Carl Anthony Payne II may be
best known for his success in parlaying his comedic talent into the wild hat
wearing, less-than-genius Cole on Foxs hit series Martin, but his on and off screen accomplishments show that hes
true to his craft in the most serious of ways. Since his breakout role back more
than 20 years ago as Theo Huxtables friend Cockroach on The Cosby Show, Payne has appeared in dozens of commercials and sitcoms
including George Lopez, UPNs Girlfriends and The Hughleys.
Right now hes back on TV with
a guest spot on the new MyNetwork show Under One Roof
starring Flavor Flav. Hes also written and starred in a number of theater
productions, which includes his most recent play Irresponsible Behavior with former Martin castmate Tommy Ford and actress Terri Vaughn.
The New York native is the
first to admit hes had his ups and his downs, but his journey from reciting
poems as early as two-years-old to working in New Yorks Children Theatre by
the age of 10, his philosophy on staying in the game is simple: Never get too
comfortable and keep your eyes low to the ground.
We sat down with Carl to find
out more about his current projects and his amazing past.
AllHipHop.com: Whats going
on? I understand youre just getting in from Canada where you were shooting a
few episodes for Under One Roof. Tell
us about your involvement with that show.
Carl Payne: Well, I play the
role of Jay Bone, Flavor Flavs childhood friend, who he also did time with –
in the acting world, of course.
AllHipHop.com: You and
Flavor Flav go way back – both of you are from New York. How did you come about
working on the show together?
Carl: Yeah, Flav is from Staten
Island and Im from uptown, but actually, the Producer of the show, Claude
Brooks from C To The B Productions, he and I grew up together and he asked me
to come on the show as an actor and a punch-up writer [takes existing script and makes it better].
AllHipHop.com: Was writing a
natural progression for you after years of working on sitcoms?
Carl: Most definitely.
Anybody who has a creative bone in their body knows thats what they want to be
doing. Even when we were doing Martin
we were going away from the script on scenes, making it our own. No disrespect
to anybody but, sometimes writers dont know what theyre doing. Sometimes theyre not as familiar with the
culture of the people theyre writing for and it doesnt work.
You have to know a people or
at least be familiar with the star to be able to write in those nuances that
make the scene and the story work.
AllHipHop.com: For sure, but with writing
comes criticism. Theres been some controversy surrounding the show Under One Roof – some say the show
presents racial stereotypes and negative cultural images, with the usual
scenarios of an ex-convict, successful African-American entrepreneur who, according to producers, has “lost touch with his
blackness.” What do you say to that?
Carl: Its all entertainment. We
realize nobody is safe on our show, believe me, we know that. You look at other
shows, like well I wont say no names, but lets be real, brothers do marry
white women, and people have family members who have been to prison.
Scenes from Under One Roof with Flavor Flav and Kadeem Hardison
mean it is what it is. Yeah, as creative minds we have to be responsible for
the product we put out there, but at the end of the day, we all have to be able
to take it for what its worth.
AllHipHop.com: You have been a part of some groundbreaking shows – The Cosby Show being one of the first shows to paint a positive
image of an African-American family, as well as the George Lopez show, highlighting a hardworking Mexican-American
family. With the dynamics of these shows being so different from one another,
where would you say [Under One Roof] is in terms of the positive contributions it
Carl: Look, the bottom line
is this is not going to be the only show Im going to do. You didnt hear all
this about Married With Children. The
dysfunction is was what made the show so popular. It was real. Its sad, but
weve gotten our priorities screwed up. People care more about what Britney
Spears is doing than about the elections.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think todays writers and producers expect the same level of work from
talent as they did, say 10, 15, 20 years ago, or do you think the standards
have been lowered as a result of reality TV?
Carl: Theres nothing on TV
right now that you really want to see. Nothing but reality shows – which Im not
knocking, but its like fighting a losing battle because theyre not interested
in giving you anything of substance because thats what sells.
It doesnt cost much to make
one, and you dont need talented actors, so that ought to tell you something.
And another thing, I wont give it away, but in another couple of years, youre
going to see a major change in the way our entertainment is flowing.
AllHipHop.com: No doubt! I
mean just look at the internet and you can see that.
Carl: Thats what Im talking
about. So as talent or even a writer or producer, you got to stay one step
ahead of the game and know where its going and put yourself in positions of
power and get involved. Its wonderful that we live in a country where we have
that medium to be able to showcase our work and express views other than what
youre seeing in mainstream.
AllHipHop.com: The show Martin made gave a lot of people
something to identify with, When Im at a beauty salon, barbershop, or at a
friends home and Martin comes on,
people still reflect on the highs and the lows of the show and how it affected
their lives. How did doing Martin
impact your life?
