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5 Questions with Tatyana Ali on 'Love That Girl!' and Working with Martin Lawrence

She's all grown up and starring in TV One's 'Love That Girl'
The original girl-next-door, Tatyana Ali, is all grown up, and turning a new TV chapter in her life. She returns to the small screen in the third season of the sitcom, “Love that Girl,” the first scripted television show to air on TV One.

Recently honored at Black Girls Rock, the actress is no stranger to hard work. She runs her own production company, Hazrah Entertainment, with her sister Anastasia Ali, and recently starred in the first webisode series on BET, “Buppies.”

ESSENCE.com talks to her about ‘Love That Girl’, Martin Lawrence as the ‘godfather’, and whether or not they’ll be an album in her future!

ESSENCE.com – ‘Love That Girl’ is in Season 3 now! What’s the feedback that you’ve gotten back from the show so far?
Tatyana Ali: Well we’ve gone up on every level in terms of production, writing, what’s going on with the characters and the guest stars. I’m excited for people to see it.

ESSENCE.com: What can we expect from your character ‘Tyana Jones’ this season?
Ali: Well her infamous ex-husband enters the scene. So there’s a healthy dose of drama between all of the members of the family. And some of the things mentioned in the previous season, the backdrop really gets explained and flushed out this season.

ESSENCE.com: Martin Lawrence is the executive producer of the show, and he’s notoriously hilarious. What’s it been like working with him?
ALI: Well he’s worked with the creator of the show Bentley Evans for years, so he’s really kind of hand off, in the sense that I think he really trusts what we’re doing and everyone’s capabilities. So when he comes, he’s kind of like the godfather! And you know, he laughs with us, he’ll come up with better jokes with us and stuff like that. But it’s really nice, you feel comfortable, that he’s so happy with what we’re doing.

ESSENCE.com: Do you find people still see you as ‘Ashley Banks’ from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air?
ALI: People still recognize me, but I don’t know! I think that’s a part of my life that’s pretty concrete, in the sense that, that show and the characters, people related to her so much. So it’s funny when women and men my age — and we’re in our early thirties now – they still say that character meant a lot to them. So yea!

ESSENCE.com: Describe a day in the life of Tatyana Ali and describe a day in the life of ‘Tyana Jones’, how are you similar/different?
ALI: My day starts off when emails and calls and calls and emails! It’s pretty hectic. And I think with ‘Tyana’ her life is pretty hectic, I think one of the similarities is that we’re both really doing our best to achieve our dreams, which is one thing I love about her. The differences exist in how we go about doing that! Not that Tyana isn’t smart, she is. But I’m much more reserved than she is, and I try to think things through before acting and with her, she’s all action, and thinks, or regrets rather, afterwards!

Watch the premiere of ‘Love that Girl!‘ tonight at 8pm on TV ONE.