Tisha Campbell-Martin Returns to Primetime and the Studio with “Dr. Ken”, ‘Steel Here’

Tisha Campbell-Martin as Damona Jenkins from ABC’s ‘Dr. Ken’

Cover art of Campbell-Martin’s new single, ‘Steel Here’

By Damion Smalls

As Tisha Campbell-Martin is once again set to make her presence known on network television in the sitcom “Dr. Ken” this fall, her career as a singer has recently been rejuvenated.

Campbell-Martin, the Newark, NJ native whose memorable roles in television shows such as “Martin” and “My Wife and Kids” and movies like “House Party 1-3” and “Sprung” have kept her on the screen steadily for the past three decades, she reveals that she has always felt most comfortable in the booth.

She credits her husband, fellow performer Duane Martin, and producer of ‘Steel Here’, B. Slade, for persuading her to jump back into the career that originally got her on the map. As a child, Campbell-Martin entered and won talent contests based on her singing, which helped provide for her family. As such, her modus operandi as a family-oriented, modest, and hard-working individual was instilled at a young age.

‘Steel Here’ is an empowering R&B jam that tells the personal tale of survival and resilience Campbell-Martin has lived through as Black woman in Hollywood. She paints a bright light on her struggles by affirming her continuing existence as a strong and still-growing person.

Response to her new single has been excitingly positive. Within the first few hours of release, ‘Steel Here’ reached 6,000 plays on the online music streaming platform SoundCloud and over 320,000 in its first month. Campbell-Martin is unmistakably “giddy” over the song’s reception so far. Even though she “put music on the back burner” for a minute, “getting back my roots” has be a top priority this year for Campbell-Martin. She hopes to carry that momentum to her new comedy on ABC.

“Dr. Ken”, which stars the physician-turned-comic Ken Jeong of “The Hangover” trilogy and cult favorite comedy series “Community”, shows the perspective of a general practitioner as he deals with modern parenthood, patients he has little patience for, and his ever-present neurotic nature.

Husband to a therapist and father to a teenaged girl who just got her license and an imaginative nine-year-old son, Dr. Ken Park has his hands full at all times, but most of his problems are self-inflicted. In the pilot episode, viewers can observe his manipulative tendencies, sardonic tone towards every one he comes across, and a general state of confusion in social settings. He means well, but he’d be completely lost without his family and co-workers guiding him out of his own way.

Damona Jenkins, an integral piece of Dr. Ken’s staff, is Campbell-Martin’s character on the show. As a receptionist, Jenkins serves as a voice in Ken’s head that he respects and requires from time to time to solve personal and professional crises. The actress holds Jeong in high regard.

“He’s just so humble,” Campbell-Martin raves. “You just want to see him win”. Jeong’s ability to “turn it off and on” on the set is what enlivens the cast to have fun and enjoy their time together, says the singer-actress.

She goes on to describe that working with the rest of the group, which includes Suzy Nakamura and Dave Foley, as an ideal mix of seasoned pros ready to entertain and make history as one of the few Asian-led sitcoms in primetime.

One of Campbell-Martin’s most notable recent portrayals has been one of a fictitious version of herself on the BET comedy “Real Husbands of Hollywood”, which also stars her husband Duane. Her time on the show was akin to a “dream job”, performing with the “talented women” of the cast “not for the money”, but to make fun of herself with friends, with “never a dull moment” on set. Kevin Hart, star of “Real Husbands”, is a “great person” that makes everyone’s job easier on set according to Campbell-Martin. “Love and miss that show,” she exclaims.

“Dr. Ken” premieres on ABC Friday, October 2 at 8:30 PM EST. Look out for the follow-up to “Steel Here”, which is currently the top R&B Soul single on SoundCloud. “We still here”, indeed.

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