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What Jesse L. Martin’s Costars Say About Working With Him
Travina Springer, who plays the younger sister of main character Alec Mercer, said the real-life actor gave "big brother vibes" on the set of The Irrational.
The new NBC crime drama follows the intriguing Alec Mercer (Martin), a behavioral psych professor trying to balance an assortment of mind-bending mysteries and his personal life, the latter of which includes a recent divorce and a years-old tragedy that haunts him still.
Those working the set of The Irrational had nothing irrational to say to NBC Insider — in interviews conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike — when discussing the show’s star.
Jesse L. Martin is part of an “impressive” cast lineup
The Irrational creator and showrunner, Arika Lisanne Mittman (Dexter, La Brea), told NBC Insider that many of the show’s cast members auditioned for the roles, meaning she wasn’t familiar with all. Of course, this wasn’t true of “the wonderful” Martin; Mittman said she’d been a fan for “many, many years” since Martin’s portrayal of Tom Collins on Rent.
“We definitely chased Jesse for this role because we just felt like he was perfect for it,” said Mittman.
She added she was “really impressed” by the auditions of the other actors on The Irrational, including Maarha Hill (Delilah) and Travina Springer (Ms. Marvel).
The Irrational director, Academy Award-winner David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me), also had something to say about the cast.
“I think we’ve been lucky enough to put together a fantastic cast for The Irrational,” Frankel told NBC Insider, listing the actors off one-by-one. “That’s one of the great pleasures of directing a pilot, is the opportunity to meet all kinds of new actors, people who haven’t starred in TV shows before, people who obviously have, and put them together, and let them do their best work.”
Frankel said working with Martin, specifically, “was one of the joys” of directing.
Jesse L. Martin gives off “big brother vibes," says costar
Cast members discussed what it was like working with the former Law & Order star and NBC legend, citing his professionalism and talent on the set. Maahra Hill, who plays an F.B.I. Agent and Mercer’s ex-wife, Marisa, called her real-life co-star “a good egg.”
“Working with Jesse has been amazing… he’s just so kind and generous and thoughtful,” Hill said. “He’s been in this business for 30 years; he knows what he’s doing, so I expect to be learning a lot from him.”
Hill considered herself “lucky” to work alongside Martin, which was also the sentiment of co-star Travina Springer. Springer plays Mercer’s lively younger sister, Kylie, with whom Mercer lives as he tries to get his life back in order, Springer told NBC Insider.
She said working with Martin was “an absolute dream.”
“I know that sounds so cheesy, but he’s really great!” said Springer.
Remembering her first time working with Martin, Springer said he was “easy” to be around.
“He made it a very fun and welcoming environment on my first day, and I was really, really appreciative of that,” Springer continued. “He’s already giving big brother vibes, which is really cool because he’s my big brother on the show, so I think it made it really easy to play opposite him.”
How Martin puts his real-life character into Alec Mercer
While The Irrational’s Alec Mercer has his family to help him through his mind-hunting methods, Martin’s multi-layered character also gets by with a little help from his friends. Arash DeMaxi and Molly Kunz play Mercer’s devoted associates, once pupils under Mercer’s teachings.
Kunz told NBC Insider that Martin was “so warm and so funny” during filming, diving into how Martin’s real-life playfulness helped develop the onscreen character.
“I think he brings a warmth to the character that is unique to him,” Kunz continued. “I have felt so lucky to get to work with him and to play around in the scenes and find our character dynamic.”
Canadian actress Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries, A Series of Unfortunate Events) plays the show’s ever-rational district attorney. She called The Irrational’s star “lovely,” recalling his “generous presence" during filming.
“I just feel like I’ve known him for a very long time,” said Canning.
The Irrational premieres Monday, September 25, 2023, at 10/9c on NBC.