Writer Marcus Guillory Hips Us To 'The Breaks,' Art + Finding His Truth [Interview]
If you’ve never heard the name Marcus Guillory then don’t worry, here’s a rundown as to why you should know the 43-year-old producer and writer behind VH1’s The Breaks. Legendary author Walter Mosley lauded his script, Gully, at the Sundance Writer’s Workshop. Guillory’s fiction novel, Red Now and Laters was shortlisted for the Ernest Gaines Award. His first EP, Postcards from Strangers, which is available now on Yoruba Records, got love around the world.
Now, as a working staff writer for The Breaks, which stars Mack Wilds, Wood Harris and Teyona Taylor, Marcus Guillory helps the team to focus on the ’90s era hip-hop culture and the business deals behind it. With the show making its debut on Feb. 20th at 9:00 p.m. EST, we were fortunate enough to get a bit of time from Marcus Guillory, as he talks with Okayplayer about art, hip-hop, film and finding his truth. Lock your dial in + enjoy the read!
Okayplayer: You started working as a staff writer on the upcoming VH1 television series, The Breaks. What interest did you have around hip-hop and the culture surrounding it?
Marcus Guillory: The cool thing was the movie [that aired on VH1], The Breaks, was focused on my generation, my era. I was living in Philadelphia at the time in the 1990s, going to New York every other weekend because my sister was in New York. I immediately identified with that moment. There are different moments, of course. I remember memorizing Run-DMC lyrics in the ’80s and reciting Kurtis Blow lines while holding my momma’s comb in elementary school. That’s the cool thing about Generation X with hip-hop is that we can mark it from day one to different times in our lives. [The] cool thing was the movie was touching on the good, formative years when I was on the East Coast.
OKP: What about your interest in hip-hop as a young person from Houston?
MG: Being from the South, well… the South with hip-hop was a trip because we were always supportive of the stuff coming from New York and the West Coast. But we were keenly aware that they weren’t feeling us. We supported our artists [like] UGK and the Geto Boys. They were our heroes. We bumped Run-DMC and N.W.A. with just as much passion.
OKP: How long have you been writing on The Breaks as a member of its staff?
MG: We started at the beginning of May. It’s a really smart room. Everybody is very sharp. We want to present a good, authentic story. That is very important because it is easy to set something in a time period, then try to time code it with props and costume design and miss the mark on how people were talking, acting and feeling.
We are taking that all into account. A good number of us are around the same age and were living where our main characters were from. Dan [Charnas], one of our executive producers who wrote the book, The Big Payback, is like the Wikipedia of Hip-Hop [laughs]. It is useful to talk to him and just get information.
OKP: Are there anyone from the hip-hop generation of the ’90s that served as consultants on the show?
MG: We talk to people while we’re in the room. We’ll call people up. We’ll text them. I hit up an NYPD detective to ask him about some stuff [that happened] in Brooklyn in the 1990s, just to make sure what we were going to apply to the plot would translate to people who lived it. Jason’s Lyric—most people from Houston weren’t feeling that movie at all. Some of the movements, [the] mannerisms were off. I was insulted as a Houstonian that people didn’t take the time to really, really get it right. Like, they didn’t care. It was like we got these stars, so let’s prop them at the bayou and keep it moving. I think [that] the audience will be thoroughly entertained and plesantly surprised with this.
OKP: Recently, you were picked to be a part of the Sundance Writer’s Lab. Can you talk more about it?