Marque Richardson – The Duty of an Artist

A surprising burst of light walks into the room, or maybe he is better explained as a small explosion.

Marque Richardson exudes an insane amount of energy, certainly more than most folks I encounter. With laughter that bounces off the walls and enough enthusiasm to power several projects at once, you simply can’t miss the fact that he’s there. Maybe that’s a result of the ginger smoothie he mentioned drinking or the crisp blue morning in an unusually rainy LA winter, but after a few moments chatting you realize this is simply the vibrant energy he leads with. After our interview I’m certain that this is what fuels his success.

I imagine it takes a lot of drive to be a graduate of USC, be selected for competitive internships at Will Smith’s production company, direct a series of shorts with his own team, and carry a slew of other credits to lay the foundation of his acting career. To nd the source of that drive, let’s take a look back to the very beginning.

“My parents met in Florida, then they had sex and I was born”. Thanks for pointing that out for us Marque. A few jokes later Marque explains that his father was in the Navy and their family moved around quite a bit — from San Diego, to Virginia, back to Inglewood and the OC. By high school they had settled down in the 562 –Lakewood — a suburb just east of the music and arts haven of Long Beach, CA. Marque’s rst taste of fame came at age four when his parents helped book him for a cable commercial. Motivated almost solely by the breakfast burrito he was helping to advertise, Marque from that point on and throughout high school wasn’t interested in standing out. “People would see me on TV and I’d be like, naw that wasn’t me”. But his talent stayed even when he quit for a short time. Marque mentions it was only three or four years ago that his parents let him know that they had moved to Southern California specically for his acting career, while never once pressuring him to stay on that path. Their insight into his future paid off when he returned to lm during college at USC.

Still, it took Marque some time for the idea to set in that acting was his path. “It still was a hobby for me, not a way to make money for my family and stuff.” But after landing a gig on 7th Heaven and The Bernie Mac Show in the same week, his success in drama and comedy was unmistakable. Then when the late, great Bernie Mac complimented him on set– he knew this was it. As he explained, I could hear that distinct Bernie Mac baritone pulling a staff member aside to say, “Who is this kid? He’s phenomenal!” All these incredible signs nally convinced Marque to choose to commit to acting after undergrad. He turned down the career altering CIA trip to Egypt he was offered and settled into his rst production internship upon graduation, and for that we can all be truly grateful.

Sharp and ambitious, Marque proved his many skills early on, excellent advice for any aspiring actors. “I started my own little shit production company and just made my little shit videos, but that was still just the beginning of it. I got to learn the business behind the camera”. I asked if this was strategic and he said yes, “You have to know the craft. You have to know more than just acting”. Another interesting fact I discovered watching his acting reel was a scene done with Breezy Love Joy. For those who aren’t familiar with L.A. music scene history, Breezy took on a new moniker and is now known as Grammy award-winning artist Anderson Paak., who Marque says was also amazingly talented even back then. From compliments from one of the most respected Black Comedians in the industry to the trail of personal projects and earned standout roles, Marque’s successes show his humility and understanding of hard work.

Now for the big topic at hand. Let’s talk about White people…. or Black people. Most folks will recognize Marque from his role as Reggie in the controversial 2013 lm Dear White People now creating a huge buzz. The lm is now a Net ix original series. As exciting as this project is, the tone of the conversation began to shift as Marque re ected “driving on the way here, I thought ‘she’s gonna make me cry”. I did my best to spare him any tears, but we couldn’t help but get real about present-day politics. His entire body language showed how genuinely affected he feels in regards to police brutality and racism in America. Marque takes a determined tone when speaking on his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement. “There is no way that I cannot be involved in this climate. I want to have kids one day. There is no way I cannot be a part of wanting to move us all forward.” A noble man, furthering a noble and necessary cause.

As he shared more about Dear While People, I found out how he landed the role of the highly intelligent, militant, and over-serious character Reggie. “It was almost like alchemy” he re ects. “In the sense that I started going to brunches, like business brunches with people in the industry”. After meeting and learning more with producer Lena Waithe and writer/director Justin Simien he knew he had to be a part of it, “by any means necessary”. The lm was a passion project and a labor of love, with an all hands on deck approach to getting it out on time. He commends Simien. “Kudos to Justin. He is so in tune with everything going on right now. So the show de nitely re ects everything going on in our current society”.

As much as the lm was inspiring, Marque had a more in-depth experience with the series. “I lived the experience to a T” as he re ects on his personal connection to situations in the lm. “I didn’t realize how important it was at the time, and the show for me now is more therapeutic that the lm was”. He mentioned that with more time to complete the Net ix series, he was able to do extra research and dive deeper into the Black History of those like Malcolm X, Angela Davis and Booker T. Washington.

In honor of the Black voices this series represents, Marque reminds me of a the Nina Simone quote, “an artist’s duty, as far as I am concerned, is to re ect the times”. Marque, the cast and crew of Dear White People are living this 100% and should be commended for taking the risks of telling some of the more challenging stories of Black America. You gotta keep it light and heavy though, right? Marque mentions the funniest part of Reggie is that “he takes himself so seriously”. We can take a page out of Dear White People’s satire to balance a little humor with the weight. Marque’s personality is similar: able to pair vibrant positivity with a refreshing sense of responsibility to get things done with integrity and excellence. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think we can ever have too much of that.

Written by Shelley Bruce. Photography by Alexander Black.