You may not be familiar with Marsai Martin, but the 14-year-old actress has plans to become a household name.
Martin, who is the star and executive producer of the recently released "Little," is the youngest person in Hollywood ever to executive produce a studio film.
She tells Backstage.com she had the idea to develop her own project when she was just 10 years old and on hiatus from the first season of ABC's "Black-ish," on which she plays Diane. Martin says her agent encouraged her to take a break over hiatus, because she had no upcoming projects. She and her family suggested they try developing their own projects.
"[My agents] basically just laughed at us," she says. "So we fired them."
"That's when we really started plotting our next goal," she says. "One of my mom's favorite movies growing up was 'Big' with Tom Hanks. I thought, 'Oh, OK, what if we do something like that but not like that. Something more modern, with a different perspective, and maybe with an all-black cast.'"
The result is "Little." The comedy centers on a tech mogul, played by Regina Hall, who is thrown for a loop when she awakes one morning as her 13-year-old self. Martin plays the teen, co-starring with Hall and Issa Rae.
"It was cool wearing different hats," Martin tells Backstage.com. "I've always been interested in directing, writing and producing, so when I went behind the scenes, it was like a whole new world that I got to experience. I had such a big support system to help me out, so it was pretty easy."
"Black-ish" creator Kenya Barris tells NPR that the young star is a "little ball of talent" who is wise beyond her years.
"I do think that there is a person who's been here before that speaks through her," he says. "And I think that comes out in how she channels Diane and how she channels these characters that she becomes."
Martin, who signed a production deal earlier this year with Universal Pictures, says that "Little" is one of several films that she plans to create and star in. Her first project with Universal and her company, Genius Productions, will be "StepMonster," a comedy about a girl adjusting to life with a new step mother.
"Marsai is a star on the rise," Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer told The Hollywood Reporter. "She is not only tremendously talented in front of the camera but offers a unique perspective as a creator and producer that will resonate with all audiences."
She tells Backstage.com that her long-term career goals include hosting "Saturday Night Live" and retiring early.
"I want to get to the point where I can retire at 21 and my whole family is proud of me," she says. "That's the goal in everything that I do."
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