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‘Married But Single Too’ brings stars to Music Hall

Carl Anthony Payne II of ‘Martin’ fame among black Hollywood headliners.

Photo courtesy of Stan Barough/It Is Done Communications)

It’s a safe guess most successful actors would not boast about a resumé that includes characters named “Pimpin’ Pete” or “Cockroach.” For actor Carl Anthony Payne II, however, both roles carry a measure of pride.

“Pimpin’ Pete” is the comic-relief hustler that Payne enjoyed playing so much that he’s reprising it for playwright Je’Caryous Johnson’s new ensemble romantic comedy Married But Single Too, kicking off its 11-city national tour on Valentine’s Day at Detroit’s Music Hall Center. And “Cockroach,” of course, was the dubious nickname of Theo Huxtable’s best bud, Walter Bradley, in several of the more memorable episodes of the landmark ‘80s series The Cosby Show.

And exactly 30 years since he last played the part – and despite his more recent “adult sidekick” role as Cole Brown on the ‘90s sitcom Martin – Payne still may be best remembered as Theo’s BFF and co-conspirator. Some actors might grow bitter over the public’s long memory.

Payne views it as a blessing.

“I think I would feel a lot differently if I hadn’t been working,” he muses. “The good thing is, I’ve never stopped working, so there’s always something current that people can see me in along with the reruns. It’s always nice to be recognized for something that you’ve done that made a difference, you know? And it’s always love.

“I’ve met dudes who got out of jail and told me, ‘Man, if it wasn’t for you. You really helped me get through my time,’” Payne says. “There are just people from so many different walks of life who have said how it impacted their life. And that’s real. So how could I ever feel some sort of way negatively about that? I mean, that's what we’re here for, right? We’re medicine men. We’re here to make them laugh and we heal them with our comedy, with our entertainment. Sometimes, that’s the purpose of it.

“I never feel any way other than just thankful when somebody tells me how I’ve impacted their life with my work. So I’m blessed.”

Payne’s current projects include co-starring (with Mark Curry of Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper fame) in the sitcom One Love on Bounce TV, directing his first full-length film, Misguided Behavior, and producing another, Zulu Wedding, shot in Africa. “I’m always telling people what to do anyway, so it was no big change,” he says with a laugh. “I know what I bring to the table creatively. It’s a natural progression of what we do.”

And while Payne famously parted company with The Cosby Show after a falling-out with Cosby over the length his hair, he still speaks in reverent tones about the dethroned superstar and his legacy.

“I think the legacy can’t be destroyed. It can’t be,” says Payne. “They’ll try, just like they’ve tried with other some of our other heroes and entertainers in the limelight. It’s sad that you’re crucified before you’re even tried, especially in social media.

“I don’t like the way we are treated in similar situations with other celebrities who are white. You’ve got people who come out and openly admit all kinds of sexual deviations, but they don’t take their shows off the air, they don’t remove their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s just ridiculous.

“But I also feel the legacy can’t be tarnished because it’s already done, what was accomplished by that show,” Payne says. “In terms of how many African Americans and people of color saw it and aspired to be more, how many people went to college because of that show. Those statistics, you can’t change them. That’s what matters.”

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