Marcel Spears Talks 'The Neighborhood' Storylines and Behind-the-Scenes Changes (Exclusive)

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Marcel Spears is on fire! The New Orleans native currently stars on the hit CBS sitcom The Neighborhood as Marty alongside Hollywood legends Tichina Arnold and Cedric The Entertainer. Prior to the show, Spears stared in The Mayor

With a background in theater, Spears is soaking up the knowledge working on a set with so many other talented actors. What he's most excited about however is the art imitating life stories being shared on the show. PopCulture spoke with Spears about the changes on the show within the past year, his love of the show, and his theater dreams.

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(Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS)

PC: In Season 4 of The Neighborhood, you guys are really in the swing of things. How have you been enjoying the response from this season thus far?

MS: It's been great. I think the show continues to develop and mature in a really positive and progressive way. I think the audience grows with us. I think especially this season, which is typical for our show but especially this season we've had some really hard-hitting episodes that I think have sparked a lot of really good conversation and brought healing to a lot of different people. So I'm really proud that the show is able to do that.

One of the major things that have been in the news in relation to the show is that prior to this season, it was announced that a new showrunner would be taking over and the previous showrunner stepped down. It was the previous showrunner's belief that he couldn't really tell the stories from his lens for his specific reasons. What did you make of that decision after the show had been on for several seasons at that point?

I think I'm always going to be grateful for Jim Reynolds for giving me a job. He was the first person I met in production. He was in the audition room, I think he was one of the biggest cheerleaders for me playing Marty. So I'm always going to be grateful for him, but I will trust his judgment. If he feels as though he was getting to a place to where he didn't necessarily have all the tools or all the information to be able to tell the authentic story that he had wrote, then I'm willing to trust his judgment. 

I feel as though the beautiful thing about this show is it requires you to talk to people that you don't normally talk to and have conversations and get information about things that you might not necessarily know. That's the premise of the show. You have this white, mid-Western family meeting with this very urban California family. And they don't always agree, they don't always understand each other but they find a way to bridge that divide. And I think Jim was able to do that, and he carried us to a certain point. And I think he just felt as though he wasn't able to contribute in that way anymore and he wanted to keep the integrity of the show so he stepped down. And we were lucky and fortunate enough to get Meg DeLoatch, who first of all, whenever you have a black woman on set in the leading role, things are going to be okay.

So Meg came in, she hit the ground running. She had all of these wonderful ideas for the characters and for the storylines. Most recently we had the episode about Beth's character having a miscarriage. That was something that Meg actually went through. And not taking anything away from Jim, just as a man, he wouldn't have been able to tell that story. He wouldn't have naturally went to tell that story in that way. And so I think it gives us the opportunity to tell more diverse stories. It gives the opportunity to be more specific in the kind of show that we're making and I'm really excited about the direction we're going in.

As a fan of the show, I was actually excited as well. I liked the show previously. Getting Meg DeLoatch is seriously a big deal. She did shows like Eve and The Proud Family, and the storylines this season have been amazing. And like you said, the show has just continued to grow season over season, but for you what's been different filming season four? Because ahead of the season there was the promise that it would be a little heavier, a little grittier as far as content that would be produced. And you guys are definitely delivering. So what has been your experience from previous seasons to now?

I wouldn't even say that the show is heavier now. I think the show just reflects life. I feel like a sitcom's job is to sort of be a mirror to where we are at the given time that we're on air. And I feel like it would be disingenuous of us to just talk about the good times, or just give you good laughs. I feel like that is what kills shows a lot of times. That kind of veneer becomes unrelatable. Especially at a time when at the beginning of 2020 we had protests about racial injustice, then we have a global pandemic. All of these things are happening around us in this time and I think the shows job is to talk about some of these things, even if it's on a microscopic level and even if it's through the lens of comedy I feel like there has to be medicine with the sugar. You put a little bit in there so that it gives us an opportunity to not only process what we're dealing with but really be able to breathe through it and move through it as a community.

And in the latest episode, I found it funny because as you spoke about, with having the lens of a woman, of a Black woman as the showrunner, obviously the storylines will be a little bit different. And one of the things that happened was that your character was set up with a matchmaker and you were pushed on the whole idea of marriage and starting a family. And that's usually pushed on women as far as society is concerned. So what was your take on that storyline and now do you have, I'm not saying you didn't before, but do you have a little bit more empathy - or have you been telling your guys to have a little bit more empathy for women, for what we deal with on a daily basis?

100%. First of all, it is not lost on me. The pressure that women, especially women who are forward-thinking and moving and progressing in their life, the pressure that they are put under to be a wife and a mother. It's honestly a little crazy. And I think millennials are combating that idea a little more. I'm from a generation of people that are like uh-uh. I'm not having them talk me into having kids, I'm being a fun auntie for a while. 

And I think it's funny because Meg's storyline is reflective of my actual life. I'm from the South. And yes, women are pressured much earlier than men, but at my age my mom is definitely looking at me like where are the grandbabies? 

And so it's one of those situations to where it felt so honest, and it felt so real. It was easy for me to connect to it, and I feel like a lot of people will because there are those families where, especially in the Butlers, it's just two boys. And so there is no daughter to pressure, and if you have a mom that's really family-oriented, and you have a strong family unit like the Butlers, you going to have that look where your mom is looking at you like all right, so you gone. You and your brother moved out of the house, I need somebody in here to keep me company. Where the kids at? Like what's happening? What are you doing?

So it's really interesting. The fun thing about Marty is he's at a place in his life where he is also looking for love. He wants a partnership, and so that's an interesting element to add into that. He's not necessarily thinking about kids, but he is at an age where he has his job, he has his career. Everything else in his life seems to be going in the right direction and he's missing this one piece. So it was interesting to talk about that in the show.

It's definitely been fun to watch the current season unwrap and I'm excited to see what the future seasons hold, but I'm also excited to see what else you're going to be doing outside of the show. And one of the things that I love about you is that your background is in theater. Are you looking to delve into that again? Especially after a year and a half of not being able to physically go into theaters with COVID and now that restrictions are being relaxed?

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I'm excited for theater to come back. I am always open to do a show. I'm always looking for a way to fit a show into my schedule. I'm looking forward, because The Neighborhood takes so much of my time and is a priority, it's hard to fit things in. And obviously I don't have the weight or the clout of Cedric and Max, so I can't, no Broadway show is going to wait for Marcel Spears. You know what I'm saying? No movie is waiting for Marcel. So I just got to pick and choose my moments and fit it in when I can. But as often as I get a chance to, I'm always willing to do theater. I'm always willing to do a movie or a mini-series or something like that. So I'm constantly auditioning. It just doesn't always work with the schedule that we have so far.

The Neighborhood airs every Monday from 8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and is available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+.