Thanks to his roles on "Santa Barbara" (eight years as Cruz Castillo) and "L.A. Law" (two as Daniel Morales), and the success of a fistfull of performances in various theatrical films and movies for television, A Martinez has gained the affection of an international audience. At times a somewhat reluctant actor (songwriting having been his first love since he was fifteen), he is known in the business as a "good guy" who goes about his business in consistent and professional fashion. "The perfect recipe for a totally boring image," he laughs. "The truth is, I never could have dreamed of such a career, and I`ve always imagined it must be a mistake on some level; that someone is going to tap me on the shoulder someday and say, `Excuse me. Who let YOU into this game?`" With the release of his debut album, "Fragrance and Thorn," Martinez has begun to see that career come full circle. A singer and rocker in his teenage years, he was introduced to the movie camera when a casting director showed up at an acting class A was attending at UCLA, and liked what he saw. A week later, Martinez was in Tucson, Arizona, acting in his first movie. Several other roles followed in quick succession. "It got harder and harder to keep playing with a band," he says, "since I was always going away to do these parts when they would come. The money I made as an actor was usually spent on bigger speakers and better amps, but that didn`t make up for the weirdness of constantly coming and going. I had to leave it alone for a while." Though he has continued to write music throughout his life, it was not until "Santa Barbara" came to an end in the United States that he had enough time to gather himself and go looking for the songs that would become "Fragrance and Thorn." "I wrote a couple of tunes that were performed by other artists (notably Mare Winningham on "The Tonight Show") and I sang my own stuff a couple of times on TV or radio, but mainly, during the years of playing Cruz, I was on the sidelines as a musician," he recalls. "The workload of learning and performing an hour drama every day make it impossible to do much else, especially when you are blessed with a growing family." The new album is a chronicle of stories from Martinez` life. He wrote the songs and supplies the vocals and piano work, in a style he describes as "California rock - lots of ringing electric guitars and rich acoustic guitars over your basic bass, drums and piano bottom. It rocks, but it leaves room for the lyrics and the melodies."
A native Californian, Martinez was twelve when he made his singing debut at L.A.`s Hollywood Bowl. He was eighteen when the above-mentioned casting director (Fred Roos) gave him his first shot as an actor. That film, "Born Wild," was followed soon by "The Cowboys," which starred John Wayne. "John Wayne was my father`s favorite actor," A says, "and we went to the local drive-in theatre to see every one of his movies. We`d have to wear our pajamas, cause we`d always fall asleep in the car on the way home, and when I actually met "The Duke" I had the strangest sense of deja vu, like I was still wearing those pajamas." The success of "The Cowboys" lifted A`s acting career and he was featured in several films and many television programs, working with such performers as Bob Hoskins and Richard Gere in "The Honorary Consul," Zero Mostel in "Once Upon a Scoundrel," Christopher Walken in "Shoot the Sundown," and Elvis Presley in "Change of Habit." The film "Powwow Highway," in which A starred as a Cheyenne political activist, was a personal favorite of his and brought strong reviews, and a peak experience was the film "She Devil," in which he played Meryl Streep`s butler-turned-lover. "To me, Meryl is the best in the business," he says, "and to play opposite her, especially doing comedy, was like getting to go to the University of Great Acting every day." It was not until Santa Barbara, however, that A began to hit his stride. Having said "No" to the project three times before agreeing to do it ("I thought it would be the beginning of the end," he says), he was taken by surprise when Cruz Castillo began to turn into a very popular character. The original "bible" for the show had ranked Cruz as a supporting figure, rather than a leading man. But when the producers decided to try the pairing of Castillo with Eden Capwell, played by Marcy Walker, the phone lines lit up and the mail started coming in bags. Thus a show, and several careers, were happily altered. Ms. Walker won an Emmy as Best Actress in 1989, and Martinez followed with one of his own in 1990. "Santa Barbara helped me overcome my doubts about the wisdom of pursuing all this.