Tisha Campbell-Martin knows that casual TV watchers remember her from her many roles on half-hour comedies — perhaps, most notably, her role as the wife of Damon Wayans on My Wife and Kids, a character she played for five years.
But tonight, Campbell-Martin joins Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy) in The Protector, a new Lifetime series that follows a detective team.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell me about the The Protector?
TISHA CAMPBELL-MARTIN: For one, Ally Walker is amazing to work with. She’s been doing Sons of Anarchy and Profiler but now she’s back with this. For me, it’s been a while. I started out doing drama, and it’s been a while since I’ve done this medium. As a matter of fact, my husband and I had agreed for many, many years to not do any dramas because of the long hours. It can be 14- to 16-hour days, so now that I’m doing a drama again, the kids are older. It’s amazing to go back to. It’s a dramedy, but it’s great to go back to that, especially being that I was considered a sitcom girl for so long. The Protector is about a detective, Ally Walker’s character, who not only has to protect people at her job as a homicide detective, but she also has children. She’s balancing the two lives and keeping them completely separate at the same time. I play her partner in the homicide division so we get to be badasses, and we get to show the other side of our lives. I think people are gonna relate to it because it’s so much fun. Our chemistry is so wicked.
Tell me about your character. It must’ve taken something special to bring you into the drama fold.
Absolutely. It was the writing. The writing pulled me into this particular piece. For me, I was more able to play somebody different than “the girlfriend” or “the wife” and just to be a single woman who’s dating, witty, smart, and very intelligent.
Was it fun to step out of being, as you said, “the girlfriend/wife” role and be a badass chick?
Yeah! And we had to train for it. We had to go to the police academy and ride with the police officers. And my brother, my real brother, is a lieutenant in the police force. When he found out that I got the role of a detective, he was, like, “Oh, cute.” I was like, “Shut up! You make me sick.” [Laughs] So when he gets into town, he takes me to the shooting range, and it’s kind of fun.
Has he seen it yet?
He has not.
Hopefully he’s going to eat his words.
I’m sure he would tell me all the things that I’m doing wrong, but we have a tech advisor. So I’m gonna surprise him. That’s the opinion that I’m really looking forward to hearing.
I know that there has been a resurgence when it comes to female-led procedurals, like Rizzoli & Isles and Body of Proof. Why do you think that is?
People want it. Women, we do watch a lot of television. It’s economics. It’s a little bit of everything.
Lifetime has paired you up with Army Wives, which is the network’s biggest show. Do you think this show is going to resonate with the same audience?
We’re hoping so. As with Army Wives, this is really a character-driven show. People can say I’m biased cause I work with her, but Ally’s character and the way she deals with her kids, those things are so amazing to me ’cause I was like, “Oh my God, I just did that with my child.”
How much of your training is action training? Is it gonna be a really action-packed series or is it more of one of those lab-type procedurals.
A little bit of both. Like I said, it’s mostly about character. But Ally and I, the other day, we had to flip a guy over and bust him up.
Sounds like a good de-stresser.
Yeah, it is. It’s cool, like boxing for me. I’ve been boxing since I was 18 years old.
You keep busy.
I also started a nonprofit called Colored My Mind, for autism. My firstborn was diagnosed with autism, but we caught it really early. He’s doing great, which is freaking fantastic. But with four other ladies, [Tammy McCrary, Shannon Nash, Donna Hunter and LaDonna Hughley], we also did a documentary called Colored My Mind. Someone in Washington, D.C., saw it and has invited us to speak to Congress. So I go to Congress on June 13 to speak, along with Chaka Khan, who has joined us in the fight.
Lots of excitement going on.
Yeah. I’m just really excited to be able to do a different role than what people are used to seeing me in the last 20 years — oh my God, when I say stuff like that, it really is mind-boggling. I’ve been in the business since I was 3, and I’m coming up on my 40th year, or, as my husband puts it, my fourth decade in the business. I’m like, “Oh my God, when you put it that way, I wanna punch you.”
And now you have the training to do so!
Exactly — he better watch out.
(Maggie Pehanick contributed to this report)