The Into Interview

Dewayne Perkins Was Destined for Stardom and The Blackening Will Prove That

· Updated on October 4, 2023

I remember aimlessly scrolling through YouTube for content to watch, as I normally do, and I came across a Comedy Central sketch called The Blackening by a group called 3Peat. The name alone imbued me with curiosity and thankfully I followed that urge to check out the video. The comedy sketch featured a group of friends trapped in a house by a mysterious killer who will spare them, if they hand over whomever they think is the “Blackest” in the group. Immediately, the crew hilariously advocates for themselves and demonstrates the things they do that are stereotypically connected to Black culture. 

As a Black queer person who loves horror movies, but loathes the tropes that Black characters navigate, the sketch hit home. Thankfully, Dewayne Perkins, the comedic brains behind the sketch, felt similarly and used his talents to bring the sketch to life. But when you examine how The Blackening went from a sketch to a feature film, it’s nothing short of serendipitous. 

“It’s a really interesting journey with the hindsight of it all. To remember where I was in the different stages and knowing what expectations I had of it, which was none. I really was just out here making art because what else am I going to do?”

Perkins wrote the first sketch for the live comedy show called Afro-Futurism for The Second City, an improvisational comedy enterprise. 

“To see a joke turn into a movie, it feels very unique and specific to me in my journey. I love that this experience has been something that is of me. And yeah, that’s something that I’ll forever be grateful for.”

“I was like, ‘What is a topic that I can write about with a bunch of n*ggas?’. I remember lying on my couch, kind of high, [thinking] you know what would be funny? They always killed the Black person first. But if everybody Black, then what they gon’ do? That was truly just like the premise of that sketch.”

The sketch then made its way to become the opener for Black Side of the Moon, another The Second City production. After receiving stellar reviews, Perkins and his improv comedy troupe, 3Peat, were called on by Comedy Central to create three sketches. One of those sketches was Perkins’ Horror Story, which was renamed as The Blackening

After The Blackening went viral, screenwriter Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Harlem, Little), director Tim Story (Queens, Shaft), and producer E. Brian Dobbins (Black-ish, You People) came knocking ready to turn The Blackening into a feature film. Now, years later, what was once a sketch is a full-length film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF.) 

“To see a joke turn into a movie, it feels very unique and specific to me in my journey. I love that this experience has been something that is of me. And yeah, that’s something that I’ll forever be grateful for.”

But when you examine how the sketch came to be, you recognize that this creative journey that Perkins is on was meant to be. With additional backing from the studio MRC Entertainment and Oliver co-writing the film alongside Perkins, The Blackening will flip horror stereotypes connected to Black characters on their heads and will give plenty of laughs along the way. 

“I mean, what’s very funny is that 3Peat went together as a group to see Girls Trip, right before [Oliver] called. Yeah, it’s all weirdly serendipitous.”

Photo credit: Sela Shiloni

As a Black queer creative from Chicago, Illinois, Perkins is steadily building his comedic portfolio and is on the verge of changing the landscape for other Black queer creatives in TV and film. An Emmy-nominated writer for The Amber Ruffin Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Saved By the Bell, an established standup comedian with Vulture, Variety, and The New York Times shoutouts added to his name, and acting credits in shows like Netflix’s The Upshaws, Perkins is putting in the work. 

While many creatives find one niche and stick with it, as a multi-hyphenate creative, Perkins doesn’t have to choose between his passions. He feels at home performing standup, acting, and writing. 

“I would say all three at the same time. The Blackening really spoiled me in a way. I’ve never been in this position. I’ve always had to do one or the other, but this allowed me to kind of stretch myself in all of my lanes,” said Perkins. “That was the fullest I’ve gotten to exist artistically so far in my career. When I’m just writing and I’m watching somebody else do the words, I’m like, ‘I wish I was doing that’. And when I’m acting, I’m like, ‘I wish I could have wrote this’. So being able to literally just be like, ‘I wrote this for me’, this is me at my fullest. So, yeah, I think that has allowed me to be my greatest, by not limiting me to one thing.”

However, if it wasn’t for his start in improv comedy and his first writing gig, we may not have been blessed with his talents. 

“I feel like my start in entertainment generally was improv comedy,” said Perkins. “I did that in high school and then post-college. I feel like my introduction to the industry was my very first writing job, which was The Break with Michelle Wolf on Netflix.”

But his ascent into the entertainment industry didn’t come with a crystal staircase. Perkins navigated years of work honing his craft. From improv comedy in high school to comedy sketches on Comedy Central and from writing sketches at The Second City to writing horror comedy screenplays that premiere at TIFF, you witness the progression of his career—one that he found difficult navigating without other Black queer creatives being an example for him. 

“Pull people up. That is something I’m obsessed with, just kind of learning where your power is and learning how to use that to then pull people up with you. Something I do not like is being a token of anything. I want as many of us together as possible.”

“I think a key thing for me that I think has been really helpful to my success was kind of reshaping what I thought was bad. Seeing the absence of Black gay men in the industry and seeing that as a sign that I did not belong, at some point, there was just a switch,” said Perkins. “As I try to navigate this, there are not many examples that I can pull from. So I have to create an amalgamation from all of these different people to kind of create my path. In doing so, I realized there are no boundaries for me because the boxes haven’t been created because we’re not here. So, I can do whatever I want. That mindset really shifted everything for me. I’m just going to move how I feel and then see what happens.”

Thankfully, he’s had some staunch believers in his abilities advocating for him and guiding him along the way. 

Photo credit: Sela Shiloni

“I got to give a shout out to Amber Ruffin. From the beginning, she was my guardian angel. Amber told me that Michelle, who worked with her on Late Night With Seth Meyers, was getting her own show on Netflix and I should submit [a packet] to it. So I wrote a packet and submitted it. And funny enough, my agent, that I had at the time, quit the same day,” said Perkins. “So my packet was never turned in. Amber called me and was like, ‘Okay, just give it to me and I’ll give it to her’. Then I got an interview and I got hired. So, without a Black woman in my corner, I don’t think I’d be where I’d be right now.”

Perkins has had his fair share of individuals in his corner rooting for him and looking out for him in this industry. Not many people can say that and Perkins doesn’t take it lightly. He also feels the same need to give back to his community of Black queer creatives, as they look to him for new ways to express themselves and bless the world with their talents. 

“Pull people up. That is something I’m obsessed with, just kind of learning where your power is and learning how to use that to then pull people up with you. Something I do not like is being a token of anything. I want as many of us together as possible.”

The Blackening premieres in theaters on June 16, 2023.♦

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