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At the 2006 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDSAnnual Grand Auctionn and Flea Market Born Jesse Lamont Watkins
January 18, 1969(1969-01-18) (age 39)
Rocky Mount, Virginia, United StatesOther name(s) Jesse Lamont Martin
Jesse Lamont Martin (born Jesse Lamont Watkins, January 18, 1969) is an American theatre, film, and television actor, best known for his roles as the original Tom Collins in Rent and as Det. Ed Green in the NBC series Law & Order.
Jesse L. Martin was born in Rocky Mount, Virginia, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is the third of five sons. Martin's parents, truck driver Jesse Reed Watkins and college counselor Virginia Price, divorced when he was a child. Ms. Price eventually remarried and the boys adopted their stepfather's surname. When Martin was in grade school, the family relocated to Buffalo, New York, and the move was not an immediate success: Martin hated speaking because of his thick Southern accent and was often overcome with shyness. A concerned teacher influenced him to join an after-school drama program and cast him as the pastor in The Golden Goose. Being from Virginia, the young Martin played the character the only way he knew how: as an inspired Southern Baptist preacher. The act was a hit, and Martin emerged from his shell.
The actor attended high school at The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, where he was voted "Most Talented" in his senior class. He later enrolled in New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts Theatre Program. After graduation, Martin toured the states with John Houseman's The Acting Company. He appeared in Shakespeare's Rock-in-Roles at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and The Butcher's Daughter at the Cleveland Playhouse, and returned to Manhattan to perform in local theatre, soap operas, and commercials. Finding that auditions, regional theater, and bit parts were no way to support himself, Martin waited tables at several restaurants around the city. He was literally serving a pizza when his appearance on CBS's Guiding Light aired in the same eatery. While the show aired, the whole waitstaff gathered around the bar television to cheer his performance. Often, during the dinner rush, he broke out in song. When he gave his customers their dinner checks, he told them to "keep it, because someday I'll be famous!" Many of his coworkers in the restaurants continue to follow his career and are considered his early "fan club". Martin made his Broadway debut in Timon of Athens, and then performed in The Government Inspector with Lainie Kazan. While employed at the Moondance Diner, he met the playwright Jonathan Larson, who also worked on the restaurant's staff. In 1996, Larson's musical Rent took the theatre world by storm, with Martin in the part of gay computer geek/philosophy professor Tom Collins. The 1990s update of Puccini's La Bohème earned six Drama Desk Awards, five Obie Awards, four Tony Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize. Martin soon landed roles on Fox's short-lived 413 Hope St. and Eric Bross' independent film Restaurant (1998). Ally McBeal's creator, David E. Kelley, attended Rent's Broadway premiere and remembered Martin when the show needed a new boyfriend for Calista Flockhart's Ally. The actor's performance as Dr. Greg Butters on Ally McBeal caught David Duchovny's eye, who then cast Martin as a baseball-playing alien in a 1999 episode of The X-Files that he wrote and directed.
While still shooting Ally McBeal, Martin heard rumours that actor Benjamin Bratt planned to leave the cast of Law & Order. Martin had tried out for the show years before and won the minor role of a car-radio thief named Earl the Hamster, but decided to wait for a bigger part. With the opportunity presenting itself, Martin approached Law & Order producer Dick Wolf regarding the opening. Wolf hoped to cast him, and upon hearing that CBS and Fox both offered Martin development deals, he gave the actor the part without an audition.
From 1999 to 2008, he played Det. Ed Green on Law & Order, save for a brief hiatus at the end of the 2004 – 2005 season while he was filming the movie adaptation of Rent, for which he reprised the role of Tom Collins. Martin's character was the first detective to be promoted from junior to senior partner. Martin's final episode of Law & Order aired April 23, 2008, as he was replaced by Anthony Anderson.
Currently in development is Sexual Healing, a film about the last years of singer Marvin Gaye's life. Martin plans to both produce and star in the film. The film, directed by Lauren Goodman, is slated for production in 2007.
FilmographyJesse L. Martin performed the role of Tom Collins in both the musical and film adaptation of Rent.
Film and television
- Rent (2005) (Movie) .... Tom Collins
- A Christmas Carol (2004) (TV) .... Ghost of Christmas Present
- Season of Youth (2003)
- Burning House of Love (2002) .... Andre Anderson
- Law & Order (TV) (1999-2008) .... Det. Edward Green
- Deep in My Heart (1999) (TV) .... Don Williams
- The X-Files (1999) (TV) .... Josh Exley (Episode 6x19)
- Ally McBeal (1997) TV Series .... Dr. Greg Butters (1998)
- Restaurant (1998) .... Quincy
- 413 Hope St. (1997) TV Series .... Antonio Collins (1997-1998)
- New York Undercover TV Series .... Mustapha (1995 episode: All In The Family) and Kaylen (1998 episode: Going Native)
- Timon of Athens (1993 revival, Broadway premiere) - play - roles of "Alcibiades' Officer" and "Second Masseur"
- The Government Inspector (1994 revival) - play - role of "Abdulin" (a Merchant)
- Rent (1996 (original) - musical - role of "Tom Collins"
- Off-Broadway "Bright Lights Big City" - role of "Tad"
- No More 'Order for Martin 
- Jesse L. Martin at the Internet Movie Database
- Jesse L. Martin at the Internet Broadway Database
- Jesse L. Martin Fan Site
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