperamental business woman who wakes up one morning having been thrust back to childhood.
Hall portrays Jordan as an adult. The pair said they worked closely together to create continuity for their character.
"We talked a little bit before we actually started shooting and then we kind of grew with Jordan," Martin said. "Regina was on set every single day. She was watching my scenes and I would watch hers to actually get the feel of what Jordan would be like."
And while the movie is based on the beloved "Big," Rae, who portrays Jordan's much put upon assistant April Williams, said "Little" stands on its own.
"People are going to compare, but we really tried to make our own thing," she said.
"Little's" director Tina Gordon said body-swapping movies are such a popular genre that she focused more on character development than the fact it's a reboot.
"I actually just delve deep into the characters and who those women would be, which is what you have to do, breathing life into any piece that you're writing," she said. "Those characters are what make the story new."
That's where the black girl magic comes in.
Not only is the movie about black female characters, conceived of and starring a young, black woman and directed by a black woman, but it also offers black women of all ages the opportunity to see themselves on the big screen.
Will Packer produced "Little" and hopes it will create more opportunities for family films told from a black perspective, much like Jordan Peele's success with "Us" is stoking interest in black horror films and "Black Panther" has Hollywood on the lookout for the next big, black superhero movie.
"I think the world itself is changing, and so now you're going to see films that feel more diverse and more inclusive," Packer said before adding, "Remember we're starting from such a deficit that now that there's more, it doesn't mean that we're anywhere near where we need to be."
Martin aims to do her part to get the industry there.
She's already made history with "Little" as the youngest person to ever executive produce a major Hollywood film.
Her next project actually came via Martin's first-look deal with Universal, where she will be developing scripted projects via her Genius Productions company.
The teen will star in "StepMonster," a comedy about a young girl trying to navigate life with her stepmother.
Rae and Hall joked that they're cast in that film as well and teased their young co-star about a possible "Little" sequel, with Rae lamenting, "Marsai, work harder!"
So will there be a "Little" sequel?
"We have to figure out how this 'Little' does first before there's a 'Little' sequel," Martin laughed. "That's the answer."