A Martinez : the soul of a man

 By Andrea Payne, Soap Opera Digest, 1986

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"I was conceived the first time my parents made love. It was a birthday present for my father," A Martinez offers with a mixture of awe and pride in his voice. "My parents are absolutely wonderful people. If I had been floating around as a spirit and had to point to someone for whom I wanted to show up, I would have showed up for my parents."

Perhaps the most striking thing about A Martinez who as Santa Barbara's Cruz Castillo is that show's hottest leading male, is not his dark good looks, but rather the love he has for his family. Bursts of laughter and much shaking of the head accompany A's memories of the stunts he and his four "wild and crazy" brothers pulled while growing up in the California suburbs of Glendale and Tujunga. He smiles at "play fights" that turned real and ended with holes knocked in walls. "We'd always be doing repairs like trying to hang pictures over holes so my parents wouldn't see. They'd come home and there's a picture knee-high, you think that's going to fool them ?"

A's conversation is sprinkled with bits of wisdom passed down from his "momma." ""Things have a way of working out", my momma says. She believes that it's all there eventually, so don't sweat it. On the evidence of what happened with my heart so far, she seems to be right."

Sitting in the cool blue of his Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, Martinez is dressed casually in sea blue jeans (with one leg in a cast due to a sport injury) and a loosely fitting salmon colored shirt with blue and yellow geometric designs. He is speaking of his relationship with his wife. "When I met Leslie, I was about to be married to someone else, who was also a great person, but just not right for me to be married to. I shouldn't have gone ahead and done that, "he sights, "but I didn't have the nerve to play the heavy and back out of the deal. So, I went ahead and got married; it immediately fell apart." Four years passed before A and Leslie were reunited. After two years of living together and three years of marriage, there is nothing but love in his voice when Martinez speaks of Leslie.

"The thing that really brought me past being a boy and into manhood was getting married successfully - making a life with someone who is truly a soulmate and truly cares about me, independent of my relative success or lack of it. She cares about my spirit," Martinez says. "And that's been a real blessing because I've looking for that quite thoroughly. I had really looked hard for that for many years and I didn't seem to be in any danger of finding it. I started thinking it wasn't there. It seemed like every relationship I was in, I was immediately aware of what was wrong with it. I think I am very fortunate to have met the woman who has become my wife." Adding to his family life is a sister whom A describes as a "smart, sensitive lady who just has got one of the greatest hearts."

Martinez has an aura of peacefulness about him. He is a warm man, with an easy manner and an openness that makes a first time visitor feels like an old friend. However, belying A's tranquil exterior is a competitiveness he is fighting to control and which he feels is responsible for his battered leg. During a fundraiser for Emma Samms's (Fallon, Dynasty) Starfight Foundation, A, who was there to enter the pie eating contest, was trapped to run a relay race. Citing the fact that he was wearing inappropriate track shoes, A explains, "In retrospect, I should have refused to do it, but instead, I let my urge to win take control of me and I have paid for it." Nothing that he and his brothers were "very athletic and very competitive," Martinez emphasizes. "We were always into will - the importance of exercising your will. It's easy to get reckless behind that kind of will... I'm looking forward to changing somewhat and trying to deny this hunger to be the winner in everything all the time." With the help of a Japanese concept, Shibumi, A hopes to change. "The concept of Shibumi (is more or less) for a man to find himself authority without needing to dominate, and that's something I would be wise for me look into."

Although A desires to change, he recognizes that his need to win has also served him well, especially in his career. "I'd go on an interview and there'd be a dozen other guys sitting around who were my type - and there's only one part. Coming in second doesn't mean anything at all... It's so easy to sit there among these other people who are nervous and the room is filled with tension - you can sit there and just kind of dissipate your energy. There's also the possibility of leaving the room and staying on your feet and working yourself up into some frame of mind that will help you to show up and seem to be like a beast instead of a person. Make it apparent that you have to be the one who is going to eat now."

For almost two decades, A has walked away from auditions either satiated or still hungry. His introduction to acting came in junior high school via a special teacher who A says "just really opened doors for me." In high school, A was in a rock'n'roll band and also ran track. Martinez had "difficulty responding to the more militaristic attitudes of the track coach" and was easily wooed to the stage by a girl with red hair who suggested he might like to get involved in drama. Since drama and track met during the same period, A just said, "Forget it. I'm not going to go back there and run for those guys one more time. So why don't I hang around here with all these cute girls and have fun ?" Acknowledging that that wasn't much of a reason to start acting, A is nevertheless happy with his choice. At UCLA, Martinez switched his major from political science to theater. Of his early performances, Martinez recalls, "I was a ridiculous actor. I was all over the map."

Like most actors, Martinez experienced inevitable periods where he wasn't working. Admitting that he would become "more and more depressed as time went by", A channeled his energy into sports, playing five seasons of semi pro baseball. "Not only did I love baseball so much that our team went from being a laughing stock to being undefeated in our third season." A remarks proudly, "I also got a lot of support plus a lot of practice facing pressure."

Martinez has performed on stage in feature films and in episodic television. His motion picture credits include The Cow Boys with John Wayne and Beyond the Limit with Michael Caine. In addition to roles in series such as Kung Fu, Barney Miller, Quincy and Remington Steele, Martinez was a regular on Whiz Kids, co-starred in Cassie & Co and had a recuring role on All In the Family. Ironically, when A was offered the part on Santa Barbara, he had finally convinced his present manager to agree to represent him in his efforts to get more films work. "I had to work real hard to get her to sign me. She's very committed to a small group of people whom she believes in... And so we finally worked it out and she decided to sign me and then immediately I turned around and said, "Well actually, instead of being in the movies, I think I'll go be in a soap opera for three years."

While A openly admits that at first he thought doing a soap "was the worst thing I could do to myself, and I still think if you stay in it long enough it could do you damage," Santa Barbara lured him with the chance to establish credentials as a romantic leading man. Despite a handsome face and a charm which has made him one of the most popular daytime actors, Martinez found himself regularity playing the victim instead of the lover. "I played the victim to the tee. One year I did the same part in six different shows !" But despite his initial apprehension, A couldn't be happier doing Santa Barbara. Working constantly has given him a chance to grow as a performer. He's learned to relax a lot more on camera and his quite pleased by a recent accomplishment. "I was able to smile and laugh on camera legitimately for the first time in my career. To realty laugh, to let a moment of delight out. It was really wonderful. I couldn't believe it, it just tickled me pink. I was driving on the freeway feeling like the king of the world because I could laugh in front of the camera.""

While Martinez admires Santa Barbara's ace police detective Cruz Castillo - Cruz has got it all together. You see Cruz in a crisis where any rational person would be scared out of his mind and he's just, "Hey, it's not his problem" - Martinez does see areas where the character is not so highly evolved. During the time when Cruz and Eden (Marcy Walker), his lady love, were estranged, Martinez found it difficult to accept Cruz's repeated attempts to reconcile with her. "I think that he is all forgiving and patient with Eden... In my own life, I wouldn't stand for that. If I got treated like that, I wouldn't come back for seconds much less my 27th helping. But of course in the world of soaps, you need a problem to keep things hanging."

Although A admits that he enjoys the trappings that come with success - "I like to be the center of attention, and being in magazines and on TV" - for him a happy future entails much more than a chance to be a star. When asked what he's looking forward to most, Martinez responds, "More than any single thing, the only thing I really worry about and what I want in my life is to have a family. I want to keep working and regain my health. But having a family is what I care most about. If that works out, I have a feeling everything else will fall into place."