Maarten de Boer/NBC

In a new comedy, life imitates art for actress Essence Atkins as she portrays a divorcee starting over.

Jul, 14, 2017

Essence Atkins’s real life weirdly mirrors that of her character on the NBC sitcom Marlon (premiering August 16). Atkins plays Ashley, a newly divorced mother of two who is trying to navigate a relation- ship with her ex-husband (Marlon Wayans) that isn’t fed by anger or resentment.

Less than a year ago, Atkins, 45, announced the end of her nearly seven-year marriage to Jaime Mendez. She admits taking this part was not only a chance to work with Wayans again (this is their sixth project together) but also a step toward her own healing.

“All my memories, my triggers and my baggage go into this role and just calibrate according to Ashley’s take on the situation,” says Atkins. “Talking about it has been important for me, and I hope we’re inspiring people to approach this situation with more love.”

This feature originally appeared in the August 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.