Martin Lawrence and the cast of Martin hit the red carpet Wednesday night, June 15, in Downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the highly anticipated reunion special releasing on Thursday, June 16, on BET Plus. For those who couldn’t enjoy the nostalgic celebration of Fox’s iconic sitcom starring the comic legend, we’ve compiled some photos and quotes from the night.
Thirty years have passed since the debut episode introduced audiences to Martin Payne. Watching the cast get together became quite a surprise when the reunion special was announced in late February.
Shot days after the announcement, stand-up comedian/actor Affion Crockett hosted the special that got Lawrence together with co-stars Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold and Carl Anthony Payne II together on television for the first time. Called Martin: The Reunion, the special also pays tribute to series co-star Thomas Mikal Ford, who died in 2016 at 52 of an abdominal aneurysm.
As Martin: The Reunion hits BET’s video streaming service, we've got pictures and cast interviews from the red carpet.
Martin: The Reunion red carpet photos
Martin: The Reunion red carpet cast quotes
The cast remembers Thomas Mikal Ford
"Off-screen, I had a lot of great memories with him. You know we were best friends in real life — outside of this. And so just hanging out with him and his crazy self teaching me how to play golf and just a lot of moments I can't share, but we had a lot of great moments." — Carl Anthony Payne II
"Tommy was the guy that I really hung out with most really. It is hard doing it without him, but you know, he would want us to do what we do because that was the type of dude Tommy was. It wasn't about self with him. It was about everybody man. Tommy embraced me and on the set, I mean, you know, I like electronics. He liked electronics. I mean, he took me to Hollywood Boulevard to buy this little portable VHS player. He said I got one man coming here. So he said, I'm gonna take you to my guy. And we that's when me and him became cool." — Reginald Ballard
"This reunion is a little sad because you want him to be here and you want him to celebrate this with us but he’s here in spirit but it’s a little melancholy." — Martin Lawrence
Tommy Davidson explains linking up with Martin for Varnell Hill episode
"At the time, we were doing In Living Color right off of Sunset and he was shooting Martin in Studio City. We also lived in the same apartment building at the same time too, so we had been kicking it for years. I remember for the Varnell Hill episode I actually came there and they told me to do what I want so I just turned him into the sky man." — Tommy Davidson
Martin Lawrence talks about preparation for playing multiple characters
"When playing other characters for hair and make-up, it was around three to four hours." — Martin Lawrence
Martin: The Reunion participants explain what made Martin such a legendary show
"The lasting impact is that we’re funny and we did what we believed in. If you want to do the same in following our footsteps just stick to what you believe in and be funny.” — Martin Lawrence
"Martin broke the mold. He didn't come into it with a Hollywood formula. He was him. He was a funny black dude from DC and all that jargon and all the lingo made its way into. And he was a hip-hop guy and still is. But at the time when the show started, he was heavily immersed in the hip-hop community like Def Comedy Jam where he was hosting that too. So artists like Biggie and a bunch of hip-hop references and lyrics all made their way into the show." — Affion Crockett
Martin’s legacy and impact
It’s easy to understand why Martin became such a mainstream success and pioneering piece of television. Compared to celebrated sitcoms of the late 80s/early 90s that catered to Black Gen-Xers, like A Different World and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the series Lawrence co-created with John Bowman (writer for Saturday Night Live and In Living Color) and Topper Carew (known for directing/writing Lawrence first lead film Talkin’ Dirty After Dark) felt more adult. The dialogue and popular one-liners from "Get ta steppin" to "You go gurl" felt authentic to the culture as well.
Watching the relationship of two Black professional Detroit natives in their early 20s grow with each season felt revolutionary at the time. Watching Martin and Gina (Campbell) transform each other’s lives was beautiful to see. The chemistry between Lawrence and Campbell was something a lot of young Black youth aspired to — even if the relationships on-set might have been a bit more strained. (opens in new tab)
It also proved Lawrence's future star power. By then, the Washington, DC native had done everything from co-star in Spike Lee’s opus Do the Right Thing to hosting Def Comedy Jam. Those comedic chops also allowed him to play various characters throughout the series run including Sheneneh Jenkins, Edna Payne, Roscoe and Jerome. Lawrence even set the stage for future comedic legends like Tracy Morgan, as the appropriately titled Hustle Man (opens in new tab) and of course Reginald Ballard as Bruh-man (opens in new tab) (from the fifth-flo with four fingers showing). Meanwhile, Lawrence embarrassed his popular comedy peers turned actors like Tommy Davidson in the laugh-out-loud Varnell Hill episode (opens in new tab).
A fan of hip-hop, Martin was also one of the first sitcoms to openly embrace harder-edged hip-hop that wasn’t considered “safe” at the time. It was one of the first television series to give the spotlight to artists like Snoop Dogg, Bushwick Bill, Outkast, Biggie and Method Man. Even paying homage to his roles in party film classic House Party 1 and House Party 2, Kid from Kid N’ Play served as a guest as well in a hilarious episode featuring Sheneneh giving a riff on Jodeci's R&B classic "Forever My Lady." (opens in new tab)
Martin: The Reunion is now available to stream on BET Plus.
Ural Garrett is an Inglewood,CA-based journalist and content curator. His byline has been featured in outlets including CNN, MTVNews, Complex, TechRadar, LA Weekly and more.
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