KEEPING IT MOVING!
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | TISHA CAMPBELL-MARTIN
Tisha Campbell-Martin has been a Hollywood fixture for longer than you might think: in 1974, at the age of six, she appeared on an episode of the PBS show “The Big Blue Marble.”
By 18, her singing chops landed Campbell-Martin on the set of her first feature film — “Little Shop of Horrors.” She went on to a succession of starring roles in audience-pleasers on screens large and small: “School Daze,” “House Party,” “Martin,” “My Wife & Kids.”
Today, Campbell-Martin can be seen on ABC’s “Dr. Ken,” and on BET’s “Hollywood Husbands” with her spouse, Duane Martin. She sat down recently with Las Vegas Black Image Magazine to discuss career longevity in Hollywood, and balancing success with the joy being a wife and the mother of two boys.
As far as your acting career goes, how would you describe the evolution of Tisha Campbell- Martin?
The interesting thing is … there’s always an evolution. Constantly re-creating myself, seeking loftier goals. The thing that has been consistent since I started in show business, some 40 odd years ago, is my reasons for doing what I do. I started out wanting to “help.”
I was a very conscious kid. I understood how poor we really were growing up in Newark, New Jersey. I started singing in schools and churches. At five years old, I begged my parents to enter me in a talent contest to win the second prize, which was a color TV. I won the first prize instead — a car — and quickly realized I wanted to help my family. That desire to help continues to this day.
What has been your secret to sustaining a career in Hollywood?
Again, it goes back to understanding the true meaning of what it is to be an artist and helping others. The ones who get it are those who understand that a true artist’s job is to communicate and to serve others. Our job as actors is to make people … feel something.
Think about Shakespeare, or the Harlem Renaissance, Picasso, Biggie or Tupac. Art may not always look how one might want it to look. It doesn’t always come in a pretty package with a bow on it. What I’ve learned over the years — and trust me, I have been doing this a long time — is that people who don’t have longevity were the ones who came into this business just for money, fame, revenge, or something like that.
Tell us about your role on “Dr. Ken.” Do you think TV is making strides in the area of diversity?
Before “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Dr. Ken,” the last sitcom starring an Asian actor was on the air 20 years ago. That’s why these shows are important. Our show, “Dr. Ken,” has an Asian family, a Caucasian man and woman, an African- American woman, a gay man — and it continues to have diverse guest stars and we are truly showing how diverse America is. We are having a ball!
Ken Jeong is not only starring, but he is producing. He is humble, kind, fearless, protective of the cast and crew and committed to being extremely funny while expressing his culture and keeping everyone else’s in mind. Man, this dude is amazing!
What are some of your other talents that some might not be aware of?
I am singing again. I never left — I just took a break from the music industry. I have more control now than I had when I had a major record deal.
What are some of your future aspirations?
I like to produce and I love developing projects for other people.
How do you balance being a top actress, mother and wife?
Calendar and scheduling (laughs). I get up at 5 a.m., make dinner and breakfast. Then travel two-and-a-half hours in traffic to work on “Dr. Ken,” then two-and-a-half hours in traffic back home. I spend time with my family and sneak studio time in with my producer, BSLADE. Saturday is mommy-day and Sundays are for family.
What is your involvement in the fight against autism?
I co-founded an organization called, Colored My Mind. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps families of children on the ASD spectrum find resources, and helps educate and bring awareness to this disorder — especially for those in the African American and Latino communities.
Black children are diagnosed two to three years after their Caucasian peers. The women of Colored My Mind lobbied Congress to get reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act of 2006. We are very proud, because it wasn’t an easy feat.
How would you define the impact of your role as Gina on “Martin” and the impact that the show is still having?
I’m proud of what we did. I can’t believe that people still embrace it — five-year-olds recognize me as, Gina. We were all surprised by the show’s longevity. We had no idea we were making history. We were just trying to make people laugh.
What mothering experiences did you bring to “My Wife and Kids?”
It’s funny. My kids refuse to watch the show, because they say I yell at those kids like I yell at them (laughs). I was a very new mom at the time. Looking back at my mothering skills on the rerun, I’d say I am very consistent. I actually found out about my firstborn being on the autism spectrum while on the set of the show.
How is it working on the show “Hollywood Husbands,” alongside your real-life husband, Duane Martin?
I absolutely love it! We have so much fun on that set. We especially have fun when the real wives are all on with the real husbands. We have headaches when we leave set, because we literally laugh with each other and at each other all day long. You have to have a very thick skin because it’s all about self-deprecation (laughs).
We get to make fun of ourselves and how people sensationalize celebrity, reality shows and Hollywood. We don’t take ourselves that seriously. I love making fun and highlighting all the dumb rumors and misguided viewpoints people have of me as a person. I never get upset about it — we laugh at it, and “Real Husbands” allows us to poke fun at ourselves. It’s just fun! Being on a set with these amazing, funny people is awesome.
What ideal role would you like to play on the big screen?
To be honest, if a role comes that is something so undeniable, so well-rounded, three-dimensional … I would just have fun doing that. The big screen was never my priority. I went from doing theater as a child to movies and then television. Television became my priority, even though making people laugh is much harder to do. What motivated me was that I wanted to spend time with my family. Doing sitcom work allows me to see my children and have a relationship with my husband. My husband and I made a pact, that we would do sitcom work so we could still be together. We made each other the priority. Everything else will fall into place if home comes first.
What advice would you give to young aspiring actors?
I would say to them that “no” is not an option. I don’t understand or hear the word until the third time.
What is your message to mothers as it relates to conflict resolution and being the best you can be?
Us mommies can forget about ourselves. How can you give to others if your well is dry? Don’t forget to take your “me time.” Carve it out.