Tichina Arnold isn’t afraid to bring the drama on screen — or in real life. The seasoned actress first stole America’s heart when she debuted in Fox’s hit '90s series Martin. Since then, Arnold has displayed her talents on both the big and small screens in projects such as Big Momma’s House and Everybody Hates Chris. These days, the dynamo has added another feather to her cap with Starz’s popular comedy, Survivor's Remorse (Sundays, 10pm ET), which recently debuted its third season.
In Survivor’s Remorse, Arnold plays Cassie, the mother of Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), a young basketball player who’s adjusting to his new life as a hot shot pro. Recently, EBONY.com got Arnold to dish on why folks won’t want to miss even one episode of the new season, and why she kept it all the way real–and public–about her marital problems.
EBONY.com: There is always so much drama on the show. What can we expect from your character, Cassie, this season?
Tichina Arnold: This season you are going to see her open up to love. You are going to see her drop a huge bomb of a secret that she’s held for a long time. She is forced to share it with her son, which will actually change the course of the show’s direction. It’s pretty deep.
EBONY.com: What similarities do you see between you and your character when it comes to motherhood?
Tichina Arnold: Though I have one child and my character, Cassie, has two, there are some universal elements when it comes to motherhood — especially for Black moms. Black women are selfless. Many women think of their children before they think about themselves, and this season you’ll see that Cassie is going through a metamorphosis; she’s actually realizing that it is time for her. With the new found money, fame, and glory, of course, comes a lot of heartache, trials and tribulations and it’s a lot for my character. What I like about her is that out of all of the characters on Survivor’s Remorse, Cassie is the one who is not trying to find herself in the midst of all the hoopla of fame and fortune. Cassie knows exactly who the hell she is; she is just figuring out where to place it all and how to deal with all of the things that are coming her way.
EBONY.com: Being a veteran in this industry, how is this character different from anyone else you have portrayed?
Tichina Arnold: I think Cassie is a little different because of the situation she’s put in. Before every season, Mike O’ Malley (one of the show’s writers) insists that the actors come in and talk to the writers about how we see our characters growing and what kind of storyline we want. It’s a cohesive effort for us to try and make that play out so the season can be dynamic. The one request I had for my character is I wanted to continue her Blasian relationship with Dochin Bow (her Asian boyfriend on the show) because you don’t often see a Black woman adored by a billionaire. I wanted to play that out so that other women can live vicariously through her. I like seeing things that you don’t normally see. Black people are so diverse, we do so many things, we have given so much to this world — and we are constantly giving. My character Cassie is learning how to receive.
EBONY.com: Your character is the head of the household. So when the cameras stop rolling, what kind of relationship do you have with the other cast members off set?
Tichina Arnold: Awesome. We have a very cohesive set, and we have an awesome crew. We all work very hard, and when we get on each other’s nerves, we go to our own corners, but it is a family unit. We stay in contact, even when we are on hiatus. On set, I’m a bit bossy. I dug my heels in the first season, and I claim it, but it's fun because the kids really understand it, and they respect it. I respect them as well; they keep me current so, it is a give and take relationship.
EBONY.com: You’ve balanced family, relationships, career and your foundation, We Win. What tips can you give to women who are trying to find that perfect balance?
Tichina Arnold: Take one thing at a time. It is okay to multitask if you have that type of gift in you. I'm not a great multitasker. I suggest folks picture themselves 5-10 years from now, and consider your legacy. I think you have to include your legacy in everything that you do because it makes you proceed with a little more mindfulness when it comes to decision-making, and the lives that you will affect by your choices.
EBONY.com: The show is great at tackling controversial issues, such as homophobia in the church. Given the backdrop of the recent Orlando tragedy, what is your opinion on the role of a mother of a gay adult child?
Tichina Arnold: First and foremost, that is your baby and will always be your child. That’s the wonderful thing about motherhood; it’s so humbling. Once you're a mother, you're always a mom. So it doesn't matter if your child comes out green, purple, bisexual or whatever. That's who they are and you love them regardless. You guide them as best as you can. We must always proceed with love first and foremost.
EBONY.com: How important do you feel it is to address certain controversies on this platform?
Tichina Arnold: Actors, producers and directors have a responsibility. My personal pledge, since I became a mother 12 years ago, is that I won’t be in any project my daughter can’t watch. I’m trying to prepare her for the world. It's unfortunate that some people do not see what entertainers do in the background, but many of us do so much work with causes. You know some people have chewed me out, saying things like, “Oh why could you post pictures in your dresses and meanwhile they killing black men on the street?” I’m thinking, excuse me do you know what I did today? Do you know what I'm doing right now while I’m reading this post? So I think a lot of celebrities get a bad rap because people see the surface.
EBONY.com: Life in the public eye can be very invasive. Many women felt empowered by your bravery when you spoke out on social media about your split with your husband [revealing that he was unfaithful]. Do you have any advice for women going through similar experiences?
Tichina Arnold: There are millions of women that are going through what I went through, and I don't pass the blame game because there are two sides to every story. You have to realize that every problem isn’t your issue — with my husband and I, that is something he had to deal with. I have been through it already, we have talked about it and I think we as Black woman have the natural affinity to share comfort and deal with everybody else's issues, but you have to save yourself first. My issue with my husband was unfortunate, but I don't regret a goddamn thing I did. Everybody’s problem is not yours, regardless of marriage and relationships, and I think women sometimes have to shed “what we think it should be” and address “what it is”. I didn't dig for anything. It fell right into my lap it and came to me and I dealt with it the best I could. I don’t go through people's phones and do all of that stuff. You may agree with it, or you may not, but I did what I had to do.
EBONY.com: Tell us about your foundation, We Win?
Tichina Arnold: We help people that have lupus and other autoimmune diseases, and we also help the people who are their caregivers. Most folks know somebody who has lupus. It’s very prevalent amongst the Black community. We are losing women unnecessarily, and my sister and I have made it our goal to make sure we teach people how to live. We want you to live and thrive. We don't want lupus to kill you — you can get through it.
Survivor's Remorse airs Sundays at 10pm ET on STARZ.