Jesse Lamont Martin (born Jesse Lamont Watkins; January 18, 1969) is an American theatre, film, and television actor. He is best known for originating the role of Tom Collins in the Broadway theatrical production of Rent, and for his portrayal of NYPD Detective Ed Green on the NBC drama television series Law & Order.
Martin, the third of five sons, was born in Rocky Mount, Virginia, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His father, Jesse Reed Watkins, was a truck driver, and his mother, Virginia Price, a college counselor; the two divorced when he was a child. His mother eventually remarried and Martin adopted his stepfather's surname. When Martin was in grade school, the family relocated to Buffalo, New York, and the move was not an immediate success: Martin hated speaking because of his thick Southern accent and was often overcome with shyness. A concerned teacher influenced him to join an after-school drama program and cast him as the pastor in The Golden Goose. Being from Virginia, the young Martin played the character the only way he knew how: as an inspired Southern Baptist preacher. The act was a hit, and Martin emerged from his shell.
Martin attended high school at The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, where he was voted "Most Talented" in his senior class. He later enrolled in New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts Theatre Program.