- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

NEW YORK — Jesse L. Martin is all New Yorker now, right down to his mostly black wardrobe and the rapid-fire words that come shooting out of his mouth.

But as a kid in Rocky Mountain, Va., "I was a straight-up hillbilly," he says, complete with heavy-duty Southern accent.

The 33-year-old, who plays New York police detective Ed Green on NBC's "Law & Order," lost the accent in fourth grade after his family moved to Buffalo, N.Y. But Mr. Martin says he could see playing Green with a southern twang.

"The people in New York are from all over the world. It wouldn't be crazy to have a guy from the Blue Ridge Mountains come in and become a detective."

Mr. Martin first came to the city to study acting at New York University, but he quit one semester shy of earning a degree. Besides being broke, he says, he had been offered his first professional job, in a touring Shakespeare company, and he jumped at it.

That led to other roles, including one in the original cast of the Broadway musical "Rent," and a recurring role as one of Ally's boyfriends on "Ally McBeal." He also was named to the board of directors of the Acting Company, a classical repertory theater founded by John Houseman.

Mr. Martin has been on "Law & Order," television's longest-running current drama, for the past three years, and so far he is not getting itchy to follow former cast members Benjamin Bratt, Chris Noth and Angie Harmon, among others, through the series' well-known revolving door.

"I'm having a great time. I work with some of the coolest people in the world. It's the best film crew I've ever seen. It works like this really well-oiled machine and all I have to do is get on and go along for the ride."

"Not to mention," he adds, "I'm in New York City and I don't ever have to leave."


Q: How did you get the job on "Law & Order"?

A: I was in L.A., wrapping up 'Ally McBeal' and I went to see (series creator) Dick Wolf and basically asked him if I could have the job. I said, "Look, all I want to do is your show. I want to go back to New York and work on your show with Jerry Orbach (who plays Detective Lennie Briscoe), and if you can find a way to allow me to do that, I'd be eternally grateful."


Q: Do you ever think about going back to school?

A: I do, but not specifically for a degree. I imagine going to school just to learn things I don't know. I'm really interested in history and I want to learn more about history, and I'm kind of getting into architecture and the idea of building homes. I don't really have any time to do this stuff now, I just have a little time to fantasize about it.


Q: What's your apartment like?

A: There's a lot of wood. I'm a big fan of antiques. When I was a kid, seeing an antique was seeing junk; it was old. Now it's valuable and beautiful somehow.


Q: Any prized possessions?

A: I have this crazy-looking cookie jar. I don't make cookies and if I buy them, they're not around long enough for me to put them in a cookie jar, but I have this cookie jar that James Earl Jones gave me with "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on it. It's a little country kitsch sitting in the middle of my kitchen that has almost nothing else in it. But I'm like, "James Earl Jones gave me this, and I'm never getting rid of it."


Q: What has been the most difficult thing to adapt to since becoming a recognizable face?

A: Being stopped on the streets by strangers is one of the oddest things I've come across so far. People in New York will say anything to you without any qualms whatsoever. Usually people are pretty respectful, but it's hysterical to me that people think they know you so well. They say stuff like, "Look, I want you to meet my daughter because I think she'd make the perfect wife for you."


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