The Young Television and Film Actor Continues to Rise in Hollywood While Always Appreciating His New Orleans Roots
New Orleans has plenty to be proud of, and actor Graham Patrick Martin surely makes a positive contribution to that NOLA pride! Martin scored his first regular television role as Bill Engvall’s son on “The Bill Engvall Show” when he was a freshman in high school and has continued his Hollywood climb ever since. He recurs on the CBS hit “Two and a Half Men,” and he recently starred as Anna Nicole Smith’s son Daniel in the Lifetime movie “The Anna Nicole Story,” which aired in June.
Martin is also starring in the independent film “Somewhere Slow,” which recently screened at the Cinequest Film Festival, the Omaha Film Festival and the Vail Film Festival, and he recently wrapped filming on “Bukowski,” directed by James Franco.
And for well into the fall, Martin will continue to film the spinoff of “The Closer,” TNT’s most popular scripted series ever. In “Major Crimes,” Martin shares the screen with Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell. The spinoff, which just premiered its nineteenth episode on June 10, is showing signs that it will be a similarly riveting show.
When he’s not busy making film and television history in Hollywood, Martin spends time celebrating and embracing his hometown of New Orleans, either through managing a trip back home or just by enjoying NOLA from afar. A bona fide Saints fan, Martin follows the boys in black and gold religiously, and even had a beloved English Bulldog who he named Reggie after former Saints player Reggie Bush. In fact, Martin is such an animal lover that he has committed to be an Honorary Celebrity Chair for the Louisiana SPCA’s Howling Success Patron Party & Gala on Saturday, November 2. The gala honors the fabulous organization’s 125th year of serving animals in need in this state.
New Orleans Living caught up with the charming, kind and gregarious Martin while he was commemorating his younger brother’s high school graduation, and quickly came to understand why this bright and talented young actor has come so far in his career—and will continue to go even further! Make room, Jennifer Lawrence and James Franco!
Hi Graham! When was your first foray into acting?
Hi Christine! I went to a performing arts summer camp when I was eight because my sister was into it. But my first professional job was at the Southern Repertory Theatre in New Orleans; I did a play there when I was ten.
You grew up in Metairie, right?
I was born in Thibodaux and lived there until I was eight, when we moved to Metairie. I went to Country Day until I was twelve, then we moved to upstate New York for my Dad’s job. We were going to move back down to Louisiana but then Katrina happened. My sister was moving to New York City, so we moved there. That’s when I started auditioning and getting commercials and my first TV show, and when I was a freshman in high school I got my first regular role on “The Bill Engvall Show.”
That was what brought me out to L.A. I was too young to live by myself so my mom moved with me and my dad went back to Louisiana to work in Thibodaux and commuted back and forth. When I turned eighteen, I was able to live by myself but they didn’t want my little brother to have to switch schools, so they stayed out here until he graduated from high school, which just happened, so now my mom is moving back to Thibodaux to stay with my dad.
You just starred in the Lifetime movie “The Anna Nicole Story,” where you play the late Anna Nicole Smith’s late son Daniel.
Yes, it was an interesting gig. People know the surface-y versions of this story. They know of this crazy woman who had this modeling career and ended up being an addict and threw her life away, and as actors it’s our job to go in and find the human side of it. I did a little research on Danny and found out he was a very complex kid who went through a whole lot. He had some very unique circumstances being Anna Nicole’s son, so I wanted to dive into this role and portray him as best as I could. This movie was directed by Mary Harron, who directed the great movie “American Psycho,” and the cast was great: Martin Landau, Adam Goldberg, Virginia Madsen, Cary Elwes (from “The Princess Bride”) and Agnes Bruckner, who played Anna Nicole. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
And at least you didn’t have the part where you had to get to make-up extra early and put on prosthetics and fat suits!
(Laughs). I know, exactly! Yes, Agnes definitely did wear prosthetics and she had to get there early because Anna Nicole Smith had kind of gained weight at certain points in her life so Agnes had to go through all those scenes when Anna Nicole is younger and when she’s older.
On “The Bill Engvall Show” you played Bill’s son and Jennifer Lawrence’s brother.
Yeah, it’s funny. It was me and Jennifer’s first big gig. She was sweet and fun to work with. She is an incredibly driven and focused actress and I knew it back then. It doesn’t surprise me that she is where she is nowadays. I think she’ll make it one day! (Laughs). She’s great.
You play Rusty on “Major Crimes,” which is a spinoff of “The Closer.” The second season began airing in June. What do you love about working on that show?
I love so much about the show. I played the lead guest star in the finale of “The Closer,” and I was so honored to be able to do that. Halfway through filming it, the creator of the show, James Duff, asked me, ‘How would you like to be a series regular on a show?’ I was like, ‘I would LOVE to be a series regular on a show!’ (Laughs). So he came up with this idea to make my character on “The Closer” a regular on “Major Crimes.” It’s exciting, but it was nerve-wracking at first because it’s a show that’s a well-oiled machine; they all know each other and know how it all works, and they’re adding this kid to a cop show, so (laughs) it’s definitely risky and there’s a lot of pressure, but fortunately the Rusty storyline has worked, based on what people tell me.
