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Tualatin grad finds herself on stage

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TuHS alumna Jessica Martin pursues acting career from Seattle to Los Angeles.


Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO BY LISA LEVAN - Jessica Martin first fell in love with acting on the stage at Tualatin High School. Ten years after graduating, she is still pursuing her dream.When she heard them call her name, it was like a dream.

They must have gotten it wrong. Wasn’t it supposed to be someone else’s name inside the envelope? 27-year-old Jessica Martin thought. But there she was having walked the red carpet in her fancy dress in Los Angeles, Calif.

Surely, she belonged. And there they were, announcing the winner and calling her name.

“To be recognized for your work is kind of the ultimate fantasy for an actor,” she said. “They’re saying, ‘Jessica, we like you and the work that you do.’ Everybody wants to feel that.”

That was in April, when the former Tigard resident and class of 2004 Tualatin High School alumna was recognized for her work at the Indie Series Awards. She was the winner of Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work on the web series “Wrecked.”

The award came seven years after her professional acting debut, when one of her University of Washington professors encouraged her to audition for a play he was directing in Indiana. After getting the part and performing as Ophelia in “Hamlet,” Martin knew she couldn’t pursue any other kind of work.

When she returned to school after several months off to produce the play, she finished up her classes and graduated with a double major in theater and psychology and set to work continuing her acting career.

“I think being on stage is probably the freest I feel in my life. I mean, it’s terrifying, don’t get me wrong, it’s terrifying,” Martin said. “(But) I feel like the stage is a very sacred place. I mean, going back to the Greeks. People were standing on stage to commune with the cause. Some of that still remains on every stage. There’s magic there.”

It’s this feeling and love for the art that keeps Martin going even on days when she feels like giving up. To many, her acting career would seem successful and steady. She has an agent, has been in numerous professional plays, was the voice of a character in Nintendo game “Metroid: Other M,” co-starred an episode of “Grimm,” landed several commercials, played the lead in multiple independent films and most recently concluded the second season of “Wrecked.” It’s a full resume — full enough that self-doubt seems unlikely. But, Martin is definitely her harshest critic.

“Whenever you’re getting work and things are good, it’s really good. It feels amazing. But then whenever you go to audition after audition and you’re getting called back, and then you never get the part, that’s really hard,” she said. “I got to a point where I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. This is just too hard.’ So when I gave myself permission to quit, that’s when I said, ‘You know what? I can stick it out for one more day. OK, I can make it ‘til tomorrow.’”

This decision came after what Martin felt were a slow couple years and a part-time move from Seattle to Los Angeles. In Seattle, things are difficult because there isn’t much to audition for, she said. In Los Angeles, there are plenty of auditions, but countless more actors trying out for the parts. Still, Martin is determined.

It all comes back to her first days experiencing theater at Tualatin High School. It was on the stage that she found her true self, and the stage gave her a voice. While she has her voice even without the stage now, giving up the outlet that shaped her life would be no easy feat. For the next few months, Martin will primarily be in Los Angeles, going to auditions and continuing the work she loves, switching her focus from the stage to television.

“Ideally, I’d be doing this for the rest of my life,” Martin said. “I love it so much. I really feel like I have a calling to do this and a gift to do this, and I kind of want to respect those gifts that I’ve been given and keep going.”