Carl: First let me say nobody
is gonna watch a show that doesnt deal with anything real and sensationalize
it. Yeah, we went over board sometimes for the sake of comedy, but we dealt
with things that are real. We sparked so many things that are part of pop
culture today. If I hear you go boy or you go girl or talk to the hand
one more time! People dont even know where these things originated, and
theyre walking around saying it.
People cant be real when
they criticize things like that, but we definitely appreciate the love we
received, because we gave a lot of ourselves and I think everybody had their
AllHipHop.com: In the year or
so leading up to the last episode of
Martin, the whole cast was riding
a bit of a rollercoaster with all the goings-on with Martin [Lawrence]
personally. How did that affect your personal relationship with him and the
rest of the cast, and how are you all with each other today?
Carl: Doing a show like that
is like a machine. Once one component breaks down and doesnt work any more, it
can never be the same again. But through other peoples actions, I learned a
lot about what to do. It was like acting school for me.
AllHipHop.com: Thats a hell
of a school to be in. I remember visiting you on the set and thinking, It
doesnt get any better than this! But I know you paid your dues and you worked
Carl: Yeah, Ive definitely worked
hard, but thats what you work hard for. All those things that come with it,
the paycheck and your name of the parking space, all that. But I learned a lot
about what to do and what not to do when I do my own show and Tichina [Arnold],
Tisha [Campbell], Tommy and Martin became like family. Thats who youre with
everyday on a regular [basis], so you all grow in many ways.
Martin – Episode “Come On Over To My Place”
Martin – Episode “Baby, It’s Cole’d In Here”
AllHipHop.com: Youre known
for playing a comedic sidekick in your most noted roles [like Erkel from Family Matters and Arnold from Diffrent Strokes]. Did you experience
typecasting of any kind because of characters you played such as Cole and Cockroach?
Carl: Yeah definitely, I
think Im over it now though. I think enough time has passed, but for some
roles like Erkel, and Arnold, I think they had it a lot worse than me because
the industry didnt perceive them as growing up. Thats why you have to fight and be like,
Yo, Im more than just that.
I couldnt even audition for
some of the things Denzel was doing because sometimes he saw me that way, but I
had to go in that room and prove him wrong. I mean you may not get the role,
but if you handle your business at least they respect you.
AllHipHop.com: Youre from
the Polo Grounds in Washington Heights, so youre familiar with the game in the
streets, but Hollywood has a hustle all its own. For you to have a family of
four boys and a wife, in this business today, how do you manage to keep your
head, and for that matter, your house?
Carl: Just apply the street
game to what you do in Hollywood and youll go far. A lot of people make the
mistake of thinking just because youre making big money now, means youll make
big money forever. And nobody tells you this, so to everybody reading this,
take it from your boy – keep you head and look to the future.
AllHipHop.com: Your recent
works include directing, starring in and co-producing Irresponsible Behavior. People showed you and the play a lot of
love. Was that a more a labor of love or a paycheck for you?
Carl: That was definitely a
love for me, something I was able to do with my boy Les Wilson a long time
friend and business partner. He comes from the corporate world, and we always
talked about the sexual overtones in relationships between people in the office
and we knew everybody had experienced it at some time, so we thought, Lets do
AllHipHop.com: Are you still
making money from the Martin show?
Carl: Yeah, I make a whole
lot of gas money! [laughs] I still get
money from The Cosby Show too, but it
aint what people think. But it sure feels good to open up that envelope and be
reminded of the work you did 15 years ago.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think is the
most valuable thing you can impart to anybody interested in breaking into the
Carl: I think the main thing
is never get comfortable, take advantage of every opportunity around. Keep your
eye low to the ground and protect your neck, because this is definitely a dog-eat-dog
business. But definitely its an added advantage if you have the street hustle
AllHipHop.com: We talked once about your
interest in managing talent. Is that something you plan on doing in the future?
Carl: For sure! I love what I do
and thats what I look for.
AllHipHop.com: Ok, so what does a person
need to have before they can come to you?
Carl: Im doing the choosing right
now. I might go to the comedy club or even acting classes and Im looking for
people who are hungry, humble and not afraid to get their hands dirty. Those qualities pretty much mirror the ones I
AllHipHop.com: What else is
on the horizon for you?
Carl: Look out for my movie, Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds, directed by
John Gulager, the winner of Matt Damon and Ben Afflecks Project Green Light with HBO. That comes out in August. I star in
this horror flick and its gonna be a stretch for me. I play a real a**hole in
this crazy, scary joint, but you know I got to bring some comedy to it, because
thats just me!