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Jesse L. Martin Is a Proud New Yorker, But Another Country Holds a Special Place in His Heart

The Virginia-born Law & Order star says he'll "always be a New Yorker,' though.

By Jax Miller

Jesse L. Martin is a man who gets around, especially when the cameras start rolling for The Irrational, airing Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.

How to Watch

Watch The Irrational Mondays at 10/9c on NBC and next day on Peacock

The Law & Order alum resumes his role as behavioral science professor Alec Mercer for the final few episodes of The Irrational's premiere season. Martin enjoys getting to film The Irrational, and not just because Alec is such a compelling character. The New York-based actor spends a great deal of time filming the series in Canada, and he enjoys getting to be in Vancouver, a place he's very familiar with.

"It's not necessarily my home base, it's just where I've been for a really long time," Martin recently told NBC Insider"I will always be a New Yorker."

Where is Jesse L. Martin from?

Martin was born in Rocky Mount, Virginia, about 25 miles south of Roanoke — a place he once described in a 1999 interview with Entertainment Weekly as “nestled deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

His parents divorced as a child, and Martin moved with his mother almost 600 miles north to Buffalo, New York.

“I was a country boy who had to lose his accent to make it on stage in New York,” he’d later say.

Martin told the outlet that in the fourth grade, a schoolteacher asked him to perform in The Golden Goose, where he found his passion for his craft.

A close up of Alec Mercer, wearing a blue blazer, looking into the distance.

“I was the pastor, which I associated with a brimstone-and-fire, Southern Baptist sort of preacher, so that’s the way I played it,” Martin told EW of the elementary school production. “None of the white kids there had ever seen anything like that, and everyone was impressed; thought it was very funny. I got so much positive feedback; I knew I was on my way to being a performer.”

Buffalo seemed a great place to live as a child, particularly for Martin, who reflected on his upbringing there, particularly the historic Blizzard of 1977, in a 2017 interview with The Buffalo News

“I was in elementary school at the time, and I swear, we were out of school for almost a month,” Martin laughed. “It was awesome. And I loved it. I loved the snow. As we got older, my friends and I used to shovel people’s sidewalks for money. And we’d stay out there all day long, sledding and having snowball fights. We’d freeze, but we didn’t care.”

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Martin stayed in Buffalo and studied at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. He also interned at the city’s Shakespeare in Delaware Park during the summer, according to the Buffalo-based outlet.

Where does Jesse L. Martin live?

At age 18, upon his 1987 graduation, Martin moved the six-or-so hours southeast to New York City and enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study theatre.

By the early '90s, Martin began calling Tribeca home, as discussed in a 2010 interview with the New York Post.

“I got there in 1994 when nobody lived there except for maybe Robert De Niro — he’s like our unofficial mayor,” he said.

Martin found several acting roles on the Broadway scene, but none as big as the 1996 debut of Rent, in which he played Tom Collins. Not long after, he starred as  Detective Ed Green in Dick Wolf’s Law & Order from 1999 to 2008.

Though Martin called Manhattan home, from 2014 to 2023, he starred in the television series The Flash, during which time he spent 10 months out of the year in Vancouver, Canada, to film, per The Buffalo News. In November 2023, while promoting the film Re: Uniting, Martin sat with That Shelf to talk about what he loved about working on Vancouver’s Bowen Island in British Colombia.

He started by calling the area “stunning.”

Alec Mercer (Jesse L. Martin) looks at someone off camera

“If you know anything about British Columbia and the Vancouver area, everywhere you look, it’s just… pristine nature everywhere,” Martin said. “It’s no wonder that it has become Hollywood North because you point a camera in any direction, and you see God’s great gift to the world. It’s fantastic!”

Martin currently stars in The Irrational, and while the NBC series is set in Virginia and the Washington D.C. area, it films on location in Vancouver, as production designer Eric Fraser told NBC Insider.

RELATED: Psychological Tricks to Help You Ace Your Next Job Interview — Like the Ones in Jesse L. Martin's New Show

“There’s a lot that goes into making it feel like D.C. and making it feel like it respects the writing,” Fraser said.

Martin still calls New York City home, adding in his recent NBC Insider interview that he loves working in Canada. He’s expected to return to film The Irrational’s highly anticipated sophomore season.  

"I have been here a while, and it's been fantastic to film here," Martin told NBC Insider. "I've met some incredible people, and it really has turned into Hollywood North. You've got crews here that are very, very good at what they do." 

Watch all-new episodes of The Irrational, returning January 29 and airing Mondays at 10/9c on NBC and available to stream the next day on Peacock.