According to reports, Thomas Mikal Ford, “Tommy” of Martin fame, has died at age 52.
Ford died on Wednesday, October 12, TMZ reports, at an Atlanta hospital “surrounded by family and friends.”
As was previously reported, the actor had been hospitalized since Sunday (Oct. 9) after an aneurysm ruptured in his abdomen; and his health rapidly deteriorated. Ford’s ex-wife, Gina, asked fans for their prayers.
Ford was also featured in the Eddie Murphy/Richard Pryor comedy Harlem Nights and the Kid ‘N Play vehicle Class Act.
But Ford is likely best known for his time on Martin. For five seasons, from 1992 to 1997, Ford played Thomas “Tommy” Strawn on the popular FOX sitcom. Tommy was often straight man to star Martin Lawrence’s hyper-animated Martin Payne, and a frequent love interest for Pam (Tichina Arnold.) A famous running joke on the show was Tommy’s employment–with characters and fans famously pondering what was Tommy’s job.
In 2010, Ford explained to Rodney Perry how the idea came about.
“We got back for our second season, and we hadn’t been back for several months, and we’re sittin’ around doin’ a table read [of the script] and the idea comes up: Maybe Martin meets Tommy after work,” Ford explained.
“And then Martin stops reading and goes, ‘Wait a minute. Tommy, what the hell do you do?’
“He wasn’t in character; he was being Martin. He says, ‘You have a job?’” Ford continued. “I said, ‘Of course I have a job!’ And I’m startin’ to explain but everybody’s like ‘No no no no no! Don’t explain. We love it!’”
“But I’m like, ‘No, we don’t love that. I got to have a job,’” he added. “My dad was an MP, Military Police, in the Navy. His motto was ‘Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream. Get off your butt and do something!’ For me, the biggest insult I could imagine was a man who had no job.”
After Martin ended, Ford played Lieutenant Malcom Baker on the FOX drama New York Undercover during the series’ final season in 1998. He would go on to play Mel Parker on The Parkers from 1999 to 2001 and also appeared on The Jamie Foxx Show. After a hiatus, Ford returned to television with TV One’s comedy competition series Who’s Got Jokes? and on BET’s Let’s Stay Together, which aired from 2011 to 2014.
In 2013, he also appeared in the inspirational drama Dreams alongside Terri J. Vaughn, Mel Jackson and Geoffrey Owens and this summer Ford headlined the gospel stage play I Just Can’t Take It Anymore.
Ford was also dedicated to faith and community-building, through his work as a motivational speaker and the documentary project, Through My Lens.
“Young people mirror the images of those that they perceive are cool!” his website reads. “Actors, singers, rappers, athletes and entertainers. I have done more than 200 episodes of television, more than two dozen films, and close to 100 theatrical performances! While I have the platform it is my opportunity to let our children, youth and adults know that they’re beautiful, they’re powerful, they’re valuable and they’re worth-while!”
He is survived by his children, Thomas and Madison.