Comedian Diallo Riddle is co-starring on NBC's newest sitcom, "Marlon," alongside Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, and Bresha Webb. An Atlanta native living in Los Angeles, Riddle is most known for his work behind the camera on shows like Comedy Central's "Chocolate News," NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and TBS's upcoming Jordan Peele/Tracy Morgan series "The Last O.G." Riddle even had the chance to work on the Atlanta based Edgar Wright film "Baby Driver."
Riddle and I had the chance to catch up. For the full, unedited and uncensored interview, head to C+ Comedy.
Since you’re on this television show and you’re not behind the camera writing, how has that transition been for you?
Riddle: It was crazy at first. There were times we would finish rehearsal and the head writer would be like “Alright guys. Let’s head on up,” talking to the other writers. I’d be like “Alright. Man, we’re going to be here tonight. I can feel it.” [laughs] They’d be like “No, Mr. Riddle. Do not follow us.” You can take it one of two ways. They want to protect the talent or “we don’t want your ideas.” It was trippy not being a part of the writer’s room. But I kind of loved it because I’ve never gotten to flex strictly an actor’s muscle. Truthfully, it’s all so very generous.
It all comes from the top. Marlon’s so generous and open to ideas that I found – especially as the season went along – if we were doing the third take and we’d already gotten the script, then I could easily go to the writers and say “Hey, what do you guys think if I said ‘blah blah blah?’” They’d be like “Oh yeah! Do that! Do that!” As the week went on, I would be in my dressing room, scribbling my notes in the margins. Who knows? I haven’t even seen any of these episodes yet. It’s going to be new to me what they kept in and what they had to cut for time. I’m going to be watching every episode – as should America – not knowing what’s going to happen next.
You spoke a little bit on sitcoms of television’s past. Have you been channeling any characters from those shows specifically in order to help you with your first time multicam work?
Riddle: I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to think about some of your favorite multicam moments of the past. It’s such a specific medium and the timing is so different than single camera where you just toss off the funny line. It’s the opposite. You have to leave it floating out there for people to hear that joke sometimes. I think it’s inevitable that I was probably thinking about some of my favorite sitcom characters.
By the way, not all of them are from the 80’s and 90’s. I know I mentioned the Cosby Show and Seinfeld…but one of my favorite recent multicams was How I Met Your Mother. I felt like those actors brought a new life and way of doing the multicam format in a way that didn’t seem like I was trying to be a secondary guy on Taxi. It’s not the Mary Tyler Moore Show anymore and I thought a lot about How I Met Your Mother and some of the other shows that are more recent.
Truthfully, even Carmichael influenced a lot. I love the fact that here’s a show tackling really hard topics like consent but they’re doing it in a multicam format. Shows like that, shows like our show – that format still has a lot of life left in it.
I’m glad you mentioned Carmichael because that was definitely one of my favorite shows of the past decade.
Riddle: There you go. Great show. And so many friends are still on that show. It’s weird when I look at certain shows like Carmichael and Insecure and I think “Oh yeah. I worked with that person and I worked with that actor and I’ve been on staff with that writer and I hired that writer.” In my producing capacity between those two shows, if a bomb went off, I’d have to make new friends because there are so many people between those two shows that are truly great and killing it and having fantastic 2017s. Despite everything going on in the world that makes me depressed and makes me never want to watch the news again, there’s some good stuff being made – some good creative stuff. And I hope we get to be a part of the discussion.
All that said, I think that Carmichael and Marlon are two entirely different shows. I think they reflect the personalities of the star of the show. And I think that’s okay because I don’t think the star of every show needs to be the same because it has black characters. I give NBC props for not putting the shows on back to back. I feel like that’s what would’ve happened in the 1990’s. The network would’ve had two black shows ostensibly about families. “Okay, those are clearly back to back so we can keep the blacks out there for an hour.” I don’t think that would’ve served either show, to compare them. I think they’re very different and they’re trying to achieve different things.
It’s amazing both Marlon [Wayans] and Jerrod get to express themselves in these shows, like you said, [that] are different. I’m so glad they exist because, 5 years ago, these things wouldn’t have been around. Insecure wouldn’t be a thing, Atlanta wouldn’t be a thing. None of these shows would be alive at all. It’s amazing that they can have all of these different conversations and be incredibly relevant for the next 45,000 years.
Riddle: 100 percent. I’m living proof of that because Bashir – my writing partner -- and I actually sold a show to HBO in 2011 while we were still writers at Jimmy Fallon. At the time, there was not one half hour black anything that I can think of that had the attitude and the tone that we were striving for. We actually ended up shooting two pilots with them – one called The Reporters and the other called Brothers in Atlanta. I stand by both of those pilots. I thought they were both super strong. They both, obviously, if they had been made would’ve come out before the current crop of Atlanta and Insecure.
I think the heartbreaking thing and yet the encouraging thing about it is that after 4 years and 2 months of development, we have no show to show for it. But I think if either of those pilots were in development today, there’d be at least a 50/50 chance that they’d make it to air. I do think we’re 100 percent of a different environment than we were in 2011 when we first made our HBO deal and everybody looked at us like we were crazy because we wanted to do something that was – I will say – like a heightened reality. A heightened reality set in my home town of Atlanta.
We had to fight a lot of fights and we actually got a series order but it was rescinded when there was a little bit of an executive shuffle at HBO. I say all that just to say that I don’t think in 2017 you have to have as many conference calls, as many creative back and forths, and as many – quite honestly – fights to get something of their quality on the air. Right now, there’s a great opportunity for young creators to get their material on the air.
I live here in Atlanta and you would’ve had an easy time.
Riddle: What high school?
I went to Roswell High School.
Riddle: I know Roswell! I went to Mays High School…Mays High Raider and proud of it!
You would’ve had an easy time making that show here because Atlanta loves shows about it. Baby Driver is still being talked about; Atlanta won’t shut up about Atlanta. It’s crazy.
Riddle: I worked on Baby Driver. I helped out with the music. You can look at the credit sequence because I got a “Thanks” from the director. It says “Thanks to Diallo Riddle.” I would’ve even gotten a music supervisor credit but…it’s a long story. Basically though, when Edgar [Wright] was looking to, as he put it, “put a little Atlanta stank on it…” we have the same agent and they were like “Oh you should sit down with Diallo.”
We spent hours and days and weeks talking about music. Edgar’s one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve been a fan since Shaun of the Dead. So the chance to work with him on that stuff…He already had an idea – I’d say of 90 percent of the music going in [laughs]. The fact I got to help out at all really makes me happy.
You talk about content being around for 4,000 years, I feel that way about my involvement with Baby Driver. When I finally saw it out here at the L.A. premiere, I was like “Holy [expletive]! I got to be a part of something cool!” I could’ve been in this movie! He actually offered me a chance to do a cameo and, of course, I was out here shooting the HBO thing. Sometimes you make the wrong choice. [laughs]