Interview – Marque Richardson

Wisdom… it is something we all hopefully earn as we grow. A progression that never ceases at any point in life, Marque Richardson continues to find new purpose with each passing day. Most easily recognized from his outstanding performance as Reggie Green first in 2014 feature Dear White People, and also in the Netflix series, Richardson has proven is a talented actor ahead of the pack. Also starring in a list of other films, as well as his recent main role in hit Hulu series UnPrisoned, he seems to have hit a stride that balances his career well.

An individual who is a strong advocate of community service and has been involved with various global service projects through the years, he also does not mind keeping in a little later; mixing in some Comedy, and yes, Horror to his resume. In fact, here is a little-known fact, Richardson is quite the Horror film buff. Looking to dive into that stratosphere a bit more, he recently teamed up for the new short That’s Our Time; a Horror-styled story that has to be seen to understand. Excited for this project, and plenty more ahead, the diverse actor recently sat down to chat about a plethora of topics.

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally for over two decades now. Working in a mix of television and film, how would you describe your journey as an actor to this point?

Marque Richardson – It’s been a spiritual one… and a long journey. It’s so funny because when I started out, around when I was four, it was just a hobby. I didn’t really get serious until my junior year of college. I think it was the Seventh Heaven and Bernie Mac Show jobs back in the day that made me think – I can actually do this and keep going. Then some ‘nuggets’ happened after that made me think, maybe I should keep going. Step by step, things that I call ‘nuggets’ have happened that tell me – maybe you can do this, maybe you should keep going, maybe this is something. Even to this day, I sometimes think, maybe I should keep going. (Laughs) It’s been a spiritual experience.

Cryptic Rock – Your dedication has led you to be a part of some really cool projects. You have worked in Comedy, Drama, Horror, etc. So, do you enjoy working in a mix of genres?

Marque Richardson – I do! Horror is actually one of my favorite genres; I grew up watching all of those films such as Friday the 13th movies, Pet Sematary (1989), etc. At the end of the day, I just love good stories. If the story is good in the genre, then I’m all for it. Currently I love Sci-fi, Fantasy, and fusions.

Even with the project, That’s Our Time. I can’t wait for someone to give me the dream job or role, so with this crew, it was just – we want to make the stuff we want to see. That’s Our Time is a fusion of these genres – Drama, Fantasy, and some Comedy. It is also the predecessor to the feature film that we are working on.

True Blood / HBO (2008)
Dear White People / Netflix (2019)

Cryptic Rock – Yes, the short of That’s Our Time really hooks you in. How did the project come about for you?

Marque Richardson – The director, Alex Backes, has been a friend of mine since 2010. We’ve always wanted to work together and throughout the years we would help each other on projects. So, in December of 2021 he hit me up and said, “Hey, me and Josh Callahan (wrote this script) would love for you to be a part of it.” He told me there was no pressure, so I told him to send it. I read it, and immediately I was hooked. I connected with the character Danny; who’s going through some stuff in life… as we all do. I was feeling disconnected from people in life and it heads towards a dark space in my life at the moment. I was dealing with a lot of grief with different versions of loss at the time. So, I immediately resonated with the character of Danny.

I called Alex and told him, “I would love to do this and happy to be a part of it.” I was just glad that it was good though; because I was past the point of just doing a project or a short just to do it. I told him, “I’m just glad it was good, because if it wasn’t… yea I wouldn’t be here.” (Laughs)

We also had a conversation about, and thought, why just do a short? If we are going to do a short, why not have it be a part of a bigger picture? We spoke about how we can further this story; really develop and beat out this world. So, Alex, Josh, and the producing team sat on it and it took about a year. The idea was initially a mini-series, then the pivot was made to focus on a feature film.

I’m really excited about That’s Our Time, but also the feature we are working on. The world has been completely blown out! I’m juiced, ready, and excited to get to work with these people on this project.

Cryptic Rock – Wow, it is interesting to hear how it all developed. What really sticks with you with That’s Our Time is something that is real to life. There seems to be a human disconnect all around us. People have lost sight of what is important and what to focus on. This story really seems indicative of the modern world. It feels like this is the world we live in… and it’s not a healthy world. Were these factors things that drew you to the script?

