NEW YORK CITY IS A TOUGH town. If you’re a good-looking guy, bold local women may stop you on the street. And if you’re handsome and famous, like Jesse L. Martin—who is gathering raves and fans in his first season playing Det. Ed Green on NBC’s Law & Order—you’re facing double jeopardy. “Women do come up to me, and they tell me what they think!” says the 30-year-old Martin. “I’ve gotten great compliments on my eyes and my smile. But I don’t see myself as sexy.”
If he’s going to be that way, read him his rights. After all, says L&O costar S. Epatha Merkerson, the evidence keeps piling up. “He’s got a magnificent voice, a great sense of humor…and he ain’t bad to look at,” she says. What’s more, says Dick Wolf, the show’s executive producer, “he’s one of those male stars that men don’t mind how good-looking he is.”
The 6’2″ Martin, who also raised pulse rates last season during his guest shot as Ally McBeal‘s beau, Dr. Greg Butters, didn’t always have slick city ways. Growing up in Buffalo, he was, he says, “a nerd,” who at age 16 was stood up on his first date. “The movie was The Color Purple,” says Martin, “and it was like, ‘Am I crying because of the movie or because of what happened?’ ” These days the never-married Martin, who stays in shape with yoga and calisthenics, sends flowers and cards to avoid those turndowns, and, he says, “I’m romantic to the point of embarrassment.” In fact, Martin admits that he will serenade a love interest in his high baritone—but only in private. What does he sing? He’s not telling. “I wouldn’t want to give that away,” he says.