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Actress Marsai Martin on being an executive producer at 14: 'People did tell me I was too young and can't do this'

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  • Marsai Martin
    American actress and producer

Actress and executive producer Marsai Martin doesn’t let her young age — or doubters — stop her from pursuing her goals. At just 14 years old, “I am the youngest executive producer ever. Yeah, crazy,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

The star of Black-ish and the star and executive producer of the new film Little says that “a lot people” told her she was too young to be an EP, but Martin didn’t let that get to her.

Despite her young age, she’s already been in the entertainment industry for nearly a decade. Martin got her start in acting when she was five years old. “I was always that kid that wanted just to be seen,” she shares. “I think acting really just came naturally.”

The Dallas native landed a role on Black-ish in 2014 when she was nine years old. “It changed my life,” she says. “It was my first TV show.”

Over the past six years, Martin has essentially grown up on Black-ish, along with her young co-stars, who she says “have grown up to be pretty cool people.”

“I love my job,” she adds, noting that, as a teen, working is something she chooses to do — and it looks like she’s just getting started.

Martin came up with the idea for the movie Little — which she both stars in and executive produces — when she was 10 years old. “One of my mom’s favorite movies was Big, and I saw that and I was like, ‘Hmm, what if we changed it to a different perspective?’ Like more of a modern, maybe an all-black cast type of twist,” she says. “So instead of it being a kid turning into an adult, it’s an adult turning into a kid.”

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For Martin, being an executive producer gives her artistic freedom. “You can create what you want to create,” she says. “Be a helping hand in supporting other people’s films or your films.” Martin says she’s also motivated by the fact that there are so few young black girls on TV. “I can count on my hand how many there are,” she says.

She adds, “It’s important for young people to get involved to tell their stories… because they won’t hear it from anybody else.”

Martin, who is mature beyond her years, says she’s comfortable in her role as an executive producer. “It’s not hard to be a boss when you’re my age,” she says. “I never have to be ‘growner’ than I already am. I do have to do mature stuff like get up early and not whine about it. I always try to stay true to what my actual age is because I’ve still got the regular stuff that teenagers have.”

She shares that her job is difficult sometimes and understands that not everything is going to be easy. “But if that’s something that you want to do and if that’s your passion,” Martins says, “then you’ll keep going and you don’t mind the hard stuff.”

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