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Jesse L. Martin Says He’s an “Emotional Detective” on New Show About Human Behavior
The former Law & Order star also said he had "absolutely no interest" in criminal psychology, despite his new role in The Irrational.
Martin, beloved for his portrayal of Detective Ed Green in more than 200 episodes across the Law & Order franchise between 1998 and 2008, plays Professor Alec Mercer in the upcoming show. A leader in behavioral science, Mercer must solve an array of crime cases using his expertise in understanding and examining the (irrational) human mind.
In an interview (conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike) NBC caught up with Martin to talk about his experience playing a character as intriguing as Mercer and what drew him to the show.
Jesse L. Martin plays an “emotional detective” on The Irrational
Martin, whose other credits include playing Tom Collins on Broadway’s Rent and Captain Joe West on The Flash, explained “it feels really great” to return to NBC.
He said he grew used to playing detectives throughout his acting career, and while he doesn’t exactly play one in The Irrational, he acknowledges it’s a “cop-like procedural” where he feels like he’s an “emotional detective.”
“That’s how I feel in the show,” said Martin. “I’m glad that NBC saw me as the guy who could do this.”
The character of Alec Mercer certainly takes on an investigatory role, solving high-risk hostage situations that not even professional negotiators can talk their way through or even the most puzzling cases of murder. It seems, given Martin’s standout performances as Det. Ed Green, that he would be a natural choice, though Martin said he didn’t have that much in common with his character.
“The idea that all the powers at NBC, Arika [Creator and Executive Producer Arika Lisanne Mittman], and the gang saw me as this guy is entirely flattering,” Martin continued. “It says a whole lot about how much confidence they have in me, and I certainly hope that I pay off for them.”
When it comes to Martin's real-life interests in criminal psychology, and surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly and more of a testament to Martin’s superb acting skills), Martin confessed it wasn’t his thing.
“The funny thing is that I have absolutely no interest in criminal psychology; it actually sort of scares me,” Martin stated.
However, he said, he might not be "a fan" of criminal psychology like his character, “but I’m going to be by the time this is over or by the time we get started."
The Irrational brings on the emotion
Martin fell in love with the idea of playing Mercer during his first read of the script, he said. He was especially taken by the writing of Mittman — whom Martin called “very experienced and very, very talented” — saying that the script left “so much room for emotion.”
“After the second read, I was like, ‘This is absolutely brilliant,’” said Martin. “What a great gift to be given, to be handed, because I’ve never been given such delicious things to do and say.”
Martin added that crime fans will have much to savor, especially for those who love crime solving, cold cases, and forensics. However, The Irrational also gives audiences new flavors, setting the show apart from the rest.
“One of the things that’s fascinating about our show is that they really do follow the same trajectory, but you add a whole lot of humor and, surprisingly, a whole lot of tragedy in the same world,” said Martin.
Maahra Hill, Travina Springer, Molly Kunz, and Arash DeMaxi co-star in The Irrational.
The Irrational premieres Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, at 10/9c on NBC, with new episodes airing weekly.