You had a recurring role as Eldridge on “Two and a Half Men.” You probably get a lot of questions about working with Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher …
Yes, and I swear this is not a politically correct answer! (Laughs). They were both super cool, they both worked hard on set and were a pleasure to work with and I learned a lot about work ethic from both of them. People ask about the juicy details but the thing is that all of the stuff that happened didn’t happen while I was there. And when Ashton came around it was a new show, and equally as successful, thanks to the brilliance of Chuck Lorre and the writers.
OK, so how big of a Saints fan are you?
Let’s just say if I wasn’t 5’6” and 128 pounds, I would KILL to be in a black-and-gold uniform! Darren Sproles has given me hope! (Laughs). The Saints are my life! They are my everything! I’m sitting here in my room looking at a Drew Brees-signed helmet and I have Saints posters on my wall. I’m excited to see Rob Ryan’s defense this season. I check the Saints updates from Saints camp every day and they just seem so energized.
What do you miss about New Orleans?
Everything! I have family in Houma and Thibodaux, so I come back as often as I can, especially during football season so I can catch some Saints and LSU games. But oh gosh, I miss the food. That’s such a stereotypical answer but it’s so true. There is no good food out here compared to home! (Laughs). I miss my Saints, my family and the lifestyle.
New Orleans has such an energy and everyone feels it—everyone is so loving and kind. Recently, I was walking through the Quarter with my godfather, my dad and some of our family friends on our way to a Saints game at the Super Dome. This loud music was playing and these women were just dancing their faces off, and my uncle and my dad start dancing with them and everyone was laughing and having a good time. That to me is New Orleans in a nutshell. It’s just everyone being part of the family that is New Orleans. You don’t have that warm feeling in L.A. There is so much culture in New Orleans and every time I’m there I act like a tourist and do the cemetery and swamp tours, everything I can do to just experience that city because I love it so much. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for it now that I don’t live there. It’s now my favorite place in the world.
You are an Honorary Celebrity Co-Chair for the Louisiana SPCA’s Howling Success Gala on November 2. What do you love about animals and this great organization?
I am so excited for this event! I recently lost my English Bulldog, Reggie (he’s named after Reggie Bush—I’m a huge Saints fan, I don’t know if I made that clear.). I lost Reggie this past January and it is soul-crushing. You invest so much in these animals emotionally, but you know that they are going to break your heart one day. The thing about Reggie is that he broke my heart when he passed away, but it was under the right circumstances. He lived a very happy life with us and then he passed away. And that’s how it should work. The way it shouldn’t work is dogs being born, running feral and being out on the streets and people not taking care of them, so that they have to be sent away and then they get put down.
I really support the Louisiana SPCA’s spay and neuter program. It’s great that they are doing their part to control animal overpopulation in Louisiana so that more animals aren’t dying the wrong way. I loved Reggie so much that I can’t imagine him being in that circumstance. Dogs all have so much personality and they don’t deserve that. So I am seriously thrilled to be a part of the Louisiana SPCA’s Howling Success!
That’s great that you are involved with the Louisiana SPCA in honor of Reggie! And let me ask you about “Bukowski,” the James Franco-directed film you just shot …
It was such a fantastic experience. It’s about the young life of the writer Charles Bukowski. I play his best friend in high school, Baldy. And yes, the director is one of these people that might make it one day, like Jennifer Lawrence! (Laughs). He’s such a great director and being that he’s an actor, he has of lot of great insight. It was a surreal experience; I got directed by James Franco and it was awesome!
And another movie that you shot that looks really interesting is “Somewhere Slow.” I saw the trailer for it and I want to see that film!
I’m excited about “Somewhere Slow.” It’s going to film festivals right now and it should get released in the fall, hopefully. Jessalyn Gilsig from “Glee” and that new show “Vikings” is in it. She’s a fantastic actress. It’s about a forty-year-old woman going through a bit of a midlife crisis and through a series of unfortunate events, winds up leaving home and getting on a bus and meeting an eighteen-year-old Mormon runaway named Travis, and they have a bit of a romance one weekend and learn a lot about each other and themselves. It was a cool project. Jeremy O’Keefe is the director and writer and a really talented guy.
I see on your Twitter account that you are a Beatles fan. You’ve got great taste in music!
Thank you! I’ve been a Beatles fan forever. I love music. I just saw the Rolling Stones live at the Staples Center last week. I brought my mom for Mother’s Day, so I definitely won the son-of-the-year award!
That is a trip! I, too, brought my mom to a Rolling Stones concert years ago and she’s still talking about how it was her favorite show ever! (Laughs). Your family must be so proud of you and all you have accomplished so far.
I’m thrilled because they sacrificed so much. They spent so much time apart and they didn’t have to do that for me. They could have been like, ‘Graham, you like acting—great—do your plays at Country Day and let’s just stay here,’ but they were outrageously supportive and let me pursue acting professionally, and unlike many “stage parents,” they didn’t push me into anything. Now I’m on a successful TV show and able to support myself. I’m so grateful that it worked and that all of their sacrifice was worth it, I think. I am forever indebted to them. They’re very proud of me but I’m very grateful for them.