Just like Mariah Carey in "Precious," Kim Wayans is nearly unrecognizable in current indie darling, "Pariah."
One of the original cast members of the hit 1990's sketch comedy TV show "In Living Color," Wayan's career has taken a dramatic turn. In director Dee Rees' "Pariah," which opened in select cities Dec. 28, Wayans plays Audrey, a religious mom at odds with her daughter's sexuality.
The 50-year-old comedic actress had been looking for an opportunity to show her dramatic chops but found few casting directors willing to take a chance until "Pariah." Wayans said she got the gig by showing Audrey's vulnerability, not her anger.
"I never felt like she was an evil person," Wayans told ABCNews.com. "She's really a sad character who has isolated herself from everybody. I felt so much compassion and empathy for her."
Wayans' performance is earning her accolades. The film, which received a standing ovation at Sundance last year, has picked up awards for Rees and lead actress Adepero Oduye, who plays Audrey's daughter Alike.
While Wayans awaits more dramatic offers, she will continue with her children's book series "Amy Hodgepodge," written with husband Kevin Knotts about a multiracial girl's trials and triumphs. She's in talks to turn it into an animated series.
But comedy is never far behind. Wayans is shopping "Growing Up Wayans," a sitcom that pays homage to her mother, who raised Wayans and her nine siblings in New York's public housing. Wayans' one-woman show, "A Handsome Woman Retreats," which she takes to Florida next month, draws on her humorous experiences during a 10-day silent retreat and recalls the character sketches that made her famous on "In Living Color." Who can forget neighborhood gossip Benita Butrell or the Snack n Shack waitress with an attitude?
The breakthrough Fox series ran for just five seasons starting in 1989 but launched the careers of mega stars Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez and Jamie Foxx and put the Wayans family on the map.
"That really was magic," Wayans said.
Click through to see where other members of the cast are now.
|Keenan Ivory Wayans|
After working as a comedian and actor in such films as "Hollywood Shuffle" and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," Kim's older brother, Keenan Ivory Wayans launched the family in show business when he created "In Living Color." The show, which won an Emmy in 1990, was known for its mostly black cast, boundary-pushing sketches, Fly Girls dancers and live performances by artists such as Queen Latifah, Heavy D. and Mary J. Blige.
Keenan, 53, left the show completely in its fourth year amid complaints that Fox was censoring it and later went on to direct "Scary Movie," a parody of horror films, starring his younger brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans. He'll return to the helm of the series, which gets a reboot on Fox this spring. Though the cast will be new, Kim hopes to make a cameo appearance. "Hopefully, I can blow the dust off Benita's old housecoat and pull her out of the closet," she said.
Two years younger than Keenan, Damon Wayans followed in his older brother to Hollywood, where he received his first role in Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop." While starring in films, like "The Last Boy Scout" opposite Bruce Willis, he helped create such memorable characters on "In Living Color" as the gay film critic and Homey the Clown. Wayans later starred in the hit ABC series "My Wife and Kids."
Early in his career, Damon Wayans struck up a friendship with fellow standup comic Jim Carrey. When Keenan began developing "In Living Color," he cast Carrey, whose memorable characters included Fire Marshall Bill and female bodybuilder Vera de Milo. Carrey's film career took off with "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," which premiered just months after the Fox series ended in 1994. The 49-year-old actor has gone on to play both serious and comic roles in some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters.
Like Carrey, Jamie Foxx got his start on "In Living Color" before becoming an A-list movie star. Foxx joined the show in its third season and is best remembered for the character Wanda, the ugliest woman in the world. He went on to star in his own eponymous sitcom before his film career began taking off in the late 90's. Foxx, now 44, won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles. He also has a thriving music career.
Undoubtedly the most famous former Fly Girl is Jennifer Lopez, who joined the group in the show's third season. That led to a gig as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. But Lopez wouldn't stay in the background for long. She soon broke into acting, becoming a big box office star before taking over the Billboard charts. Her debut last year as a judge on "American Idol" revived her flagging career and, along with her divorce from singer Marc Anthony and her romance with 24-year-old dancer Casper Smart, has J-Lo, 42, once again gracing magazine covers.
Rosie Perez's performance in the opening credits of Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" probably helped her earn the job as choreographer for the Fly Girls. She held the role for four seasons while choreographing music videos for the likes of Janet Jackson and Bobby Brown. After "In Living Color," Perez, now 47, became better known for her nasally voice in such roles as "White Men Can't Jump" but showed serious acting chops in "Fearless," for which she earned an Oscar nod.
|David Alan Grier|
Yale-trained David Alan Grier got his start on stage as a serious actor, but he soon shifted to comedy, making a memorable appearance in Keenan Ivory Wayans' "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." Keenan cast him in "In Living Color," where he played opposite Damon as a gay film critic. His success on the show led to comedic roles in movies and television. Grier, 55, recently returned to Broadway in a revival of Porgy and Bess.
Like his brother and frequent collaborator Shawn, Marlon Wayans, now 39, got his start on "In Living Color." After leaving the show, the younger Wayans siblings starred in their own sitcom, the WB's "The Wayans Bros." Both went on to produce, co-write and star in the "Scary Movie" series.
Standup comedian Tommy Davidson got his first major exposure through "In Living Color," playing such memorable roles as Luther, the cook at Snack n Shack. His most recent film role was in 2009 blaxploitation film spoof "Black Dynamite."