No Black Pain Projects: Marsai Martin Creates Space for Joy

Black actors settling for trauma roles should be a thing of the past

Allison Wiltz
ZORA
Published in
5 min readApr 15, 2021

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Photo: Marsai Martin/Getty Images

After winning two NAACP Image Awards this past year, Marsai Martin recently turned heads in an interview. When asked what type of projects she wanted to produce next, she made it clear. She would say no to any “Black pain projects.” Even at 16, the star recognizes her power and has no qualms about wielding it on and off the set.

Martin may be young, but she’s nobody’s rookie. In short order, she became a household name by starring in ABC’s hit series black-ish. Then she broke a world record by becoming the youngest executive producer in Hollywood history.

She earned that accolade by acting in and producing the 2019 smash hit Little. In the film, she plays an adult executive who turns into a teen because of a child’s wish. The executive, played by Regina Hall, needs to get in touch with her inner child. After some reluctance, she gives in and becomes stronger from the experience. Issa Rae plays her supportive assistant. As a combo, this trilogy of Black actors will make you double over in laughter.

Martin holds several NAACP Image Awards. Photo: Getty Images

Little was a feel-good movie. Not only did Martin break a glass ceiling, but her performance also made Hollywood ask why this ceiling ever existed. Seeing a Black teen, not just on the screen but in a leadership role, shows the power of representation.

As a Hollywood heavyweight, Martin’s decision to decline Black pain projects emphasizes quality over all else. It’s not enough for Martin to be cast or to have writers pitch ideas. She only accepts projects that line up with her values.

As she told the Hollywood Reporter:

I have a couple of rules when you come into my office. When you come into my office, don’t give me this — I don’t do no…

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Allison Wiltz
ZORA
Writer for

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder allisonthedailywriter.com https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola