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Why The Grandma From The Main Event Looks So Familiar

In the new Netflix original film The Main Event, young wannabe wrestler Leo (Seth Carr) gets a significant boost to his athletic abilities thanks to a luchador mask with magical properties. However, the real source of his strength comes from the support of his father, portrayed by Adam Pally, and his grandmother, played by sitcom veteran Tichina Arnold.

Although Arnold's name might not instantly ring a bell for some, if you're a network sitcom devotee, there's a good chance that you've had more than a couple of laughs thanks to one of her expert line readings. Since the '90s, Arnold has been a fixture in the world of TV comedies, either as a one-off guest star or a series regular. She's known for bringing humor and verve to sitcom archetypes like mother, girlfriend, or wife, which can sometimes otherwise feel thin or thankless.

Let's look back at a few of the roles that helped cement Arnold as one of the most reliable casting choices in the business, which will reveal why she looks so familiar.

Tichina Arnold kept Martin on his toes

Tichina Arnold honed her ability to deliver razor-sharp punchlines during her stint as a series regular on the mega hit '90s sitcom Martin. As the best friend of Martin's (Martin Lawrence) girlfriend Gina (Tisha Campbell), Arnold's Pam was a wellspring of humor for the show thanks to her acerbic verbal sparring with Martin. She may not have been the center of the action on the series, but she often stole the spotlight.

Martin ran for five seasons, and Arnold was a series regular for all of them. She also won an NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Pam. Despite the success of Martin and the accolades Arnold received for the role, she revealed in an interview on the radio program "The Happy Hour with Heather B" that after the show ended, she had a decade-long slump in her acting career. "I was pigeon-holed... When you play a role for so long, and people see you a certain [way] — I was pigeon-holed for a very long time," she said of her career after her run on Martin concluded.

However, that slump wasn't eternal. Arnold's next gig was on another popular sitcom — and the same way she did with Pam, she took a supporting role and turned it into an indispensable part of the show.

Tichina Arnold stole the show on Everybody Hates Chris

In that same appearance on "The Happy Hour with Heather B," Arnold credited comedy legend Chris Rock with making sure she secured a role on his 2000s UPN sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. "He had to fight for me to get that role," she revealed, adding, "The network did not want me."

Thankfully for viewers, Rock won that particular battle. Everybody Hates Chris was a sitcom based on Rock's own experiences growing up in Brooklyn, and on it, Arnold played Rochelle, the mother of young Chris (Tyler James Williams). Just as Rock suspected, she was a perfect fit for the part. All the humor, confidence, and quick wittedness from Arnold's past role as Pam merged with a believable chemistry between Rochelle, her son, and her husband Julius (Terry Crews), making her one of the show's biggest draws.

Whether she was having a legendary argument with her husband or teaching her son some of the hard truths of life, thanks to Arnold's performance, Rochelle felt authentic. The actress revealed the secret to the show's success when speaking with the Chicago Tribune: "I get Italian women, Jewish women coming up to me... They all say, 'Oh my gawd, my mother tawked exactly like you do.' No one really knows how your parents raised you inside your house... We're showing some of that."

Tichina Arnold is still delivering on The Neighborhood

Thankfully, Arnold didn't have to wait a decade after Everybody Hates Chris' end to score more substantial roles. She was a series regular on Fran Drescher's TV Land sitcom Happily Divorced, as well as the Starz basketball comedy Survivor's Remorse. Most recently, she's been co-starring on CBS sitcom The Neighborhood, which began airing its second season in the fall of 2019.

Arnold joined a cast of sitcom dream-teamers, including Cedric the Entertainer, New Girl's Max Greenfield, and Two Broke Girls' Beth Behrs. The show offers a modern take on the classic odd couple trope, with Greenfield and Behrs playing a white couple from the midwest who move into a historically black neighborhood in Los Angeles. Arnold and Cedric are their new neighbors, who have deep roots in the community and are initially skeptical of the couple's arrival.

Speaking to TV Guide, Arnold said of her new sitcom home, "I love when we tackle the differences between the white culture and the black culture because it brings out so many things that I'm sure we speak about in separate households... it kind of clears the air."

As for how she feels going into her fourth decade of working in the entertainment industry, Arnold echoed sentiments shared by those who have followed her career throughout the years: "Girl, I've earned my stripes."