Thomas Mikal Ford, the prolific character actor best known for playing Tommy on the ’90s sitcom Martin, has died after being hospitalized since Sunday. Ford’s death was reported by TMZ at 2:08 PT.
Tommy Ford was 52 years old. He died after suffering a ruptured aneurysm in his abdomen.
“To all family and friends of Tommy Ford. We would like to inform everyone that our brother passed away today October 12, 2016 surrounded by his loving family,” his family posted on his Instagram page. “Please keep his family in your prayers as they go through this challenging time. He was so dearly loved by so many and for that lets all be grateful for a life well served.”
In his own tribute to Ford, Martin star Martin Lawrence called wrrote that he will be “greatly missed.”
Here’s a look at his life, career and his death.
1. Ford Died Just 2 Weeks After Undergoing Knee Replacement
His wife, Gina Sasso, told TMZ he suffered a ruptured aneurysm in his abdomen.
Ford was on life support for several hours before his death and there were erroneous reports that he had died earlier Wednesday. Black-ish actor Anthony Anderson tweeted that he received word that Ford died, but he later deleted the tweet. Still, he asked followers to pray for his friend.
Two weeks ago, Ford began providing fans with updates on his knee replacement surgery on Instagram. A week after the surgery, he was released from the hospital. He also shared a photo of the scar along his left knee.
“I’m having a Knee Replacement surgery this morning. Please keep me in your prayers! Love you all,” Ford wrote in the Instagram post in which he announced the surgery. Five days before his death, Ford posted pictures of himself going through physical therapy.
“Working really hard in physical therapy! My progress is amazing,” he wrote. “Thank you for all of your prayers and words of encouragement! I’m excited about getting back to work!”
TMZ reported that he died at an Atlanta hospital, with his friends and family by his side.
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2. Ford Is Best Known for Playing Tommy on ‘Martin’ With Martin Lawrence
Ford has over 80 credits to his name, but he remains best known for starring as Tommy on the 1992-1997 sitcom Martin with comedian Martin Lawrence. He continued working non-stop, appearing in four movies in 2016 alone. Ford also had three films already finished at the time of his death, as well as three others in progress.
He began his career in 1985 and starred in Harlem Nights (1989) with Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. He also played Mel Parker on The Parkers from 1999 to 2001.
After starring in Martin as the straight man, Ford starred in the short-lived Fox drama New York Undercover during the 1998-99 TV season. He also became known as the “Pope of Comedy” for starring in Who’s Got the Jokes? in 2006-2008.
One of the running gags on Martin was that Tommy never had a job. In an interview with Blog Talk Radio, Ford said that during a table read before the second season, the script did include a line where Tommy would tell Martin that he did have a job. However, what that job was remains a mystery.
“For me, the biggest insult I could imagine was a man who had no job,” Ford said in the interview.
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3. Ford Wrote a Series of Inspirational Children’s Books
Aside from his film career, Martin is a children’s book author. He has penned a series books called I Am Beautiful, which are meant to inspire children and be used as an educational tool.
According to Ford’s website:
This series is a powerful educational tool! It offers children simple, tangible, and positive solutions to resolve conflict as it guides them towards living drug-free and violence-free lifestyles. Our message to children is, “you are beautiful regardless of your shape, size, abilities, disabilities, strengths or weakness”!
Ford also sold an “I’ve Got a Job” Book package for $25. The set included two books: I Am Responsible For Me! and Stop The Violence. Ford’s goal was to help troubled youths make the right decisions and avoid violence.
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4. Ford Also Toured as a Motivational Speaker & Was a Supporter of Drama Therapy
Ford’s other business was as a motivational speaker, which gave him a chance to express his passion for helping children live healthy lives. He toured the country giving speeches, and you could make a booking request through his site. A quote on his site reads:
Young people mirror the images of those that they perceive are cool! 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!
Ford was also a celebrity spokesman for Drama Therapy, which believes that acting workshops can also help at-rick youths. “It has had amazing success for teacher/administrator training. It is a creative out-of-the-box alternative for corporate conferences and workshops,” Ford noted on his site.
5. Ford Has Been Married to Gina Marie Sasso Since 1997
Ford married Gina Marie Sasso in 1997, as Jet Magazine reported at the time. They tied the knot at the Rio Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas. According to the magazine, the two met while Sasso, was on a business trip to Los Angeles.
Martin Lawrence and Carl Anthony Payne II were both at groomsmen and the couple went to Aruba for their honeymoon. Lawrence and Ford remained close friends, even after Marin ended.
Sasso was raised in Kingston, Jamaica.
Lawrence shared a touching tribute to Ford on Instagram. The comedian wrote:
My brother…we were friends way b4 the Martin show & I’m glad we were able to show true friendship on-screen. You brought a lot of love to the world and you will be greatly missed. God Bless to you and the family. Rest In Peace my brother. #TommyFord #Brotherforlife