essence atkins*Essence Atkins first became a household name playing Dee Dee Thorne on the UPN comedy series, “Half & Half.”

Now she’s on the small screen again in two sitcoms – starring in “Are We There Yet?” on TBS and in a recurring role on the syndicated series “Mr. Box Office.” She says she loves being on those shows.

“I love working with those veterans, I mean Bill Bellamy, Tim Meadows, Jon Lovitz, you know, and then we have Vivica Fox and Rick Fox and occasionally Gary Busey. I just love working with people who’s been in this business for such a long time and are such pros and are so wonderfully generous. I have a great time.”

Bill Bellamy and the other names she mentioned are her co-stars on “Mr. Box Office” where she plays unflappable teacher Samantha Owens. It’s a different story for her, so to speak, on “Are We There Yet?” -  small screen spinoff of rapper Ice Cube’s movie of the same name. Atkins, while working outside the home, and her husband, portrayed by Terry Crews, raise two children. Having a career, being married and raising a child hits close to home. Atkins married her Match.com sweetheart Jaime Mendez in 2009 and they have a son, Varro, who was born in 2011 on Christmas day.

She practically grew up in Hollywood, starting her acting career at 14 years old. Now she’s 41 and has starred in a number of movies, including the relationship flick, Deliver Us from Eva.  Atkins has landed roles ranging from dramatic in Deliver Us from Eva to gut busting funny in her latest movie, “A Haunted House,” she describes as a “a spoof of the paranormal activity movies” also starring Marlon Wayons. When asked how she thought African American women actors were faring in their chosen field, Atkins reply showed she had an issue with some reality TV shows.

“I think we are challenged. We are challenged to try and get different kinds of images out there besides the stereotypes and besides the ones that we are seeing portrayed on reality TV.  You know reality TV is really just based for sensationalism. So, it’s extreme versions and extreme caricatures of personalities. That is not the totality of who we are. Our struggle is really to find ways and find mediums that will host other images besides those.”

“Are We There Yet?” airs on TBS, Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Eastern and Pacific times.

See more of Essence Atkins exclusive interview with Tene’ in video directly below.

Reach Tene’ Croom at tene.croom.tc@gmail.com