Where Legends Are Made

Taking Direction

Martin-Green makes most of Hollywood detour

Sonequa Martin-Green had her mind and heart set on Los Angeles.

The Russellville native was nearing the end of her undergraduate studies in theatre at The University of Alabama and was ready to chase the Hollywood dream.

“I wasn’t changing my mind about L.A.,” she said.

Martin-Green’s professors, though, told her she should begin her career in New York, due to her acting style and theatre background.

It was a tough sell, initially, but Martin-Green saw the potential of New York when she traveled there for the department’s end-of-year showcase.

“I got some amazing feedback there, and I realized God was pushing me in a different direction, using people around me to persuade me,” she said.

Martin-Green would use New York as a launching point for her TV and movie career, starting in small indie films and eventually becoming a cast member of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Martin-Green recently won a Saturn Award for Best Actress in a TV Show for her role in the show “Star Trek: Discovery.”

She eventually made it to Los Angeles, where she currently resides, but she’s thankful for the detour and the persistence of professors like Seth Panitch, whose urging for her to start in New York was strongest among the faculty. Panitch also cast Martin-Green for a role that remains one of her favorite: Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Seth Panitch decided to make the character a woman,” she said. “It was quite a revolution for me, to be able to experience a story in that way, so fully and completely, right before I graduated. It was a springboard for me.”

Martin-Green graduated from UA in 2007. Some 11 years later, she proudly names the numerous faculty members that influenced both her academic and professional career. From Panitch and Donna Meester, to Steve Burch and former director of forensics, Frank Thompson, Martin-Green says she is grateful for the people who “shaped me, believed in me and changed me in a major, permanent way.”

Martin-Green said the faculty support and experiential learning opportunities at UA exceeded her expectations, particularly UA’s forensics team, which helped her sharpen her skills on stage. Martin-Green won a national championship for her dramatic interpretation of Spike Lee’s, “When the Levees Broke,” a documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The program revealed a “beauty” of live performance that she hadn’t experienced to that point.

“I was in the theatre department and hadn’t been cast in a show yet,” Martin-Green said. “I knew I had to take a stronger hold of my education, and people were encouraging me to join forensics, where you get to build these programs and hone your own voice. It’s in-depth character work. I had a meeting with Frank Thompson, and he sold it to me. I’m still reaping the benefits of forensics.”