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Tichina Arnold on ‘Survivor’s Remorse,’ ‘Martin’ and her lupus foundation

Tichina Arnold

Tichina Arnold, right, representing her We Win Foundation arrives at Exposition Park with her sister Zenay Arnold (left) to take part in the Walk to End Lupus Now in Los Angeles.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Few actors, male or female, will get a role on television that ultimately defines their entire career. But Tichina Arnold did -- twice -- as Pamela James on the hit series "Martin" and Rochelle on "Everybody Hates Chris." Now, as the matriarch on Starz's "Survivor's Remorse," she may be well on her way to nabbing the feat for a third time.

"Survivor's Remorse," which airs Saturdays at 9:30 p.m., follows the story of Cam (Jessie Usher), who has pulled his family out of a tough neighborhood by signing a multimillion-dollar deal with the NBA. Executive produced by Lebron James and Mike O'Malley, the show features Mike Epps, Teyonah Parris, RonReaco Lee and Erica Ash. Arnold plays Cam's mother Cassie ("I get to play a young mother. Thank God!" she said) and much like her prior, most notable gigs, the show tackles important cultural issues.

But despite her new role, which helped the series get picked up for a third season, she will always be Pam.

"It's a blessing," she said about the recognition she still gets for the role opposite Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell-Martin. "We didn't know what we had. We didn't know it would be an iconic show."

The Times recently spoke with Arnold about "Survivor's Remorse" and her career. Here are three things we took from the meeting:

She's working now more than ever before

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The first episode of "Martin" aired in 1992, but before that she had roles on "All My Children," "Law and Order" and "The Cosby Show." She's since kept very busy. Flipping the channel today, audiences might see Arnold a number of places including the Lifetime adaptation of Terry McMillan's "A Day Late and a Dollar Short," a guest spot on TV One's "Born Again Virgin" or as a contestant on the Food Network's cooking competition "Chopped."

"To be in show business over 20 years and still have a job and get great roles is just a blessing," Arnold said.

Though her success is an obvious byproduct of hard work, she asserts, "When you do what you love doing, you don't see the hard work."

"When I retire, which will be never, that's when I will get some rest," she said.

Though she could be diva-like, she's not

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In speaking with "Survivor's Remorse" creator O'Malley, he mentioned that one of Arnold's best qualities was her fearlessness and absence of ego, two qualities necessary to bring his words to life.

"She is fearless in the sense that she doesn't put any ego into her work," he said. "It's all about truth and humor and generosity, generosity to the actors she is working with. She is so present, so prepared that it helps [the story] lift off the page."

Her organization, the We Win Foundation, supports those affected by lupus

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In 2013, Arnold and her sister Zenay founded the We Win Foundation to help those suffering from lupus, as well as their families and caregivers. Overseen by Zenay, who herself is affected by the disease, the foundation provides holistic health, nutrition and lifestyle programs, grants for alternative health treatments and counseling services.

"None of us want to be perceived to be sick so a lot of people don't know about lupus," Arnold said. "Then, when people are affected by lupus, it's not given the attention it deserves. We're trying to instill strength and hope and give people just enough to hang on."

"Survivor's Remorse" airs Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. on Starz.

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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