After his Emmy nomination for The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Martin expected to have more acting roles. He's still waiting

By Jason Sheeler
June 03, 2021 11:15 AM

It helps to remember Ricky Martin was a child star. He's known to the world as the King of Latin Pop, the wildly talented singer who danced his way into America's heart in 1999 with "Livin' La Vida Loca." But don't forget, he was famous at 12 as a member of Menudo — he got his start acting in commercials in his native Puerto Rico at 6 — and by 13 he was featured in a PEOPLE magazine story about… workaholics. 

Lately Martin, now 49, has been thinking a lot about his other career, as an actor. It's been 25 years since he parlayed his performative sexuality — honed on girl-packed stadiums across the world as a teen — to a different market: The women who watch soap operas. For two years in the mid-'90s, Martin and his leonine, shoulder-length hair were a part of the cast of General Hospital. He starred as the oft-shirtless bartender Miguel Morez. "I learned a lot," he says now. "But, honestly, it was insane."

Martin remembers the two years as a cast member as good for his acting skills — an altogether different course in seduction — but hard to connect with the cast. "I hated going there every day." It did, however, expose him to more audiences in the US. And he became a graduate of a school of acting (of sorts) with some famous alumni. "Demi Moore," says Martin, thinking of other former soap opera stars. "Who else? I think Liz Taylor did soap operas as well, and Meg Ryan."

After a little time on Broadway starring in Les Miserables, he hit the top of the Billboard 100 — and led the way for the late-'90s so-called "Latin explosion" that dominated pop music into the new century: Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez.  

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Ricky Martin on or on the PeopleTV app. 

ricky martin
Ricky Martin
| Credit: Matthew Brookes

He appeared on Broadway again in 2012, starring in Evita, and the same year appeared on Glee. (He played a Spanish teacher and sang Madonna's "La Isla Bonita.") His next major acting gig, in 2018, was also a Ryan Murphy production, The Assassination of Gianni Versace. He scored an Emmy nomination for the role — and after the laudation was hoping for more prestige acting offers. He's still waiting. 

"I love acting," he says. "I'm waiting for those scripts, for those great scripts. I can play gay, I can play straight, I can play a serial killer. I can play Latin, but I can also play European. I am ready. Just give it to me, man. Give it to me."

"I just want to tap into anything that has to do with acting. I love theater, too," Martin says. "I want to tell a story. That's what I want. I want to tell important story, and I want to change the way people see life in general towards some more optimistic way."

ricky martin
Ricky Martin
| Credit: Matthew Brookes

A few years ago, Martin was told by a music label executive that he'd be selling more records if he'd never come out. "That was something that really affected me. And I was like, 'Am I really dealing with this? They're not playing my music in this country because I'm gay? Is this really happening?' We're talking about four years ago. This executive doesn't work for the record company anymore. He was fired. But I felt it. It hit me hard."

"I don't know if I'm not getting parts because I'm gay," he admits. "But if that's the case, it's really sad. I'm going to keep working until life is different."

For more from Ricky Martin on the cover of PEOPLE, pick up our Pride Issue, on newsstands everywhere Friday.