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Jesse L. Martin Teases the Unfinished Love Story at the Heart of The Irrational

When we meet Alec and Marisa on The Irrational, they might be close to finalizing a divorce, but that’s not the end of their love for each other, actor Jesse L. Martin said.

By Caitlin Schunn

Is there anything more irrational in the world than love?

How to Watch

Watch The Irrational on NBC and Peacock

Former Law & Order star Jesse L. Martin will portray world-renowned behavior science professor Alec Mercer when NBC’s new drama The Irrational premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 10/9c. But his personal relationship with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Marisa, played by Maahra Hill, is intertwined with their professional relationship, complicating things from the get-go.

Jesse L. Martin on The Irrational Love Story

Alec Mercer appears in a scene from The Irrational.

“You’re basically following this guy through his personal life, and his professional life, and he has the bonus of being very tuned in on human behavior…so you can imagine how much that would affect his personal life,” Martin told NBC in an interview, conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike. “Certainly, [it] benefits his professional life. But personal life gets a little funny — and therein lies the drama.”

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Alec Mercer, while a professor, also gets called on by police and law enforcement like the FBI to bring his expertise of human behavior to things like hostage negotiations and murder investigations. That’s where he crosses paths with his estranged wife, Marisa, who is an FBI agent.

“When you meet Alec Mercer in our pilot, he is just about to finalize a divorce that he did not call upon with his wife, Marisa,” Martin told NBC. “Seemingly quite upset about it, but doesn’t usually show emotion so much. I guess a behavior psychologist probably hides things a little bit better than most. But it certainly does affect him, and you get a nice little look into their relationship … that will end legally but will continue hopefully forever.”

Hill also remained optimistic about the future of her character with Martin’s Alec Mercer.

“They met at a traumatizing time for him,” Hill told NBC in an interview conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike. “But it’s what brought them together. So, her career brought her the love of her life. But we’ll see what happens to that love story.”

The energy and passion between the two characters jumps off the screen from the opening moments of the show.

“There’s a special connection, a certain, ‘something words can’t describe’ between the two of them,” Hill told NBC.

Hill also explained what drew her character to Martin’s in the show.

“The thing that intrigued her about Alec — his brilliance and his understanding of human behavior, the things that are intricate details about what could solve a case, his charming nature, his ability to captivate an audience, were all very captivating to her,” Hill explained. “But when you live with it in close quarters for a long period of time and what you need really is more emotional availability from a person who’s been traumatized and not really able to get to that part of themselves, it becomes difficult.”

Although Marisa knows Alec’s secrets and past in The Irrational, that doesn’t alter how she feels about him.

“It doesn’t change the love they have for each other,” Hill said. “I feel like that is always there from the moment they met, and I think that it will be through the end of time quite honestly.”

Watch The Irrational when it premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 10/9c on NBC and the next day on Peacock.