Nobody knows comedy like Tichina Arnold, who currently stars opposite Cedric the Entertainer, Max Greenfield, and Beth Behrs in the CBS sitcom The Neighborhood. Perhaps best known for her unforgettable turn as Pamela James in the iconic series Martin, the comedy great has only flourished since that series ended in 1997. Her resume is longer than a CVS receipt and boasts additional leading roles in beloved shows like Survivor's Remorse, One on One, and Everybody Hates Chris.
As The Neighborhood gears up for the second half of its sophomore run, Arnold opened up to TV Guide about her extensive experience in the business and what she's learned from her time on Martin. Plus, the actress revealed her dream Neighborhood guest star and teased what's ahead in the remaining episodes of Season 2.
The great thing about The Neighborhood is that it's funny while touching on real-life, sometimes sensitive topics. What has been your favorite subject to tackle so far on the show?
Tichina Arnold: Well, I love when we tackle the differences between the white culture and the black culture because it brings out so many things that I'm sure we speak about in separate households. But when we're together, it kind of brings up things that you wouldn't talk to a person of another race about so it kind of clears the air. It's refreshing to me, to even learn different things. ... We are like that off camera as well. We'll have something in the script, like a black colloquialism, and [Beth Behrs and Max Greenfield] will be like, "What does that mean?" I think that's why this show stands aside from a lot of shows in terms of its comedic ability and its far reach to so many different cultures and different types of people. I think Jim Reynolds kept a certain integrity where we talk about things that we really would talk about, but it's done in a format and a way where all parties are cool about it.
Everything is so divisive right now and then you have The Neighborhood, which opens those sensitive conversations in such a friendly way. What do you think that people can take away from the show?
Arnold: That it's OK that we're all different. It's OK to not know something. It's OK to even realize that you were ignorant about certain things. And what better way can we do that than through comedy? When people can laugh at themselves, it's a good thing.
Going into the second half of the season, what are you excited for the show to explore?
Arnold: I want for Beth and I to be in more situations where we learn more about each other as friends. ... We're going to tackle menopause. I'm in full-on menopause right now and I just went, "Oh yeah, I'm not suffering through this by myself. Everybody's going to suffer with me." So we joke about it on the set all the time when I have a hot flash. So it's just basically touching upon subject matters that have been taboo for so long. As a surviving actress having been in show business all these years, I don't mind talking about the stuff that I talk about off camera in the privacy of my own home.
For someone who's been a part of this business for as long as you have, do you feel like you have more creative freedom now than in your earlier days?
Arnold: Girl, I've earned my stripes. They trust my word, they trust what I say, they believe me. I treat my followers like that as well. So when you have earned trust, you've got to do right by it. I just want to make sure that I do right by people and by myself, so it's good to be honest.
How much of what we see in the show comes from you and the conversations you have with your co-workers?
Arnold: Quite a bit. They incorporate a lot of our conversations into the show. Comedy should always be honest because when it comes from a real place, it's funnier.
Many people remember you from Martin, which was such an iconic show. What are some of the things you learned from that experience that have stayed with you and been applied to future jobs?
Arnold: I've learned so much from Martin. I learned to be quick on my feet. I learned to work myself when it comes to comedy. I learned to go full throttle and not to censor myself. I have come to a place where I don't like watching myself because one time I watched myself and I started censoring myself. I'm like, "Yeah, don't do that. It looks ugly when you do that." I'd just rather not watch myself because I'd never want to second guess myself. Comedy is like a moving train. Once it starts, it's hard to stop it. And if you start censoring yourself, that will make you pump the brakes. I never want to pump the brakes when it comes to comedy.
Is there a dream celebrity guest that you would love to have appear on The Neighborhood?
Arnold: Don't think I'm crazy when I say this, but I love Anthony Hopkins. I don't care if I act with him in [a] paper bag. I am so in love with Sir Anthony Hopkins that I don't care in what capacity I work with him. There are very few people that I get excited about, but he's one that I will, like, have a heart attack. Now that I put it out there, you just never know. But that's my dream.
We've got a second half of the season coming up. How would you describe it and what should fans look out for?
Arnold: Oh, just more funny. [Fans are] going to learn more about our characters and we're going to be in situations that everybody can relate to. And I think Jim and Cedric do a great job when they get together and come up with these different situations for us to be in. So [expect] more of the same. If it ain't broke, we don't have to try to fix it. We're not fixing anything there.
The Neighborhood returns Monday, Jan. 6 at 8/7c on CBS.
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