Tuesday, April 6, 2010

FLASHBACK: A Martinez 1989


By Alan Carter
New York Daily News
July 23, 1989

Actor A Martinez, who plays Cruz Castillo on NBC's SANTA BARBARA, (3 p.m. weekdays, WTVJ-Ch 4, WPTV-Ch. 5) doesn't credit his swarthy good looks, his acclaimed acting talents or even his basic common sense for helping him get ahead in show business. In fact, he jokes, "I don't get any of the credit. I've done some stupid career things. I always admonish A for being stupid. But I also acknowledge that A is lucky. I have good people around me."

Those good people in 1984 convinced the actor to take the role of Cruz, a heroic cop, on NBC's then-new soap. And it was, he admits now, not terribly easy to persuade him. Before accepting the role, Martinez, to most in the business, was a bright actor with an unusual first name -- we'll explain later -- who, inexplicably, took on stupid thug roles in even stupider episodic TV shows.

"I turned SANTA BARBARA down three times. Thank God, they didn't accept," he says, laughing, "A soap? I thought my agent was being cruel and selling me out. But luckily, Reuben Cannon, who was casting the show, and Dolores Robinson, my manager, laid it out to me. They said if I ever wanted to play a leading man, I had to play a role in which I got the girl."

The plan worked. And very well indeed. Martinez is now a leading man on both the big and little screen. "Cruz was my delivery and I didn't even know it at the time," he says matter-of-factly.

Martinez, one of daytime's most popular players along with his co- star and onscreen wife Marcy Walker (Eden), was nominated with Walker for daytime Emmys in the lead categories. Although Martinez didn't win, SANTA BARBARA did pick up six daytime Emmys, including Best Soap Opera for the second consecutive year, and Best Actress for Walker.

Earlier this month, Martinez won the prestigious Imagen award given by the National Conference of Christians and Jews to TV's leading Hispanic actor. SANTA BARBARA also won honors -- tying with L.A. LAW -- for portraying Hispanics in a positive light. Two months ago, the comedy Powwow Highway, in which he starred, opened, and Martinez won rave reviews. If that wasn't enough, he's now wrapping a lead role in the Susan Seidelman film She Devil, which stars Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr.

For Martinez, working with Streep as an onscreen love interest is a reteaming -- of sorts. "I don't know why I'm telling you this," he says, "but I actually had a chance to have a small part in a film of hers years ago, but I screwed it up and lost the role. I doubt she'd even remember. But I've been carrying it around for years. She's always been a hero to me. And to work with her -- and also find that she has an excellent heart -- is even more gratifying."

Obviously, in show business parlance, Martinez is hot. No doubt about it. And reportedly, to get him to stay on the NBC soap for at least another year, New World, the show's producers, offered him the moon to stay (as in big money and clauses that allow him to do outside projects on short notice).

Says talent manager Dolores Robinson, "A is so very special. I've been in the business for a while, and I've managed many people, but I can honestly say that no one, absolutely no one, deserves all this success more than he does."

Why is the Los Angeles-born Martinez suddenly sizzling? Even he's not sure. "Beats me," he says in his modest fashion. "I guess I've been catching some breaks. Getting Powwow Highway was a great thing for me. I'd done movies before, but being a lead in a movie helped bring me to a new level."

By the way: A stands for Adolphe. Martinez, growing up, was a junior who was called "Little A." Finally he dropped the "Little" and the period and just called himself A.

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