Marque Richardson – Totally and absolutely. Even for me, when this story came across my path, there were just more nuggets that were happening in my life that made me think about time. Time is all we have really… and all this other stuff is just bullshit. Especially when you are talking about loss of people, relationships, or anything that was important to me or that I identified with.

What really stuck with me, in regards to this story, was that you have to make due with the time that you have. You have to focus on what is important. The time that you have versus the time that you’ve already spent.

That’s Our Time (2023)

Cryptic Rock – Exactly. It draws you down a rabbit hole as a viewer to think – am I focusing on the negatives in my life; what’s really important; do I need to spend half my day looking down at my stupid cellphone? Time is all we have, as you stated. Hopefully this story resonates with others. People need to wake up so to speak and make the most of what you have. Positive things come from this type of thinking, right?

Marque Richardson – Right, and also presents. In my opinion we just have presents. Even in this moment here… we don’t have thirty seconds go… we just have what is happening right now. So, for me, when I can remember that, I am just more… me.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, you are truer to yourself. Let’s not give the character of Danny away too much, but there are a lot of questions surrounding what and who he is.

Marque Richardson – Yes… not to give it away, but as far as the viewer, I don’t think it starts out that way. At the end you think, oh wait a minute! Kudos to Alex and Josh for creating the spin. Even in the development of the short, in terms of wardrobe, and all the pieces of Danny, it was important for us to be clear who he and what he is. We get to explore more of that in the feature too.

Cryptic Rock – You do a great job with the time you offered in this short to bring the character to life. We spoke briefly about your previous work. Perhaps one of your most recognized roles was in Dear White People. You really did a great job with the character of Reggie. He was a very human character, someone you can empathize with, and look at things from his point of view. What was your experience like working on Dear White People?

Marque Richardson – Thank you for the kind words. It was a large chunk of my life. That’s the longest project/character that I’ve lived with… because it was a film first. We shot the film in 2013, then it was at Sundance in 2014, then we started production on the show in 2016, then we finished shooting in February of 2021. It was eight years… that’s crazy!

It was interesting, because I felt like Reggie was one of the first characters (along with a couple of other projects at the time) where I started to actually feel like an artist. Prior to that I had just felt like I was just here saying these lines, really didn’t know what I was doing, and I’m just out here doing and trying to make it happen. Reggie was the first, real tangible thing that I really was able to dig my teeth into; my life, art, purpose, and vision started to form. That was also a project where I realized art can and should be activism. I’ve done a lot of service in activism work in my life. So, with that project, all the things I’ve done started to melt together into this laser point focus.

It kind of set me up for what I’m up to today. Every project for me doesn’t have to say something. They can just be entertainment, but I do lean toward projects that have a perspective, have a view, and something to say. I learned a lot during the Dear White People days in front of the camera and behind the camera; dealing with studios and how to stand up for yourself. With that project the veil was removed in a lot of different ways in the years of working on Dear White People. I had a wonderful time, we were all friends and family, and I love all those people today.

Cryptic Rock – So, Dear White People was a turning point for you artistically, very interesting! What really sticks out about Dear White People is, if you judge it by just the title, you are probably going to think it is going to be an extremely biased story… but it is not at all. If you go into it with an open-mind you see there is satire there, real life situations, and things we should all think about. Most of all, it points out hypocrisy, here, there, and everywhere.

Marque Richardson – Yes, agreed. It was like a microcosm of America. That was the intention of the creator, Justin Simien. It was intended to entertain, to make you think about certain things, but also give you the answers too. There was a grey area of – is it this or is it that… and that was for the viewer to decide. Kudos for Justin for that.

Cryptic Rock – It makes you think, and that is what we all need to do. It seems like many people are set in one way of thinking in today’s climate and shut everything else out. That makes no sense, honestly.

Marque Richardson – Yes, humanity is complex.

Cryptic Rock – It certainly is. So, you said you are a big Horror movie fan. You mentioned some Horror films you like, but what turned you to the genre?

