Carl Anthony Payne II: All Around Pro - Cosby, Martin and Beyond

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 Fox’s hit series Martin, but his on and off screen accomplishments show that he’s

true to his craft in the most serious of ways. Since his breakout role back more

than 20 years ago as Theo Huxtable’s friend Cockroach on The Cosby Show, Payne has appeared in dozens of commercials and sitcoms

including George Lopez, UPN’s Girlfriends and The Hughleys.

Right now he’s back on TV with

a guest spot on the new MyNetwork show Under One Roof

starring Flavor Flav. He’s 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 he’s had his ups and his downs, but his journey from reciting

poems as early as two-years-old to working in New York’s 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. What’s going

on? I understand you’re 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 Flav’s childhood friend, who he also did time with -

in the acting world, of course. 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 I’m 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]. 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 that’s 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 don’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re not as familiar with the

culture of the people they’re writing for and it doesn’t 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. For sure, but with writing

comes criticism. There’s 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: It’s all entertainment. We

realize nobody is safe on our show, believe me, we know that. You look at other

shows, like… well I won’t say no names, but let’s 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 it’s worth. 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 I’m going to do. You didn’t hear all

this about Married With Children. The

dysfunction is was what made the show so popular. It was real. It’s sad, but

we’ve gotten our priorities screwed up. People care more about what Britney

Spears is doing than about the elections. Do you think today’s 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: There’s nothing on TV

right now that you really want to see. Nothing but reality shows - which I’m not

knocking, but it’s like fighting a losing battle because they’re not interested

in giving you anything of substance because that’s what sells.

It doesn’t cost much to make

one, and you don’t need talented actors, so that ought to tell you something.

And another thing, I won’t give it away, but in another couple of years, you’re

going to see a major change in the way our entertainment is flowing. No doubt! I

mean just look at the internet and you can see that.

Carl: That’s what I’m talking

about. So as talent or even a writer or producer, you got to stay one step

ahead of the game and know where it’s going and put yourself in positions of

power and get involved. It’s 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

you’re seeing in mainstream. The show Martin made gave a lot of people

something to identify with, When I’m at a beauty salon, barbershop, or at a friend’s 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 doesn’t 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 don’t even know where these things originated, and

they’re walking around saying it.

People can’t 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

favorite character. 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 doesn’t work any more, it

can never be the same again. But through other people’s actions, I learned a

lot about what to do. It was like acting school for me. That’s a hell

of a school to be in. I remember visiting you on the set and thinking, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” But I know you paid your dues and you worked


Carl: Yeah, I’ve definitely worked

hard, but that’s 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. That’s who you’re 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" You’re known

for playing a comedic sidekick in your most noted roles [like Erkel from Family Matters and Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes]. Did you experience

typecasting of any kind because of characters you played such as Cole and Cockroach?

Carl: Yeah definitely, I

think I’m 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 didn’t perceive them as growing up. That’s why you have to fight and be like,

“Yo, I’m more than just that.”

I couldn’t 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. You’re from

the Polo Grounds in Washington Heights, so you’re familiar with the game in the streets, but Hollywood has a hustle all it’s 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 you’ll go far. A lot of people make the

mistake of thinking just because you’re making big money now, means you’ll 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. 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, “Let’s do

this.” 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

ain’t what people think. But it sure feels good to open up that envelope and be

reminded of the work you did 15 years ago. 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 it’s an added advantage if you have the street hustle

in you. 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 that’s what I look for. Ok, so what does a person

need to have before they can come to you?

Carl: I’m doing the choosing right

now. I might go to the comedy club or even acting classes and I’m looking for

people who are hungry, humble and not afraid to get their hands dirty. Those qualities pretty much mirror the ones I

have. 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 Affleck’s Project Green Light with HBO. That comes out in August. I star in

this horror flick and it’s 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

that’s just me!