What began with a dream, empowered by family, love, and support, Marsai Martin‘s Genius Entertainment is now bringing Black Girl Magic to Disney — and the hottest skate moves coming out of Chicago.
Three years in the making, the talented Genius founder, actress, and executive producer is anticipating the premiere of her own Disney Channel show. At just 18 years old, Martin is forging a path for young Black girls and boys to achieve great heights in the entertainment industry.
The Fantasy Football star admitted to BLACK ENTERPRISE that she is still wrapping her head around the blessings and the growing responsibilities. Although she may be well-known for her acting prowess onscreen, her creative vision behind the camera has only gotten clearer.
“I think that is a sign that I should keep doing it,” Martin told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
Four years ago, Martin became the youngest person to executive produce a studio film, Little, after launching her Los Angeles-based company Genius Productions at age 14. Then she made history again as the youngest to sign a first-look production deal at Universal.
“When Little came out, it was like, ‘I can do this? In this stature? In this level? And it can come out in the way that I want it to?'” she recalled.
“So many doors opened for me, not talking about just in the industry, but for my mind, for my happiness, my creative thoughts to just run wild. So to be able to do that and to experiment in a way, I just enjoy it. So that’s really what keeps me motivated. I’ve always challenged myself.”
Ahead of the series premiere, BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Martin about her intentions behind bringing stories like Saturdays to life. From her parents, Josh and Carol Martin, to her star production team, she also credited longtime friend and Genius’ Head of Television, Nicole Dow, for helping her amplify her voice.
“You have to use your voice often to fight for what you want, and fight for what you want to see because it is different, and it is new and it’s going to be new for a lot of people,” Martin said.
“We don’t have production companies led by 13-, 14-year-old Black girl CEOs. But here we are and we’re doing it and we’re getting it done,” said Dow about Martin’s budding leadership.
Dow is responsible for Genius’ shows such as Saturdays, Remix My Space (Discovery+) and Tiny Talk Show (Quibi).
A show to remember
Saturdays, set to premiere March 24 on Disney Channel and stream Disney+ next day, is a coming-of-age comedy featuring skate culture, Chicago dreams, sisterhood, and better yet, an all-Black cast.
The series revolves around an ambitious14-year-old, Paris Johnson, and her goal-striving best friends, Simone and Ari, also known as the We-B-Girlz skate crew. Viewers of all ages can follow the trio as they hone their roller skating skills on the cool parquet floor of Saturdays, a local skating rink in Chicago.
The series stars Danielle Jalade (Yes Day) as Paris Johnson, Daria Johns (Nappily Ever After) as Simone Samson, Golden Brooks (Girlfriends) as Deb Johnson, Omar Gooding (Barbershop) as Cal Johnson, Jermaine Harris (The Map of Tiny Perfect Things) as London Johnson, Peyton Basnight (Sudden Sisters) as Ari, and Tim Johnson Jr. (Ballers) as Derek “D-Rok” Troy.
Dow, whose goal with Genius is to populate the television landscape with as many stories centering on girls of color as possible, echoes Martin’s appreciation for Saturdays’ ability to acknowledge Black girls, while spotlighting skate culture and relatable family and marital dynamics.
More specifically, Martin wants audiences to hold Saturdays as dear as they would the nostalgic shows of their time.
“There were shows back in the day where my parents will still show them to me and be like, “We had That’s So Raven and Cory in the House, mixed in with shows like Martin to where it was such an amazing ensemble of people that you still grow with and you still remember to this day. And I wanted a show like that,” she recalled.
Martin added, “Being able to produce and create content that is for everybody and for somebody to relate to is what makes me happy and what’s best. And it doesn’t have to be my story for it to be great and for it to make sense that I’m creating it.”
In doing so, Martin felt inclined to introduce new talent to the world, and to empower those next for the throne.
“It means the world for people to get to know these amazing young Black girls that are coming up and not having it be a handful of young Black actresses that you can name off of your hand,” Martin said.
Dow added: “There still needs to be people opening doors, and paving roads, and laying the foundation for the next group of people to come in that we are going to continue to do the work. I mean, it’s not always about the win. Sometimes it is about laying that path.”