Jesse L. Martin Biography

Theater Actor, Television Actor, Film Actor, Actor (1969–)
Jesse L. Martin is a singer and a TV, film and stage performer known for his roles in Rent and Law & Order.


Born on January 18, 1969, Jesse L. Martin attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts before eventually playing Tom Collins in the hit Broadway musical Rent, a role he would reprise in the 2005 film. Martin went on to land a recurring part in Ally McBeal and then portrayed Detective Edward Green for almost a decade on the series Law & Order. He is slated to play soul singer Marvin Gaye in an upcoming biopic.

Early Life

Actor Jesse L. Martin was born Jesse Lamont Watkins on January 18, 1969, in Rocky Mount, Virginia, to Jesse Reed Watkins, a truck driver, and Virginia Price, a retired college counselor. When his parents divorced and his mother remarried, Jesse and his four older brothers adopted the surname Martin from their stepfather. The family moved to Buffalo, New York, when Martin was in fourth grade.

In Buffalo, his love for acting was sparked when he acted in his first school play. Martin attended the Buffalo School for Visual and Performing Arts, alongside the alternative-folk musician Ani DiFranco. Martin then attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Big Break

After college, Martin's acting career led him to a recurring role on CBS's Guiding Light and regional theater. But it wasn't enough to support him, and he waited tables to make ends meet. Martin made his Broadway debut with a small role in Timon of Athens, but he really hit it big when he got the role of Tom Collins, a computer analyst who falls in love with a drag queen, in the Tony Award??winning musical Rent.

Acting Career

In 1995, Martin made his primetime TV debut in a guest appearance on the Fox police drama New York Undercover. Two years later, Martin became a regular on another Fox drama, 413 Hope Street, playing psychologist Antonio Collins. In 1998, he landed his first big-screen role in Restaurant.

Martin then caught the attention of many female fans when he began to appear regularly on Fox's Ally McBeal as the on-and-off doctor boyfriend of the show's quirky lead character. The chemistry between his Dr. Greg Butters and Calista Flockhart's Ally McBeal was evident, and fans were disappointed to see the romance's end when Martin accepted the role of Lennie Briscoe's partner on Law & Order, replacing Benjamin Bratt's character, in 1999.

That same year, Martin also guest starred as a Negro League baseball player in an X-Files episode, "The Unnatural," written and directed by David Duchovny. Martin has tried on producing shoes, co-producing Fully Committed, a critically and commercially successful off-Broadway show about the experiences of a waiter in an upscale restaurant.

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