Tisha Campbell Martin: Childhood Molestation Made Breastfeeding Challenging
On October 2, Tisha Campbell Martin will return to network television in ABC’s latest scripted series, “Dr. Ken,” starring comedian Ken Jeong. The wife and working mom of two recently sat down with us to discuss her new gig, reestablishing herself in the music industry and how she managed to overcome being sexually abused during her childhood.
Tell us about this new show!
I am on a new show with Ken Jeong, and most people know him from “Community” and The Hangover. He’s now on his own show. You know, Ken is actually a doctor. He was a doctor. His wife is still a doctor. He wanted to try his hand at stand up. So he started doing it, and the rest is history. Now we literally have a doctor on call onset. He’s one of the most amazing people to work with. He’s extremely humble. I have a lot of fun with that dude. He’s amazing. I feel like this is going to be a good run for him, and I’m there to support to do whatever I can. I play Damona; she’s the HMO receptionist. He gives it to everybody else, but he can’t give it to me because I’m basically in charge of his vacation time [laughs]. I’m the one who has been there the longest, I know the place inside and out, and I stir the pot.
There’s been a resurgence of diversity on network television.
I think when ABC took a chance with “Scandal” and having a female lead–it’s interesting because you have to be reminded that “minorities” really do watch television and pay attention to advertisers, and that we count. This is a really, really important show. “Dr. Ken” is really important. Besides “Fresh Off The Boat,” the last show we’ve had starring an Asian family was 20 years ago. There’s a resurgence for all because if we support them, it benefits all of us. There was a time when a lot of us did not work. If we all support one another, I think that it will make such a difference in the way we see each other. It’s so funny because, John Slavin, a guy on our show, pointed out how Black women have such an emotional tie to me. It’s part of my everyday life, so I don’t look at it like that, but John pointed out that there’s not one day that goes by where I’m walking down the street, and a woman doesn’t start crying when she sees me. He said, “I think it’s an emotional connection because you guys didn’t really see yourselves on television.” I didn’t even think about it like that. Most people probably don’t even know why they’re crying. So I’ll just give them a hug. That’s just part of my daily walk, but I don’t really think about the importance.
You’re returning to network TV. You’re always making moves, and we know that you’re a mom. What are your top three rules for work/life balance and juggling motherhood?
That’s a really good question. I do not take jobs that keep me away for lengths and lengths of time. I have very young children; one is 14 and one is turning 6. Even before the kids came, Dwayne and I had rules about which jobs we take. We only wanted to do sitcoms because it was more like a teacher’s job. You know, you only work a certain amount of hours and a certain amount of months, and you’re off in the summer. For our family and our relationship, it was a better choice for me. I had no idea that the moves that I was making were going to be something that would last and extend past five years. I never thought I would be making some type of history or anything like that. I was making moves for my family and my family dynamic. I think that if you put your family first, your career and everything else will fall into place. It just so happens that MTV is airing “Martin” episodes and “My Wife and Kids.” It’s multigenerational; and globally, “My Wife and Kids” has a huge following. It’s something that I didn’t plan. It’s really funny when you say “making moves” because it’s really the moves that are best for my family dynamic. My husband says “You as an individual come first, and then we as a couple, and then together we raise the kids. You, we, us.”
You two recently celebrated your 19th wedding anniversary.
Our 19th wedding anniversary! We’ve been together 25 years.
Thank you! We’re excited about it. It’s crazy; it flies by so fast. It doesn’t feel like that at all because we feel like we just got together. There’s this woman who said we’re going to be like teenagers in love for the rest of our lives. That’s what it really feels like.
That’s beautiful. I don’t want to say you guys are an anomaly, but…
For us, we have a lot of friends who are the anomaly too. So we don’t really look at it like that. We have a lot of people around us who are like-minded who hold us accountable. I think that makes a difference.
Did they tell you I have a new single?
Yes, I was just going to ask about that! Is there an album coming as well?
Yes, I just finished my album. I worked with a producer named B. Slade. He’s a pretty incredible producer. He showed up at the Xen Lounge, which is a lounge that I own in Los Angeles. He was like, “I know what to do with you.” By that time, there were tons of people who have said the same thing, but the record business is an interesting business because they don’t have the same work ethic as show business people–like calling you back or being on time [laughs].
After that happened, I finally called him, and we finished the entire album. When we dropped it on SoundCloud, it was the idea of LaShawn Daniels–you may know him from the Tamar Braxton show—but he’s also an amazing producer. He has produced Gaga, Beyoncé, and Michael Jackson. He was like, “T, drop it on SoundCloud. Give that single out for free. I think it should be different.” I was like, “I think it should be different too.” So “Steel Here” dropped and it got like 6,000 hit in the first two hours. I don’t really know the record business; I haven’t been in it in a while, so I was like, “That’s good right?” and they were like, “Yes! That’s good!” Then when it hit 45,000 then 50,000 then 100,000 I was hyperventilating when they called me with another number. Literally. I was just really excited that I did it for myself. Like my husband said, “Put yourself first and everything will fall into place.”
Music has always been a part of my life, and it has always stayed in my life, so to be able to get on the mic again… I always say, women, we question everything. We question how we look, our jobs. Are we doing well? I question myself as a wife. Am I being a good wife? Are my kids looking up to me? Am I being a good mother? But singing is something I haven’t questioned myself about for a long time. Being behind the mic is where I am most comfortable.
We just finished shooting the video for “Steel Here” It’s an exciting moment and time for me. And I’m just grateful that people support it. I didn’t have any expectations. I just threw it out there, and this all happened. I’m appreciative of everybody supporting.
Is there an album title yet?
I think that it should be called Steel Here, but we’re still playing around with it.
Last summer, you made an appearance on “The Daily Helpline” and you revealed that you were molested at three years old. It seemed like your story helped a lot of people including the young lady on the show who was dealing with some trauma of her own. Did you walk in knowing you would share that?
No, no, no. I had no idea, and I remember after I had said it, I felt so raw and so exposed. I knew that I would help somebody. The producers and everyone else who was there, you could tell that they were a little in shock. It came out of nowhere. I didn’t plan on revealing anything like that. I’m one of the fortunate ones who received a letter of apology–prior to me doing the show–from the person who raped me. I actually talk about it in “Steel Here”. When the video comes out, you’re going to see.
It’s something that has given me a lot of freedom. I’ve never looked at myself as a victim. I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong, but it would affect me in a different way that maybe I didn’t really discuss on “The Daily Helpline“. It would affect me with breastfeeding my children. I didn’t want to with the first one because I felt like I was going to hurt him. You know, that kind of thing. It’s surprising how things kind of pop up out of nowhere. I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable doing that. I didn’t want to do it, and I felt like it was a lot of pressure for me to do it. Finally, the pediatrician was like, “Can you just stop trying? Because the baby can see your angst.” So I took the pressure off of myself, and it was easier to do it with my second child because I knew what it was then. I’m never the kind of person who allows things to victimize me, so I figure out what my problem is, and I work on it. Just talking about the entire album, in general, it’s not all “Steel Here”. It’s a testament of who I am today and everybody may not like what I have to say. I didn’t go into it wondering who is going to like it and who is not going to like it. I’m not going to let anything from the past stop me from being who I am as a woman today. I express myself in that way. I’m from Newark, New Jersey. Most of my career, I’ve played the bougie girlfriend and the wife, which is interesting because it’s not who I am and where I came from. Those were the roles I played a lot of the time, which is cool, but this album will allow people to see who I truly am as a person. I co-wrote the entire album, so I have a lot to say as Tisha and not the character most people