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January 05, 2018

Where the Business Takes You

Graham Patrick Martin has gone from moody teenager to powerhouse actor by simply following the work.

Melissa Byers
  • Dylan Lujano
  • TNT
  • TNT
  • TNT

Graham Patrick Martin has accomplished a lot in his short 26 years.

Currently finishing up a stint starring in TNT’s Major Crimes,  Martin has gone from a 14-year-old drama student to carrying the last four episodes of the crime drama, after Mary McDonnell’s main character died.

Martin’s role in Major Crimes was unexpected. He was signed for a guest-starring role in the show’s predecessor, The Closer, which was supposed to be a one-time gig. “The character was meant to be a one-off. It was a guest spot. It was an audition. My manager told me, ‘You have three hours to get to this audition.’

“So I prepared this eight-page audition in three hours. I booked the role for the finale of The Closer. I was just excited to be able to go back and forth with Kyra Sedgewick, who is such a phenomenal actor.

“I was halfway through, and I had already shot a couple of scenes, the creator James Duff approached me and said, ‘Hey man, what’s your life like on Two and a Half Men? [Martin had a continuing role on the comedy at the time] Do you have a contract on there?’ I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Well, do you want a contract on a TV show?’

“I said, ‘Yeah. You mean like a series regular?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ So I said, ‘Yeah.’ So he said, ‘OK. Well I think I have an idea,’ and he walked away.

“And then, a week later, my people called me and they said, ‘Hey, I think they’re spinning this show off, and they want you in and it’s already picked up and they want you to be in it.’ So, it was just a fantastic, fantastic blessing that this guest spot turned into six years of employment.”

Martin’s life seemed to be blessed almost from the beginning of his career. He’s done both comedy, working as a regular in The Bill Engvall Show, and then that stint in Two and a Half Men and the heavier drama of Major Crimes.  He is comfortable in both.

"I don’t have a preference. I just sort of went where the business took me.  When I started, I was living in New York, I was 14 years old, and I was going to LaGuardia High School, which is an arts high school in New York, and I was going to this really intense acting class with this phenomenal teacher called Ann Ratray on the upper west side in the evenings, and I was super into independent film.

“I really wanted to be this interesting, sort of dark – I was 14. I was so moody – this intense New York actor. I need to get the truth, and I was so about that. And then, I flew to L.A. for a couple of days, just to check it out, and I got this audition for this show called the Bill Engvall Show, which is a multi-camera sitcom, which I had absolutely no desire to do.

“So, I ended up getting this job, and I’m like, ‘Well, it’s a TV show, and I’ve never really done a TV show.’ I’d only done commercials, so I said, if this is the break, I’ll take it, and I ended up doing it for three years with an actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who some people have heard of, might ring a bell.

“So, we were on that show for three years, and then that led to Two and a Half Men. So, I started in this world of wanting to be this sort of interesting dramatic character as a moody teenager, and then it just sort of led to six years of comedy. It was great, though, I loved it.

“Then I think it was time for me to go back to my dramatic roots when Major Crimes came along. So, I’ve really just been riding the wave, and, in terms of preference, I don’t really have one. I find joy in both. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in both the multi-camera sitcom world and my drama world.”

Unfortunately, the drama phase, as it concerns Major Crimes, is coming to an end. After six year, TNT announced at the beginning of the sixth season that it would be the series’ last.

The cast was sad to have it end, and even sadder when the writers chose to kill off the lead character, Mary McDonnell’s Sharon Rader, in the ninth episode.  Martin’s character, Rusty,  a formerly homeless youth, was adopted by Rader, so her death was especially difficult for him, as well as the rest of the cast.

“It was so sad. To me, I’d been there, I was there, obviously, when we shot the scene, and then, just watching it, it knocked me off my feet, and I was so emotionally overwhelmed.

"When you’re watching a show that you really like, it’s hard to say good-bye, and sometimes things are open-ended, but this was final. There is no coming back from it. They just killed the lead character of the show. I thought the fact that I had such an emotional reaction means it was done pretty well. They did a really good job of getting an emotional reaction out of the audience, obviously. “

Martin wasn’t the only one who had a hard time with that scene.  “Well, to be honest, the thing about those scenes there at the end, there really wasn’t a lot of acting involved. We were all devastated. We were all just so sad. It really is the end, and saying goodbye to an actress that, has been our leader, and our number one castmate, it was hard. So, there wasn’t a lot of acting involved.“

But, acting has been involved throughout the six seasons of the show. Martin and his character have gone through a number of changes and a lot of growth.

