While the CBS comedy The Neighborhood features a cast of comedy legends, Marcel Spears often proves to be a scene-stealer. The actor plays aerospace engineer Marty Butler, the youngest son of Tina (Tichina Arnold) and Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer).
The show centers around the Butler family as they adjust to their new neighbors, Dave (Max Greenfield) and Gemma Johnson (Beth Behrs), who are quite different from anyone else in their L.A. County town.
Like the previous seasons of the show, the third season of The Neighborhood has juxtaposed humor with real-life issues.
Marcel Spears himself knows a thing or two about infusing comedy into tough circumstances.
The actor grew up in New Orleans, but his family moved away from the area in 2005 following the devastation due to Hurricane Katrina. During this time, he developed perseverance and an attitude of never giving up, which has persisted throughout his acting career.
Marcel spoke exclusively with Distractify about how his upbringing shaped him and how another show's cancellation opened the door for The Neighborhood. He also dished on the Dec. 7 episode of the comedy and explained how working with his on-screen mom, Tichina Arnold, has sharpened his comedy skills.
Marcel Spears spoke about how "resiliency" from Hurricane Katrina continued to his acting career.
When he the 30-year-old actor was a teenager, Hurricane Katrina decimated the area that he grew up in. His family evacuated before the storm touched down in the New Orleans area, and they learned about the devastation along with the rest of the country.
Though he hasn't lived full-time in his hometown for more than a decade and a half, Marcel keeps his New Orleans roots close to him. This is evidenced by the way he lists his name on Instagram: Marcel from New Orleans.
While speaking with Distractify, Marcel explained that he didn't want to let the effects of the deadly storm define him or bring him down. Instead, that time helped to shape his work ethic and the way that he goes after roles.
"After Hurricane Katrina, my family had to pick up the pieces to find joy, success, and life after that situation. In this [acting] business, that's given me this resiliency or this perspective that, 'If I'm still here, if I still have the ability to do what I want, no matter what happens, I've got to keep going,'" Marcel shared. "There's a way for me to build the things that I need and to work for the things that I want."
His family's tenacity to keep going fueled Marcel with regards to his professional life. After obtaining his MFA in Acting from Columbia University in 2015, he actively began working on the stage. Within two years of his graduation, he was cast as T.K. Clifton on the ABC comedy, The Mayor.
But, the show was axed after one season in 2017.
"When The Mayor got canceled, I had just moved my life to L.A. It got canceled so fast, and I was like, 'There's got to be a way to find something or make something for me here in L.A.,'" he continued. "I got that from having that experience in Katrina. It's just realizing that the end of the world is never the end of the world if you're still here, if you still have your loved ones, if you still have people who care about you. You can always find your way."
Though his first big break in Hollywood ended soon after it began, Marcel did find his way again. He was cast in The Neighborhood in March of 2018, and the series debuted six months later.
Marcel explained what drew him to the character and what continues to inspire him as the show progresses.
"Marty is so intelligent, he's really book-smart and career-driven," he said. "He's super savvy when it comes to those things, but there's also a naivete there. There's a greenness to him. He's still learning about adulthood and how to find his way as a young man in the real world."
The actor teased Marty's "big secret" on 'The Neighborhood' and talked about working with Tichina Arnold.
On the third season of The Neighborhood, viewers have seen the Johnsons and the Butlers go to couples' therapy, support Dave's bid for city council, and march for the Black Lives Matter movement.
One of the focuses on the season's fourth episode, "Welcome to the Rooster," is Tina's visit to Marty's new apartment. While there, she learns something about her son that is surprising.
Marcel, understandably, couldn't spoil what exactly Tina finds out, but he did tease how the episode impacts the rest of the season.
"He does have a secret that his mom is not too happy to find," Marcel shared. "There's all these different things and big lessons that are coming down the line that I think are going to be a lot of fun."
Though Tina and Marty may soon be bumping heads on the show, Marcel has positive takeaways from his scenes with Tichina Arnold.
"The thing that I've learned from Tichina more than anything is to trust myself. When you're working with Tichina Arnold, she goes so hard every time. She's so funny every single time. She requires nothing less from that from us," Marcel added. "Learning to trust myself and to trust my comedic instincts has been so important and beneficial to me on the show."
You can catch Marcel and Tichina on The Neighborhood. It airs on Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS.