Tommy Ford, best known for playing Martin‘s best friend Tommy Strawn on the ’90s sitcom, died Wednesday, his agent confirmed to EW. He was 52 years old.
“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,” an Instagram post from Ford’s account reads. “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 let’s all be grateful for a life well served.”
From Ford’s family: “It is with great sadness that we announce the untimely passing of our beloved Son, father, brother, husband, and friend Tommy Mykal Ford. On behalf of the family, we would like to thank everyone for their love, support and prayers. Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming. Please respect the privacy of the Ford family during our time of grief.”
Ford was hospitalized after an aneurysm burst in his abdomen on Sunday, according to TMZ, resulting in his hospitalization in Atlanta. There, Ford and was visited by costars, PEOPLE reported, including Martin colleague Tichina Arnold.
“She just dropped everything to fly out there. She was supposed to be on a carpet, but this is way more important,” a source told PEOPLE earlier on Wednesday. “She’s not the only one, the entire Martin cast is getting together to be by his side.” Arnold and other Martin costars including Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell-Martin posted Instagram shots of Ford, asking for prayers and good thoughts. “Prayers up for my brother @BigTommyFord and his family,” Lawrence wrote.
“Tommy was not only a great costar but he was a great man and friend,” Lawrence said in a statement to EW after Ford’s death. “He always brought with him his spirituality a positive attitude and so much joy. I am sad the world lost a great talent and that I lost a wonderful friend. God bless him and his family.”
Born Sept. 5, 1964 as Thomas Mikal Ford, the comedian starred on the Lawrence sitcom for all five years of its run, earning an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 1996. The fictional Tommy was Martin’s straight man over 132 episodes, dropping bits of wisdom on the characters, all the while being regularly made fun of — especially for his unknown and questionable job.
Before Martin, Ford appeared in the Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor comedy Harlem Nights as Tommy Smalls. He joined Fox’s cop drama New York Undercover for its fourth and final season after Martin‘s conclusion. Ford also recurred on UPN’s The Parkers, which starred Oscar-winner Mo’Nique.
Ford acted in small roles in film and TV since the end of Martin but also took up a career in outreach. He was a motivational speaker, promoted drama therapy, and wrote children’s books aimed at encouraging drug-free and violence-free lives, according to his website.