From Survivor to Diva, Proving She Could Play Anything

Veteran actress Tichina Arnold is doing double duty on the small screen, playing the co-host of a fictional women’s talk show on VH1’s new series Daytime Divas as well as a feisty mom to a pro basketball superstar in Starz’s comedy series Survivor’s Remorse.

Arnold, also known for her now-familiar roles in such classic comedy series as Martin and Everybody Hates Chris, recently spoke to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about her current TV projects and the issue of diversity on television. An edited transcript follows.

Related > MCN Review: VH1's 'Daytime Divas'

MCN:As a veteran of the television industry, do you believe we are in a golden age with regard to multicultural images and themed stories on the small screen?
Tichina Arnold: I think we are. There’s an amazing movement for people of color right now — there’s an amazing platform, because what it’s done is open doors for people to really tell their stories and to call people to task for not telling the truth. This world involves so many cultures and so many types of people in all walks of life, and social media has forced us to be inclusive and to be aware of different people and different walks of live. The television networks are now being forced to do it because there is demand for people to see what they don’t know and what they don’t look like.

MCN:Is this golden age more of a trend or one that will become a permanent fixture on the television scene?
TA: I’m hoping that we’re not in a trend. I’ve been part of trends quite a few times — they’d put all the black shows on back to back on the same night to build up the brand, and then once they built the network, they’d get rid of the shows. I don’t want to see that again.

MCN:Having starred in several hit TV shows, what drew you toDaytime Divas?
TA: I received the script from my agency, and it was the first time I read a script and laughed hysterically. My character is one that could be played by anybody. I like being able to go after a role where people can see me in a different light than my previous roles and it doesn’t pigeonhole me. I can play a superhero and save the world. Roles written specifically for black women are rare, but the upside of it is if we get the opportunity to play other roles that are not written for black women. It opens up more doors for us because it shows we can do anything, which we can.

Video > Watch the 'Daytime Divas' Trailer

MCN:Are you surprised by the success ofSurvivor’s Remorse— now headed into its fourth season — and the popularity of your character Cassie Calloway?
TA: I am not surprised by the success of Survivor’s Remorse. I always knew that it was an amazing show — [series executive producer] Michael O’Malley put his heart and all into the show and it’s a passion for him to make it right, and he allows us as actors to give our opinions and our input which is important because we have to convey these characters. To be able to be such a part of such an iconic show is great. I love playing Cassie — I’ve formed Cassie into being a woman that I think a lot of women will be able to understand and live vicariously through.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.