As the hip-hop revolution saw black artists cross over into the mainstream, Martin Lawrence led the way in film with 'House Party', 'Blue Streak' and 'Big Momma's House'. But fame couldn't help him escape the law.
With a father who was an Air Force officer, the Lawrence family moved around a lot, which accounts for the actor's place of birth in Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany. His father left the family when Martin was very young, and the Lawrence clan of six children spent the rest of their childhood with their mother in Maryland.
He developed a love for comedy as he would try and cheer up his mother by making her laugh when she came home from work. He was the class clown at school, resulting in one teacher agreeing to reserve the last five minutes of class for him to do his stand-up routine, in exchange for his promise to stop disrupting the class.
Lawrence's first break came in television, but he soon had a raunchy stand-up act that caught the attention of producers who were putting together a new comedy show. Soon, he was hosting 'Def Comedy Jam'. Small film roles followed in 'Do the Right Thing' and 'Boomerang' before he hit it big with Jerry Bruckheimer's action comedy film 'Bad Boys'. Co-starring Will Smith and Tea Leoni, the movie was a smash box office hit.
He then co-wrote and directed the romantic comedy 'A Thin Line Between Love and Hate'. While on the set of that movie, he had a violent outburst and was reported to be suffering from bouts of paranoia. Later in 1996, he was arrested after brandishing a pistol and screaming at cars on the street. The official explanation was "exhaustion and dehydration", but rumours of drug abuse circulated.
The scandal appeared not to affect his work. Lawrence continued to appear in movies, some of which he produced and wrote. 1997's 'Nothing to Lose' saw him team up with Tim Robbins, while 1999's 'Life' was a collaboration with fellow comic Eddie Murphy. He went on to co-produce 'Big Momma's House', which took in excess of £65 million at the box office.
After starring alongside Danny DeVito in 'What's the Worst That Could Happen?' in 2001, Lawrence stepped into an alternate universe version of 1328 England in 'Black Knight', which was followed by roles in 'National Security' and 'Bad Boys II'. Other projects included a sequel to 'Big Momma's House' and a voice role in the animation 'Open Season' in 2006, as well as 'Wild Hogs' and 'Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins' in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Lawrence also worked on 2010's 'Death at a Funeral', a commercial success, and 2011's 'Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son', which received overwhelmingly negative reviews.
Lawrence married his long-term girlfriend Shamicka Gibbs in 2010, but the couple divorced two years later. He has three daughters, two with Gibbs and one from his first marriage to former beauty queen Patricia Southall.