Thomas Mikal “Tommy” Ford, best known to TV audiences as Tommy Strawn, the straight man to radio DJ Martin Payne on the Detroit-set 1990s sitcom “Martin,” is dead at 52, TMZ reports.
Ford’s wife tells the celebrity news outlet that the actor suffered a stomach aneurysm and had been battling the ailment since Sunday.
With “Martin,” headlined by actor-comedian Martin Lawrence, Ford rounded out one of the most – if not the most – cohesive, chemistry-driven casts in black sitcom history, part of a bill that included Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tichina Arnold and Carl Anthony Payne II.
As Tommy, a frequent running joke around Ford’s character was the mystery of his profession – though his job was actually referred to twice, if subtly, in the series. Often the most level-headed of the characters, Tommy was often an unwilling co-conspirator in Martin and Cole’s schemes, a voice of reason in the relationship between Martin and Gina, and a love interest for Pam – one of the handful of depictions of on-screen black love between two career-minded professionals at the time.
Along with post-“The Cosby Show” sitcoms “Living Single,” “Family Matters” and “A Different World,” “Martin’s” influence – including Tommy’s dubious claims to employment, which were reborn through Internet memes throughout the 2010s – hovers over modern pop culture, especially as more attention is paid to diversity and inclusion on screen.
Ford was also known for roles in the Kid ‘N Play comedy “Class Act,” a supporting role in the Fox drama “New York Undercover” and a recurring role in UPN’s “The Parkers.” In recent years, Ford had become a motivational speaker, acting coach and accessories designer.