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With photo.

'Losing Isaiah,' finding fame, missing school

By Matthew Futterman, Staff Reporter

Sometimes 4-year-old Marc John Jeffries has to leave his prekindergarten class in the middle of the day.

"He tells me, `I've got to go to an interview,'" his teacher says.

After playing a toddler caught in the middle of a custody battle in the movie "Losing Isaiah," starring Jessica Lange and Halle Berry, Marc should have a lot of interviews in the coming months. In fact, he seems well on his way to becoming the next Macaulay Culkin.

Marc looks as sweet as a miniature Sugar Ray Leonard, has a smile that could bring out the soft side of Sadaam Hussein and possesses an uncanny sense of when the cameras are rolling.

Now all he needs is a little direction. "I want to grow up and be a policeman," Marc told a reporter from Channel 7's EyeWitness News as he sat on his father's lap. Not to worry, though. After the reporter and Marc's father reminded him of his current career, Marc corrected himself. "I want to be a movie star," he said, running back to his class as soon as the interview was finished.

"We're Jehovah's Witnesses, so being a policeman isn't a possibility, and Marc knows that," explained Marc's 29-year-old father, also named Marc John Jeffries. Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in killing other people, no matter what.

Marc is already a veteran of the entertainment business. His father, a commercial photographer, started auditioning him for print advertisements when he was 6 weeks old. Soon Marc began landing spots in television commercials for Fisher-Price toys and Cannon cameras, among others. Then, last year, Hollywood called.

Now that he's inked his own deal with Nike, Marc could soon be shooting hoops with Michael Jordan. He may only be 4, but he is already a 3-foot-tall franchise.

So far people say Marc's success hasn't gone to his head. "He seems to enjoy just being a normal child," says Helen Acosta, one of his teachers at the Little People's Day School in Morris Heights. "And no one lets him get away with anything. He's got to do his homework like everybody else."

"Ask the director of the movie," Marc's father adds. "He'll tell you Jessica and Halle gave him problems, not Marc. The one thing I hate is a spoiled brat, and we're not going to let that happen to Marc."

Still, giving a kid a normal childhood under Hollywood's hot lights is always a challenge.

Marc has had more than an average four-year-old's share of boat and helicopter rides. He likes flying because, he says, "It's fun being in the front of the plane." As a result, Marc's mother, Leshawn, 28, who teaches first grade, promises to help keep her son's little head straight.

"We're trying to keep a balance," she says, as she feeds her month-and-a-half-old daughter, also named Leshawn. "He's not going to do every job he's called for." His mother also plans to supervise the tutoring Marc receives on the set.

As for Marc, the limited exposure will suit him just fine. "I miss school during the movie, and I don't like to miss school," he says.

And for now, he's easy to please. School, fishing and roller skating top the list of his favorite activities.

"Our family's a team," Marc's father explains, decked out in his Nike sweatsuit, hat and sneakers. "We support our children. What's wrong if they help support us, too?"

The Bronx Beat, April 10, 1995