Marque Richardson – Probably because I’m sick. (Laughs) I remember being four years old and I was watching Pet Sematary; it was one of my favorite movies as a four or five-year-old child. I still remember the nightmare I had after watching the movie. The scene in my head didn’t happen in the film. I can still see it… there was a forest, it was dark, there was a shadow of a person, and green light behind him flashing. I just woke up screaming and went to try to find my parents. (Laughs)

I couldn’t tell you why my parents were letting me watch that stuff when I was that young. (Laughs) I couldn’t tell you also why I just gravitate towards it. I remember watching It (1990) when I was about seven-years-old and having a nightmare too. A lot of these films were funny to me too. Even Alfred Hitchcock films like The Birds (1963), which my mother was terrified of, but I laughed so hard at the movie when I was a child. (Laughs) I don’t know if I was just detached from what was actually happening.

We would watch all the Friday the 13th movies, sitting on the floor with a blanket, and eating pizza. That was a nostalgic time for me; so maybe I just love the nostalgia of the times I had with my family… but I love Horror films! I love Horror movies, good and bad, and I don’t know why.

Friday the 13th / Paramount Pictures (1980)
Pet Sematary / Paramount Pictures (1989)

Cryptic Rock – That is really cool. Well, being a fan, you have been fortunate to work in Horror too. You worked with Janelle Monáe in Antebellum (2020). It was a really well-done film… so what was it like working on that?

Marque Richardson – That script came across my way and I initially passed on it because of scheduling. Then I got a text from Justin Simien saying, “Janelle is looking for you.” I said, “Janelle who?” He said, “Janelle Monáe.” I said “ahhh.” I was freaking out because, for me, it’s Prince, Rick James, and Janelle Monáe. When we were shooting Dear White People (the film), I was listening to one of her albums on repeat.

She called me and told me she had this project she was working on, thought I would be good for it, and she started to describe it to me. I put myself on mute during the phone conversation, was skimming through my emails and said to myself, “Is this that shit I passed on initially!” I told her, “Whatever, anything for you Janelle.” She is such a joy, such a talent, and that project was crazy. We shot it in New Orleans; I love the city and the food out there. That was an interesting project for sure.

Cryptic Rock – That is a cool story how it all came together in the end. Sometimes you cannot speak about a project until it has been announced, but do you have anything coming up that you can talk about?

Marque Richardson – That is what they say. (Laughs) One of the projects is the feature for That’s Our Time. I also have the show UnPrisoned which came out on March 10th. There was an article that came out about UnPrisoned that said it was the highest viewed Netflix series in 2023… so that is cool! I learned so much from working with Delroy Lindo and Kerry Washington on UnPrisoned; I’m very grateful.

There is one thing that I cannot talk about, but that is coming sometime in 2025. And there is something else that I’ve got that I’m excited about… but I can’t talk about it. (Laughs)

Antebellum / Lionsgate (2020)
UnPrisoned / Hulu (2023)

Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Well, you seem to have a lot of cool stuff coming up. You mentioned some legendary artists such as Prince and Rick James as musical favorites. Out of curiosity, what are some of your other favorite musical artists/bands?

Marque Richardson – R&B is my top favorite; I’m an R&B thug (Laughs) In terms of artists – Prince, Rick James, Janelle Monáe, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye. I’m doing a deep dive into old music right now. I kind of live there anyway; because I just listened to my parents’ music growing up, and it is kind of where I stay. I am just doing this dive into finding old music that I hadn’t heard before.

Then I hear music that has been sampled so many different times, and then thinking I found the original version, but find out there were two more versions! That is great and blows my mind every single time. I also love Anita Baker. I was just listening to Anita Baker and Chapter 8 the other day, the song “Just Wanna Be Your Girl.” I’m deep in it.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, and that is a great, fun way to discover new music. For example, Luniz “I Got Five on It” samples Club Nouveau’s “Why You Treat Me So Bad.” When you find this out, you dig deeper into Club Nouveau and you find all the amazing music they have created. You can just keep diving down from there.

Marque Richardson – Yes, and that is also a reminder for me that there is nothing new under the sun. Everybody steals from everybody and everything. As an artist it’s a reminder and gives me freedom. It reminds you with music to just play, try different things, and grow.

For more on Marque Richardson: | Twitter | Instagram 

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