On this day in 1997, the iconic sitcom Martin debuted on FOX. During its five season run, the TV program gave audiences across the country a weekly dose of laughter, and plenty of hilarious moments to discuss with friends and family in the days that followed.
Starring the comedic legend Martin Lawrence as the show’s title character, Martin chronicled his daily interactions with his significant other (played by Tisha Campbell), his duties and a radio disc jockey – and eventual talk show host – as well as the knee-slapping conversations he would have with his friends and acquaintances around the city of Detroit.
Alongside Lawrence and Campbell, Martin featured a stellar cast which included Tichina Arnold, Carl Anthony Payne II, Thomas Mikal Ford, and Garrett Morris. It also had special guest appearances from notable celebrities such as Tracy Morgan, The Notorious B.I.G., David Alan Grier, Method Man, Brian McKnight, Gary Coleman, Lynn Whitfield, Tommy Davidson, and countless others.
From August 27, 1992 to May 1, 1997, Martin was one of the highest-rated shows on FOX, and the time since its series finale it has received admiration from multiple generations of viewers, and become a staple in not only Black culture, but popular culture.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of its debut, let’s take a look at the cast of Martin – then and now.
The show’s title character is a radio disc jockey turned talk show host. It follows him as he navigates life with his girlfriend Gina Waters, his friends Tommy and Cole, and his hilariously antagonistic relationship with Gina’s best friend, Pam.
Having already established himself as a star before Martin ended in 1997, Lawrence has since become a comedy legend, and starred in films such as Life, National Security, and Blue Streak. He was also the lead character in the Big Momma’s House franchise, as well as appearing alongside Will Smith in all three of the Bad Boys films.
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Gina Waters (Payne)
Gina is Martin’s professional, fun-loving, romantic and forgiving girlfriend who later becomes his wife. She works for a PR firm and often acts as a peacemaker, and complements Martin’s sometimes-aggressive behavior by serving as a voice of reason. She is also Pam’s best friend.
Campbell has had a career in entertainment spanning over 40 years. She appeared in films such as School Daze (1988), Boomerang (1992), and House Party. After Martin, she starred as Janet “Jay” Marie Johnson-Kyle in the ABC comedy series My Wife and Kids, and most recently Uncoupled and Inside Job on Netflix.
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One of Martin’s best friends, the dimwitted but well-meaning and known for his eclectic taste in headgear, Cole proudly cleans jets at the airport for a living, drives an AMC Pacer, and lives with his mother.
Carl Anthony Payne II
Prior to Martin, Payne played Theo Huxtable’s best friend Cockroach on The Cosby Show. Since Martin, Payne has been featured in several TV shows, and stars in Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan on Nickelodeon.
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Tommy is Martin’s other best friend. Level-headed and intelligent, Tommy serves as another voice of reason, especially during Martin’s schemes. He and Pam begin a relationship during the show’s later seasons.
Thomas Mikal Ford
Ford appeared in over 30 film and television programs after the season finale of Martin, which included starring roles in the final season of New York Undercover, as well as appearing as the “Pope of Comedy” in Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes from 2006 – 2008. Unfortunately, he passed in 2016 from a ruptured abdominal aneurysm.
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Pamela “Pam” James
Gina’s sassy and ill-tempered co-worker, best friend and Tommy’s eventual girlfriend. Her and Martin have a hilariously antagonistic relationship that created iconic moments on the show.
Since 1997, Arnold starred in the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, and Happily Divorced, as well as playing the lead role of Cassie Calloway on Survivor’s Remorse. Today, Arnold plays Tina Butler in the CBS sitcom series The Neighborhood.
Martin’s boss, the owner and founder of radio station WZUP. He was funny, cheap, untrustworthy, and wore woefully outdated clothing from the 1970s.
Morris was already an established entertainer prior to Martin, appearing in Cooley High, Car Wash, and Saturday Night Live. In the years following, he would star as Uncle Junior on The Jamie Foxx Show, as well as having appearances in This Is Us and A Black Lady Sketch Show.