Marsai Martin is taking over the film industry, one female-led movie at a time.
When Marsai Martin was 10, she had her first meeting with Universal Studios.
The actress was already the star of Black-ish, the Golden Globe Award-winning sitcom in which she stars as Tracee Ellis Ross’ younger sister Diane. Martin was nervous, she has recalled to Teen Vogue, but she came loaded with ideas for future film projects and with her already impressive CV. She dressed the part, donning a tailored blazer.
That meeting became the first of many between the film company and the pre-teen. Three years later, they would officially draft her to star in Little, a gender-flipped reboot of Tom Hanks’ Big in which an overbearing female CEO (Regina Hall) is zapped back to her teenage self, leaving her put-upon assistant (Issa Rae) to deal with the fallout. Featuring an all-black lead cast and a black female director, the movie is slated for release in April.
Martin’s star power is all over Little.
Not only is she giving a hilarious performance as a literal girl boss struggling to reckon with the loss of her authority as she switches board rooms for class rooms, she also came up with the idea for the story and executive produced the film. That credit makes the now-14-year-old the youngest producer in the history of Hollywood. (Millie Bobby Brown is hot on her heels, adding an executive producer credit to her starring role in a movie about Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister.)
And Martin is showing no signs of slowing down. Martin has founded her own film company – Genius Productions – which now boasts six employees. In February, Martin and Genius Productions inked a first-look deal with Universal, meaning that the film studio will see all of Martin’s ideas for movies first, and decide whether or not they want to turn them into motion pictures.
They’ve already greenlit one: StepMonster, in which Martin stars as a teenager plotting against her father’s odious new partner. And Martin has plenty more ideas where they came from, like an all-singing, all-dancing musical, or something with Tiffany Haddish.
Martin doesn’t wear blazers to her meetings anymore. “Now, it’s like I come in with sweats and with a hoodie,” she told Teen Vogue. “And I’m just like: ‘So here’s what’s going down, guys.’” At just 14, she’s already the boss of her production company.
Her goal is to keep producing fun films with a female focus, all led by black women. “[Little] made me feel like this can happen,” Martin told Teen Vogue. “It wasn’t impossible. We definitely need more [representation] in the industry. Of course, the more I keep creating, the more that will probably happen.”
If anyone can do it, it’s Martin. When her first look deal with Universal was announced, she released a statement that seemed tailor made to be turned into motivational quote tiles.
“I am so excited for the magic I’ll be able to create and produce with Universal,” she said. “My goal is to show young women and girls that our voices and ideas matter and you are never too young to dream BIG!”
Little is in cinemas in the US on 12 April, and in the UK later in 2019.