Everyone thinks they are a star until they land a role as a recurring cast member. That is a reality actor Carl Anthony Payne II knows all too well, according to his former “The Cosby Show” castmate Malcolm Jamal Warner.
Warner stopped by “The Breakfast Club” morning radio show on Jan. 12, where he addressed the state of his and Payne’s relationship. The two actors were just teens when they landed roles on the unprecedented Black family show that debuted in 1984. Warner played the lone son, Theodore, of Cliff and Claire Huxtable. The picturesque couple also had four daughters, Rudy, Vanessa, Denise, and Sondra. Payne starred as Walter “Cockroach” Bradley, Theo’s best friend. However, during his short run on the hit series, Payne and Warner were nothing of the sort in real life.
“We’re cooler as adults than we were during the time,” said the “Malcolm and Eddie” star as he agreed that “young egos” got in the way of the actors forging a friendship early on. He went on to recall: “The original callbacks for ‘Cosby’ they flew in an actor from Chicago and then flew in an actor from New York. Carl was the actor they flew in from New York. So, had I not auditioned for the show, Carl would have played Theo.”
Co-host DJ Envy interjected, “D—n, I gotta look at you every day and see you took my part.” Warner added, “And then I gotta come back and play your best friend.” He added that, in hindsight, Payne losing out on the role was likely the catalyst for their on-set rift.
“No, that was part of it,” said Warner before he finally added that Payne “had a huge ego.” He continued to explain that he did not identify himself as being particularly self-absorbed despite being one of the fans’ favorite stars on the show.
“I didn’t come from that kind of place. The way I felt then and the way I do now, you know, based on my career, if anyone should walk around with a huge ego it should be me,” he said. “And if I don’t roll like that, I have very little tolerance for people who roll like that. So we never really, we just really never got along back then.”
The former Cosby kid noted that as adults, the two men have been able to hash out whatever all their teenage differences were, though he did not elaborate in the interview on any other issues they endured. “We’re in a very cool grown man place now than we were,” said the “Reed Between the Lines” actor.
Though Payne’s stint as Cockroach was a blip in the series’ eight seasons, he still went on to have a steady acting career. His biggest sitcom role to date was that of Cole on “Martin.” However, similar to his experience on “The Cosby Show,” he encountered unpleasant moments with the comedy show’s creator and star, Martin Lawrence.
In a 2015 interview for “This Is 50,” Payne confirmed speculation that his former co-star picked on him and often undermined him. When asked what sparked the tension, the theater-trained actor said he never had an issue with Lawrence. He explained, “I developed an issue, like if you got an issue with me, I’mma be like, ‘What’s up? You good? I ain’t got no problem with you.”
Four years later, he sat down for an interview with Comedy Hype to discuss his time on “Martin” and what it was like when he and Lawrence reconciled 20 years after the show ended. “I think people grow. At the end of the day, things you might have been mad about twenty-something [years ago] or you felt like whatever, whatever about, it’s kind of like,” he started before shrugging off the issue.
“Imagine you’re in a relationship with somebody that ended badly, that was then. … It was one of those things where all the good stuff was present,” Payne continued. “It wasn’t about anything else other than just positive vibes.
For the first time in 2022, the show’s full cast, sans Tommy Strawn, reunited to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. It was clear that by that point they had all moved on from the scandals and fallouts that contributed to the show’s demise after five seasons.