Martinez just finished this season on The Walking Dead. The versatile actor spoke to us about that show, Grey’s Anatomy and more. Below, a transcript of that conversation.
Your bio states that you auditioned for a school play on a bet. If you hadn’t landed that role in BEAU JEST, do you think you would have continued on the path to study the law?
That’s something I think about all the time. I love symbolic ideals of Law and Justice for all. Part of that is because my family comes from the Dominican Republic and that is a country that was once ruled by a very horrible dictator, where people had no rights. But to be honest I don’t know. Until I found acting I was never really happy. I wanted to be a Lawyer to create change and help people but it was always, “well ok, this is something I can do since I can’t play football,” but there was never joy in it. It was more a sense of responsibility. But in the end, even if I didn’t take that bet, I think I would have still ended up here because I know that acting is my life’s calling. It was just SO clear to me. The pull in my spirit was so undeniable, and if I had I ignored it, I would have been miserable in life. Fortunately for me though, I think I was meant to play a Lawyer on TV, so eventually I’ll get to come back to it.
What was it like to land your first acting role on television? Can you talk about what you learned from that experience?
It was awesome, are you kidding me? And it wasn’t even a big show or anything. It was one of those nonunion re-enactment shows where I play a cop showing up to the scene. I learned one of the most important lessons of my career. And it wasn’t while filming it was after: I get an audition and walk into the room and the casting director (someone I don’t know) is crazy happy to see me. He’s telling his assistant, “oh this is gonna be a great audition. Martinez is so good” and I do my audition and this guy is so complimentary and so excited and I’m like this is weird, WTF? And this gentleman very subtly and very politely reveals that he was the casting director that booked me on that first show! I was so ashamed because I had no clue it was him. And, like an idiot, I tried to play it off and pretended like I knew it was him the whole time. But it was so obvious, so embarrassing and just so unbelievably unprofessional. Thank you RICHARD COURTNEY for teaching me lesson #1: Never forget the people who helped you to get where you are!
Are there any funny behind the scenes stories you can share from your time working on Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: New York and/or Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
This didn’t happen on set but Eric Laneuville (an amazing person who directed me in CSI:NY) is a huge prankster and his close friend owns Stevie’s Creole Cafe & Bar in Encino. He had me pretend to be a fire marshal and act like the place was in major violation of safety codes, and then act like I was going to shut his place down on the busiest night of the week. Then Eric would swoop in and save the day. It was hilarious and Stevie was such a great sport about the whole think once he realized it was just a prank. He invited me to have dinner there and the food was AMAZING! They were both just super cool people and we had so much fun that night. But what was really cool about that night was that I was so committed to the role that it kind of served like a mini-audition. So when I auditioned for CSI, Eric already knew what I was capable of doing as an actor and that I’d be able to pull off the role.
What was it like when you learned you would be appearing alongside “Negan” on The Walking Dead? Can you share what it has been like being in the number one cable network series?
Oh man I flipped out! I was running around the house like a crazy person, jumping up and down screaming. I can’t even imagine what my neighbors must have thought was going on. My wife was freaking out, it was great. Hands down this has been the single greatest experience of my professional career
Are you able to share any kind of spoilers on what fans can expect for the return of The Walking Dead in February or have you been sworn to secrecy?
You are not going to believe this! In the second half of season of season 7, they kill Glenn….AGAIN!!! I’m not going to go as far as say I’m sworn to secrecy, but they put this explosive chip in my head and…..
What is your idea of the perfect day off?
It starts off by waking up and seeing my beautiful wife lying next to me. A couple of lazy hours cuddling in bed. Catching a chicken fried steak breakfast at Del Frisco’s. Hanging out with my sister and nephews. Catching a movie and then ending it with having a great time with my friends
Besides sports, what are your favorite hobbies or activities?
People watching. I love going to a crowded public place and just sitting down and watching people. I love teaching, I really do love it. I’ve been really blessed to be able to teach a lot in LA and now in Atlanta as well. I really like being able to give back to newer actors that way.
Would you ever want to write, produce and/or direct a television or film project in the future? If so, what would that project be?
Absolutely. I’ve got an epic Sci-Fi TV show I’m writing now with my friend Ben Atkinson, and I’m also working with my sister on a really lovely Indie rom-com script. I also really like producing. I’ve produced a couple of smaller projects already. An indie film with C. Thomas Howell and Jake Busey. This last year for fun I produced one for the 48hr film fest. So the branching out process has already begun and eventually I will be moving on to directing. There are just so many great things to do in this industry.
That being said, do you have a dream project for which you would like to appear in someday?
I would love to work on a David E. Kelley legal drama like season 8 of The Practice or Boston Legal. I’d love to work on something like Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom or a good political Drama
Given that you started out appearing in a school play, would you ever want to act on the stage (Broadway or off-Broadway)?
Hell to the Yes! I love theatre.
Do you like to watch TV? Which shows are you watching?
It’s tough because I have so little time but I love Madam Secretary, Daredevil, House of Cards, Jessica Jones, Westworld, Shameless, I actually happen to be a huge Walking Dead fan so I’m always watching that, Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Gotham is AWESOME. But I just don’t get to watch them consistently. Unfortunately the only shows that I get to watch regularly are WWE, the Daily Show, and The Walking Dead.
What was the best piece of advice you received from a teacher, family member or mentor?
The one thing you can never get back is time.
Who is the one actor, living or dead, that you would love to work with?
One!? That’s impossible to answer. There are so many great actors I want to work with. Ben Foster, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Christian Bale, Viloa Davis, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James Mcavoy, Denzel Washington, Anna Kendrick, Kate McKinnon, Steve Carell, I mean the list just goes on and on. If I have to say just one, Denzel!