#TBT: Blerd Visionary

Welcome to the first edition of #TBT! Starting today, on the second Thursday of each month, we’ll release a past celeb cover story from our print-only archives. For this first round, we’re throwin’ it back to winter 2016 and Black-ish’s Marcus Scribner.

By Andréa Butler| Photographed by Jim Cornfield| Hair/MUA by Marissa Cydya| Styled By Elizabeth Benzing and Ashta Hunter of Tomboy BKLYN

Marcus Scribner reps hard for the blerd scene — on screen and off. But he knows it’s through the characters he plays that he’s able to squash stereotypes for the masses. And that’s what he’s most proud of.

“The biggest thing in my entire room is a giant Darth Vader Fathead,” Marcus tells me when I ask for a virtual tour. “It’s stuck there, which makes me very happy ‘cause my parents can’t tell me I’m too old to have it anymore.”

Also among his collections: a custom-made, Kobe-branded, giant shoe box for storing his kicks; a gaming computer (for homework, too); and a TV connected to an Xbox and a Wii U. “In real life, I’m definitely a nerd,” he says referring to his love for Star Wars and all things video games. Recently, he even had the chance to attend the League of Legends World Championships, a sold-out event held at the Staples Center and dedicated to the computer game of the same name. It’s serious business, too — players from all over the world compete in group matches, quarterfinals, and semi-finals for the opportunity to battle it out in front of thousands of fans for the title of World Champion in the annual finals event.

Being ‘bout that blerd (Black nerd) life came honestly. His grandfather, an ancient mythology buff, thought naming his son (Marcus’s dad) Troy, after the famed city in The Illiad, where the Trojan War took place, would be the move. Then, it just became a thing. “My whole family, we have like a Greek and Roman name trend going on here,” Marcus says. His sister’s name is Athena, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, and the arts, and his dog’s name is Zeus, after the god of the gods. “He controls the house. Right now, he’s laying on my bed, staring me in the face like, ‘You better not sit here,’” Marcus jokes. “I have the name Marcus after Marcus Aurelius, who was a Roman king who derived his name from Mars, which is the Roman god of war — pretty bad A in my opinion.”

And since you’ve got to be “pretty bad A” to kick some, I don’t hesitate to point out to him that this has to be a solid sign from the universe about the fate of his dream role: to play a superhero. “Playing a superhero in a movie would be sick! I already have my power picked out,” he says. “I would have telekinesis. It would go down in history as the best superhero movie ever.”

For now, though, Marcus is happy to forgo moving things with his mind to moving progress forward through his art, combating stereotypes and forcing the mainstream to recognize the existence of blerd culture. “We have a voice, and we are here,” he says. And he makes that very clear in his portrayal of Andre, Jr. on Black-ish. There, Marcus keeps it real as a Black teen who’s obsessed with video games, superheroes, and comic books — a far cry from the oh-so-basic and biased cliché we typically see of Black guys as dangerous criminals, drug dealers, or all around “bad” dudes. “It’s definitely something that I’m super proud of, especially with how the character has been developing. I feel like it’s something that a lot of people can identify with and understand where Andre, Jr. is coming from.”

This month, Marcus’s big-screen debut as Darius in Alexander IRL will continue that trend. “[Darius] is definitely a bit of a nerd. He hangs out with the main character. They all love playing video games. They know how to code. They know how to hack,” he says.

Centering around the antics of a tech-savvy squad as they work toward creating an app that will monitor cell phone use — the app will shut down phones when said phones reach a certain amount of time used — Alexander IRL is all about truly living IRL and disconnecting from time to time to experience the world beyond your screen. “Getting to play a character who’s super smart and able to do those kinds of things is just yet another positive Black influence.”

In his own real life, Marcus has no problem trying new things and making the most of each day — whether it’s walking Zeus, playing basketball, or sampling some good food. “I love food,” he says. “And it doesn’t’ just stop at normal food. I will try any types of food.”

Even mealworms.

And fried crickets. (“They taste like hashbrowns,” he says.)

“I definitely could not see myself eating those on a daily basis — or ever again — but they weren’t bad. I will say that.”

What he does see himself continuing, though, is his work with various organizations, such as the Reserve Protection Agency, a foundation based in South Africa that helps protect rhinos from poaching. As the RPA’s Chief of Youth Innovation, Marcus is tasked with empowering kids and teens to take action on the part of wildlife conservation. In addition to that, he’s the first Youth Advocacy Ambassador for the Sandals Foundation. “I was really adamant about working with kids and animals and helping people throughout the Caribbean areas.” So, instead of globe-trotting just for vacay, Marcus has set about visiting animal shelters and schools in Jamaica. “I read to a bunch of kids, which was amazing,” he says. “They all grouped up and gave me the biggest group hug ever!”

Obvi, Marcus is straight up #lifegoals right now, and in the coming years, he plans to stay on that visionary grind. “I feel like the more you can do with your platform, the better that you’re helping the world.”

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