Ryan Ken, the Man Behind That Viral Malcolm & Marie Video, Uses Comedy as a Healing Tool

Pop Culture


And that’s not what I’m interested in. But, there were questions about what this portrait of a relationship meant and what it looked like. So, what I remember being struck by the whole film was I really just wanted Zendaya’s character, Marie, to have a friend who’s like, “girl, come over, I’mma make some soup, we’ll watch a movie, you don’t have to have that man hollering in your face like that.” A lot of what I was trying to articulate in that video was a desire for her to be cared for more. For a movie that’s about love, it was interesting how — I just wanted there to be some gentleness.

Miss Tina Knowles shared the video on Instagram…

Well, I just ascended to a new level. I should change my name. It really meant a lot in part because this is someone I know of, respect, and admire, but part of what has made me excited about that and the way that it was shared was that it resonated with women and female-identified folks in particular. I was talking to one of my friends about it, and she was saying that what she enjoyed most was that you could tell the love of and respect of women was crucial to it. But, seeing [Knowles] respond to that positively meant a lot, and it was probably one of the highlights of my week. I had friends send me champagne after they saw that.

I’m trying to complicate my idea of celebrity, of course, but the other thing that I tell myself is that Beyoncé saw it and that one day soon, I will get a Beyoncé NDA, and I have always wanted to see a Beyoncé NDA. I imagine that there’s an NDA to see the NDA. When this goes out we can tell Beyoncé, that I will tell no one.

There are some very thoughtful critiques of Beyoncé, namely her participation in capitalism, but do you feel the criticism she receives is too amplified sometimes?

It’s hard to say. I don’t know if I have a flat answer for that because she’s definitely a capitalist, and I don’t even think that’s an offensive or controversial thing to say. There’s this talk around the intensity of her fandom. There’s complicated conversions around that. But, she does seem to be a lightning rod for a lot of our cultural anxieties in the way that a lot of women, especially women of color, Black women, in particular, have been throughout our cultural history. We’re having kind of this reckoning — even with Britney Spears and all these people — around the way we have delighted in mistreating women. But, I think what I’m more interested in than the actual person, Beyoncé, who we can’t know and won’t know, is how so often women become the stand-in for our own cultural anxieties and how common it is for [people to say about] a lot of women in public, “I just don’t like her,” and to not have any interrogation of why that might be, why we say that so readily and so easily about women.

What would your dream project be?

It’s hard to say because all of the acting stuff has been a surprise. It was just stuff that I was doing as I was working a full-time job to kind of nourish myself, but I think one of the things that making the videos and putting them out has done has actually reassured me of the clarity of my own voice. So I’m really interested in writing for myself. What I’ve enjoyed about doing the TikTok stuff or the Twitter stuff is I don’t have to wait to audition. I can cast myself in stuff that nobody would think to cast me in. Nobody’s gonna cast me to play Nancy Grace or Bernie Sanders. I’m enjoying what having the full autonomy of my creativity is and means. I also want to work with other writers and people because I think some of the stories that I want to tell I’ve not yet seen.

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