Features

People To Watch – Marlon King

Written by HilaryDrummond

Marlon King is an extraordinary success story. Has any actor ever been as desired without ever headlining a major picture? As if single-handedly setting out to prove that actors hailing from the Caribbean aren’t necessarily limited or disregarded by place of birth, in the theatre and film industry, throughout the world, the man’s rise has been meteoric, to say the least. And, given the projects he has in the pipeline, it can only continue. This Artist is definitely the one to watch out for.

Born Marlon Garic King on the 22nd of March 1978, in Kingston Jamaica. King grew up amidst the middle-classes. His father left when he was very young, leaving Marlon to be raised by his mother, Beverley, and his grandparents, in St Andrews, Kingston. His mother was self-employed owning numerous businesses (later becoming a pastor). The last of 7 children from his father and the first of three children from his mother.

Beverley had high hopes for her son, wanting him to be an accountant or a lawyer, and she instilled in him a serious work ethic. In this time of colour prejudice, she made him recognize his disadvantaged state and taught him that he needed to work ten times harder than everyone else, just to survive. Consequently, whilst young Marlon was not a natural academic, he was a hard worker at Kingston’s Meadowbrook High School, earning 7 CXC’s and constantly played upon his natural charm. He learned many skills like playing the piano and guitar. Some skills he found to be inherent, that of expressive writing and performing whether it be singing, dancing, or acting. In retrospect, he recalls the first inkling of his ability for acting. From the tender age of three, he would continually fool his mother for days in believing he was too sick to attend school, stating ‘ believe me fooling my mother was no easy task and at age three, with all the intensity and concentration, I deserve an Oscar!’.

He would always appear in school productions, his enthusiasm and early abilities usually earning him lead roles, whilst his singing abilities were bringing him acclaim, captivating judges and audiences. Prize-winning awards were achieved for his school and church.

After graduating from High School, he wanted to enroll in The Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, as opposed to the University of the West Indies to read Accountancy. His mother, eager on her son continuing in ‘real’ education, of course, was not keen on this choice of path, saying she was not going to pay for him to become a bigger idiot then he is now. However, once realizing that it was performing that fired his blood she agreed to support him on his path. Marlon signed up for a 3-year degree at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts. Reading Drama and Performing Arts.

Suddenly, in 1998 when he was 20 and all was set fair, it nearly all ended. While doing stunts on his motorbike with a group of friends, the bike unfortunately sped out of control and there was a horrific crash. Taken to hospital, he was found to have crushed all the bones in his right leg, the bones in his left leg were fractured and the top of his little finger had almost gone. It was thought that he would never walk again, let alone star in a Hollywood Feature film along side Harvey Keitel, Mel Gibson and Michael Madson.

Before and after graduation, King remained in Kingston for some time, doing TV ads and acting in regional theatre productions. One performance as the womanizing, conniving Papa Ceta, is still talked about at Edna Manley to this day; and even making a film debut, in The Virgin Directed by Paul Butner. However, King was ambitious; Wole Soyinka was coming to town, casting for his highly anticipated Beatification of Area Boy. Everyone was up for audition. Marlon did an audition for the leading role and was ecstatic when the call came from Shoainka saying he got it. King was brilliant and, at last, his brilliance was noted.

He gained one of the most recognized agents in the Caribbean and starred in many major productions including his first Tour of the United Kingdom in Breadfruit Kingdom, working with the likes of Charles Hyatt and Lenford Salmon. Touring the United States of America in Ragga Reggae, Touring Italy in Romotom and Performing for and meeting both the Prince of Wales and Sir Bill Morris.

King became one of the founding members of the Area Youth Foundation, providing urban youths with social and life skills training through an arts-based educational programme, using the power of the arts to foster social harmony, facilitate development, and change lives. Established by Mr O Ellis, Mrs S Graham and Mr W. Bell. Winston ‘bello’ Bell another extraordinary black actor/director from Jamaica, some twenty years his senior, took him under his wing. King now refers to him as father. The foundation now has emerged as a national asset, performing to audiences of all walks of life in Jamaica and around the world.

At this moment in time Mr. King is currently on location in the United Kingdom working on the highly anticipated blockbuster film ‘Red Light Runners’, directed by Nick Egan. Not leaving theatre behind, he is also touring with the Blue Mountain Theatre Company and Oliver Samuels. What is more, King is a drama teacher and mentor in the sister project of The Area Youth Foundation UK.

Of all the stars you hear claiming to be grateful for their success, Marlon King is perhaps the most believable. After all, he could have been sat in a wheelchair watching someone else play his parts in ‘Red Light Runners’, ‘Third World Cop’, ‘Dancehall Queen’ and ‘It’s a Dancehall Ting’. Really, you can only feel happy for the guy.

About the author

HilaryDrummond