Best known for her role opposite Damon Wayans on the hit sitcom My Wife and Kids, Tisha Campbell-Martin has enjoyed a successful career in comedy for many years. But now she turns her talents in a different direction, co-starring with Ally Walker on Lifetime’s new police drama The Protector. Walker portrays LAPD homicide detective Gloria Sheppard, who is partnered with Detective Michelle Dulcett (Campbell-Martin).
I visited the set of The Protectors and spoke with Tisha Campbell-Martin about comedies and dramas and her instant rapport with Ally Walker.
Had you met Ally Walker before you started the show?
No, I had not met Ally, but when I went into audition for the show I knew they had already hired her. So one of my first questions when I went in there was, ‘I know you hired Ally Walker, what can I do to complement who she is?’
The director and I kept playing with some different choices and by the time it was over I said, ‘Listen, FYI, when you hire me I’ll be able to play opposite Ally very well.’
Did you do a chemistry reading with Ally?
No, I figure out who I’m playing opposite, and then I study them.
Did you watch Profiler?
Yeah, and Sons of Anarchy. She’s such a great actress, and our chemistry is so wicked on and off screen. She’s really talented and very smart and knows exactly where we should go in the writing, in the characters.
It’s such a pleasure to work with her.
Most people talk about the chemistry that we have. We just clicked immediately, and it definitely comes across on screen.
Can you talk a little about your character?
My character’s name is Michelle Dulcett, and I’m Ally’s counterpart, her partner in crime, that we’re trying to fight. It’s great because my character’s single, which is a departure from the stuff that I’ve usually done, because I’m usually the mother, the girlfriend or the housewife. So it’s great to play someone who’s single.
Ally’s character very quirky but extremely bright, who usually gets her man, and I’m right there keeping her focused to get our job done.
It seems the timing was right for you to do this show.
Yeah, usually you’ll see me doing a lot of comedy, a lot of sitcoms. In the beginning of my career all I ever did was dramas and I couldn’t get arrested doing a comedy, nobody would hire me.
So I would sit in the back of different comedy clubs with the comedians to try to figure out what in the hell is comedy? The ones that were really good were the ones who spoke about their real life stories.
I realized the thin line between comedy and drama, and then I started working a lot in comedy. Most people know me as the go-to sitcom girl.
My husband and I actually agreed for a very long time that all we should do is sitcoms because it’s better for our family life, and we get to see each other. Doing a drama, you have to be here 15, 16 hours a day so you don’t get to see your family as much.
But even though this show is a drama there are lighthearted moments.
I think Lifetime calls it a drama, but it’s really a dramedy.
Did you have any training for this role?
As far as doing the police jargon and all of that other stuff, it gets easier as time goes on. And we got to train a little bit and go to the shooting range.
Although I look really good holding a gun, I can’t shoot anything, I’m the worst shot, they laughed at me. When you go into the shooting range and you see the little paper and it goes to the person’s waist, I was shooting below the waist. I don’t know how that happened. I was god awful.
My brother, who is a real police officer, he’s a lieutenant in the police force – when he heard that I was playing a homicide detective, he said, ‘Oh, how cute.’ I said, ‘Shut up.’ He told me he would take me shooting so I could get a little bit better and impress my fellow cast members. But he hasn’t done it yet.
What is your relationship with the other characters in the series?
I think my character is a little intimidated by my boss, Lt Felix Valdez (Miguel Ferrer). I don’t have the same relationship with him that Ally does. He can confide in her. I try to impress him as much as I can by my work ethic, but I get in trouble with him a lot.
Then Terrell Tilford’s character, Ramon ‘Romeo’ Rush, he’s my potential love interest someday. So there’s a little flirting going on. That will be in the future. I’ve been friends with Terrell’s real life wife, Victoria, since we were 12-years-old. We grew up in the business together.