“I think that just goes to the writers. They’ve done such a good job of keeping this show fresh and dynamic. It’s not your typical case of the week cop show. They added so much depth to each and every character. What I love about the show is that even co-stars could have their own show written around them. Every character is so full.

“In terms of Rusty’s growth, I think often that it sort of mirrored my growth as a person as well. I got the show when I was 20, and I was not very mature, and as an actor I was still finding myself. Over the years, being surrounded by these talented, Academy Awards nominated actors with such great experience, I’ve grown so, so much.

"I consider the years on Major Crimes really to be like college. It was acting school, it was film school, all done in front of the camera over the course of 105 episodes in six years. I’m very lucky that I got to learn and grow here on the show.”

Now that he has “graduated,” Martin is looking toward the next wave to ride in his career, and he’s ready for it. “I’m riding the wave. I’m pursuing directing a little right now. I just directed a short film called Recondition, which starred an incredible actor named Paul Guilfoyle. He is so good. He came up to Massachusetts where I shot it, and he was unbelievable.

"He’s a Massachusetts guy himself, so he enjoyed the opportunity to go home. He and I met in New York and just talked a little bit, and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ So he took the train out and we had a good time shooting the short film over a couple days. So I’m doing that.

"And other than that, I am riding the wave. I’d love to do movies, because with Major Crimes, we shot all year, every year for the last six years, so our only months off were December and January, which was like a dead zone for me, so I haven’t really been able to work on much in a couple years, so I’m really just excited to see where it takes me.

"I love television. I’d love to get back into television. I’m also a big theater guy, so, well, I’m a big theater fan, I should say, so I’m really open to whatever comes my way. I just love playing characters. I just like playing interesting characters. That’s what excites me. So, whatever that may be, whatever presents itself.”

One other activity that excites Martin is his work with Los Angeles’s Covenant House.

“Covenant House is amazing. My character started as a homeless kid on the streets of Los Angeles, and, as a result of our show’s portrayal of homeless youth, Covenant House a few years ago decided to honor our show and give us an award at their annual gala. Through that, we got in touch with the folks there and developed this relationship.

"And then James Duff decided to start a weekly writing workshop with the youth of the Covenant House, and so I went and joined them.

"Covenant House is a shelter for homeless youth in Los Angeles between the ages of 18 and 24. So kids who are too old to be in foster care {have a place to go]. At 18, you’re still a kid. I’m 26 and I’m still a kid. I went and helped James out with that for eight weeks, and it really was a beautiful, beautiful experience and began this incredible relationship that we have with them.

"I ended up, a year later, hosting their annual gala. It’s just been an absolutely incredible partnership that we have developed. And seeing these kids, it’s so fascinating.

"We go and we do these writing exercises with them, and the talent that they have and the stories that they have to tell were absolutely fascinating. So it was fun to be able to go and to open up their creative doors in ways that they didn’t really know existed. Covenant House is one of my favorite places in the world.”

He shares his work at Covenant House with his Major Crimes cast mates, as well, and he has seen what a difference their work makes in kids’ lives.

“There are some of these kids who won’t open up to therapists, and we gave them a pencil and paper and said, 'write something. Be creative.' And a lot came out from these kids who normally are a little  - and rightfully so – they’re not anxious to relive or express their experiences. But writing gave some of them a safe and creative way to do it, which was really special to see.

"And then at the end of it, their final assignment was to write scenes, acting scenes. And then the rest of the cast came, and we acted out the scenes for them. So, the scenes that they wrote they got to see come to life. It was really special.

"To see some of these kids, some of them who did not say a word the whole time and were very quiet, to see their faces light up when all of a sudden they saw us, these actors on television, acting out their work. Just to see their faces light up and to see that possibility they didn’t know existed was really, really special to see.“

After spending most of his young life working, he is still raring to go on to the next thing. “Since that Bill Engvall Show, I haven’t really stopped. I went straight from that – I think I had a few months off after Engvall got cancelled before I started Two and a Half Men, and went straight from Two and a Half Men to Major Crimes.

"It’s been non-stop since I was 15, which is pretty awesome. So, when I get any free time, I’m very, very, very grateful for it. I’ve also, I think, sort of instinctively become a workaholic, because it’s all I know, so I’m very, very anxious to get on to the next project.“

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