NOC Interview: Marcel Spears on CBS’ Comedy Series, ‘The Neighborhood’

Marcel Spears portrays Marty on the hit comedy series, The Neighborhood. The fourth season premiered in September with new episodes continuing to air on Mondays at 8 PM ET/PT. Episodes can be watched on CBS and are available to stream on Paramount+.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD stars Cedric the Entertainer in a comedy about what happens when the friendliest guy in the Midwest moves his family to a neighborhood in Los Angeles where not everyone looks like him or appreciates his extreme neighborliness. Dave Johnson is a good-natured, professional conflict negotiator. When his wife, Gemma, gets a job as a school principal in L.A., they move from Michigan with their young son, Grover, unfazed that their new dream home is located in a community quite different from their small town. Their opinionated next-door neighbor, Calvin Butler, is wary of the newcomers, certain that the Johnsons will disrupt the culture on the block. However, Calvin’s gracious wife, Tina, rolls out the welcome wagon; their chipper younger son, Marty, thinks the Johnsons could be good for the community; and their older son, Malcolm, finds Dave may finally be someone who understands him. Dave realizes that fitting into their new community is more complex than he expected, but if he can find a way to connect with Calvin, they have an excellent chance of making their new neighborhood their home.

I had the chance to ask the actor about season four of The Neighborhood, sitcoms tackling challenges in life, where he drew inspiration for the role of Marty, his favorite dynamic to portray, dream roles, and much more! Keep reading to find out everything he shared.

Gerard Sandoval

What are you most excited for fans to see from season 4 of The Neighborhood?
Marcel Spears: Season 4 might be my favorite season so far! I’m excited for fans to see the new faces this season. We have some really cool guests and characters joining us.

The show uses its platform to address a lot of important topics, is that part of what attracted you originally?
100%. Growing up, all of my favorite sitcoms were able to find a balance between “rolling on the floor funny” situations and the relatable challenges in life. That balance is embedded in the fabric of any good show and The Neighborhood does it so well. When I got the chance to be a part of that, I jumped in.

Is there a takeaway you hope audiences get from the show?
I hope the show encourages people to take pride and ownership of their neighborhoods. In a world that has become such a vastly-connected global community, people sometimes forget to get to know their neighbors or the local hot spots in their area. There is so much beauty and power in a tight-knit community, and it starts with the people next door to you.

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What is your personal favorite aspect of the comedy genre?
I have always been drawn to comedy’s ability to bring people together. Everyone enjoys a good laugh! People have met spouses and formed lifelong friendships on the strength of a good joke. Comedy disarms and allows people to be open enough to connect and understand one another.

There are so many iconic comedy shows, is there somewhere or from someone specific that you looked to for inspiration with your performance?
SO MANY! Kenan Thompson, Kim Coles, Alfonso Ribeiro, Josh Radnor, Jaleel White, Christopher B. Duncan, Marlon Wayans, Rue McClanahan, Jim Parsons, and that is just to name a very small few. I stand on the shoulders of so many talented actors that played legendary sitcom characters. When you see Marty Butler you are bound to see flashes of Carlton Banks, Marlon, Ted Mosby, and Blanche Devereaux. I grew up watching those shows; they definitely inform my sense of humor and approach to the work.

What have you learned from playing Marty?
I think playing Marty has given me such a deep appreciation for my role as a big brother. Being the oldest of 5, I have 4 siblings to look out for. I always knew I had to set a good example for them, but I never really felt like I knew how to do that. I’ve never had a big brother before and on the show I get to play Malcolm’s (Sheaun McKinney) little brother. The way they balance brotherhood and friendship is really inspiring. It has given me so much perspective on how important those sibling bonds are, especially as you get older.

Monty Brinton/CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Which dynamic (friendship or relationship) of Marty’s is your favorite to either bring to life or see play out on screen?
My favorite relationship is the relationship Marty has with his mom, Tina, who is played by the incomparable Tichina Arnold. There is a special place in heaven for mama’s boys and Marty definitely fits the bill. As a mama’s boy myself, I have so much fun in the scenes I have with Tichina and I think the audience can see that we actually enjoy each other.

Are there any storylines or themes you’d like the show to explore going forward?
I’m excited to see Marty find his first love. Marty is 100% boyfriend material and I am so curious to see how he navigates being in his first real ‘grown-up’ relationship.

Any favorite on set memories that stand out to you from filming the new season?
One of my favorite set memories has been the matchmaker episode. It was so hard filming the speed dating scene because everyone kept breaking character and laughing. I love moments like that.

Monty Brinton/CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Which show, that you’re personally a fan of, would you love to see The Neighborhood do a crossover with?
I have two. First, I selfishly think the gang from The Big Bang Theory would mesh well with Marty Butler. Second, if it was possible to animate the cast of The Neighborhood, I would love to see an epic fantasy crossover with The Simpsons.

You’ve spoken a lot about your background and journey, how do you feel when you look back at everything and see where you are now?
I just feel blessed. As much as I believe in myself and work hard to be where I am, I still can’t help but look back in genuine awe of how far I have come. The little Black boy from New Orleans is an HBCU grad, has a master’s degree from Columbia University, and is a real-life TV star on a successful sitcom in HOLLYWOOD! I could have never guessed it would be like this, all I can say is: God is good.

Do you have any dream projects or roles for the future?
As a comic book nerd, I would definitely jump at the chance to play a DC or Marvel character. Brother Voodoo, Blue Marvel, John Stewart (Green Lantern), or Icon would all be cool characters to explore. As a theater nerd, I would love to do a Broadway show. And as an artist, I am always looking to tell stories that inspire people to grow or change for the better, and I’m always pursuing those roles.