Hollywood comedian Martin Lawrence made a name for himself after creating, executive producing and taking multiple roles in the sitcom “Martin” (1992-1997). Lawrence’s witty portrayal of Martin Payne and other characters garnered him two Image Awards, as well as another Image and two Kids’ Choice nominations. The comic actor also received rave reviews for his roles in the action comedy Bad Boys (1995) and its sequel Bad Boys 2 (2003), Life (1999, opposite Eddie Murphy) and Big Momma’s House (2000). For his funny performances, Lawrence was handed a 1995 ShoWest Award and a 2005 BET Comedy Award.
Off screen, Lawrence’s life is as intriguing as his career. After being banned from NBC for his vulgar remarks on “Saturday Night Live” (1994), he had to be hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in July 2005 after a wild outburst on the set of A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996). On May 7, 1996, he was arrested by police in Sherman Oaks, California, after complaints were made that he was screaming at motorists and pedestrians. Two months later, he was arrested at Burbank Airport for carrying a loaded 9mm Baretta. He received two years’ probation. His co-star on Martin, Tisha Campbell, sued him for sexual harassment and left the show during its final season. Lawrence was also involved in some other violent and drug related cases. Now recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, the actor is busy with property he owns in Northern Virginia.
In 1993, Lawrence was engaged to actress Lark Voorhies (born on March 25, 1975), but they later broke up. He later was briefly married to Patricia Southall, with whom he shares a daughter.
Childhood and Family:
A son of Chlora Lawrence (ex-cashier) and a U.S. military father, Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence was born on April 16, 1965, in Frankfurt am Maen, Hessen, Germany. After his father retired, the family moved to Queens, New York. In 1973, Martin’s parents divorced and he moved to Maryland with his mother, sister, Ursula Lawrence, and brothers Robert Lawrence and Rae Proctor.
During his teen years, Martin excelled at boxing and became a Mid-Atlantic Golden Gloves boxing contender. However, comedy was his true calling. While at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, he poked fun at others during breaks and recess, and teachers would routinely let him have a few minutes of class time to tell jokes. It was a teacher who suggested to Martin that he try stand-up comedy at a local comedy club. Later, he went to New York and did stand-up comedy while working as a gas station attendant.
As for his private life, 5’ 7-inch tall Martin was married to former Miss Virginia, Patricia Southall, on January 7, 1995. A year later, the marriage ended in divorce. The couple shares a daughter named Jasmine Page (born January 15, 1996).
Making stand-up comedy his first step toward international success, Martin Lawrence told jokes in the Washington circuit before moving to Washington Square Park in NY. He won the first round of the “Star Search” competition in 1987, but lost in the final round. Fortunately, his performance in the competition was noticed by Columbia Pictures, which offered him a deal to play a recurring part as smart-mouthed busboy Maurice Warfield in the last season of the sitcom “What’s Happening Now!” (1987-1988). In 1989, Lawrence was seen in the roles of Sydney Masterson in A Little Bit Strange (TV) and Cee in Do the Right Thing.
Following the role of Bilal in House Party (1990) and House Party 2 (1991), Lawrence’s name blasted off when HBO developed a sitcom for him titled “Martin” (1992-1997). In the series, Lawrence, who was also the creator and executive producer, initially starred as Martin Payne. In the course of the show, he created other characters for himself to play, like Edna ‘Mama’ Payne, Sheneneh, Jenkins, Roscoe, Jerome, Elroy, Bob, King Beef and many more. Lawrence won two Image awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, as well as an Image and two Kids’ Choice nominations. For his witty acting, he was handed a ShoWest for Male Star of Tomorrow.
While working on his sitcom, Lawrence also hosted an HBO comedy series called “Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam” (1992). He also released a concert album titled Talkin’ Shit (1993) and a concert film named You So Crazy (1994, also wrote), both of which were his recorded stand-up acts. In the latter project, Lawrence served as the executive producer and writer (unaccredited), as well. However, due to its NC-17 rating, many theaters refused to screen You So Crazy. Still in 1994, he hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live,” in which some of his remarks banned him from NBC.
Lawrence took the MTV Movie-nominated role of Detective Marcus Burnett, opposite Will Smith, in Michael Bay’s feature directorial debut Bad Boys (1995), before having his first directorial attempt in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996). Besides starring in the dramatic comedy, the comedian also executive produced, wrote the screenplay and the story, and supervised the music. The movie was not well-received. Soon after costarring with Tim Robbins in Nothing to Lose (1997), he gave a fine portrayal of prisoner Claude Banks in Life (1999, opposite Eddie Murphy) and received a Blockbuster Entertainment nomination.
He was then seen as FBI undercover agent Malcolm Turner in Big Momma’s House (2000, also executive produced). Here, Lawrence’s fine turn earned a Blockbuster Entertainment, a Kids’ Choice, a Teen Choice and a MTV Movie nomination. The next year, he executive produced two films, Black Knight (2001) and What’s the Worst That Could Happen (2001, costarred alongside Danny DeVito).
The comedian returned to stand-up comedy and recorded his live performance at the Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. for a concert film titled Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (2002, also credited as the writer). After reprising his role of Detective Marcus Burnett in Bad Boys 2 (2003, brought an MTV Movie nomination), Lawrence executive produced and starred as coach Roy McCormick/Preacher Don in the family comedy Rebound (2005).
The recipient of the 2005 BET Comedy for Icon Comedy, the actor recently returned to his role of FBI agent Malcolm Turner in his self-produced Big Momma’s House 2 (2006). Lawrence will provide his voice for Boog in the animated comedy Open Season (2006), for director Roger Allers and Jill Culton. He is also set to take part in the adventure comedy Wild Hogs (2007), along with big names like Tim Allen, William H. Macy and John Travolta.
- BET Comedy: Icon Comedy Award, 2005
- Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, “Martin,” 1996
- Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, “Martin,” 1995
- ShoWest: Male Star of Tomorrow, 1995