Newcomer/Chicago native Philip Martin has already worked with some of Hollywood's most renowned actors.
On March 24, Chicago native Philip Martin graced the silver screen in the HBO film Phil Spector, alongside acting heavyweights Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, and Jeffrey Tambor. He played James Lee, a member of the defense team in the loosely-based-on-reality murder trial of music producer Spector—a part that was written just for Martin by award-winning screenwriter David Mamet. Although the up-and-comer is based in Los Angeles now, he credits his childhood in Chicago for pushing him to follow his dream of becoming an actor.
What was it like to see the film premiere? PHILIP MARTIN: I had seen it about three times already, but to see it with people—to get the love and support from my friends and family while we watched it—was great. It feels surreal to see something you’ve worked on and cared about, and know [that now] the world will get a chance to see it.
Not to mention the cast you worked with—and on your first project. What was it like to work alongside Pacino, Mirren, and Tambor? PM: It’s a dream come true. Growing up and seeing Pacino’s work—The Godfather, Serpico, Scent of a Woman—first and foremost, a dream come true. I’m someone who likes to continually learn, and they all taught me something different about the craft, about being a professional on and off set. Working with these high-caliber people really brings your A-game out; you prepare like you’re going into the Super Bowl.
Speaking of that—how did you prepare for the role? PM: I shadowed my friend Irwin Fienberg, who is a litigator in Brentwood, California, and his partner, a pro bono defense attorney. What I learned from Irwin is how much time [lawyers] spend in discovery—99% [of a case] is paperwork, research. I learned what really drives a human being to get up every day, and really get behind his clients, how to maintain that passion and that drive to keep going. I realized the process of being an actor was similar: the research, the script analysis, and devoting yourself to the character.
What are you working on now? PM: I’m working on the next opportunity, I would love to go back to theater, in New York or Chicago—I’d love to do something with Steppenwolf. That connectivity with the audience is something I really want right now; to bring my heart and soul to an audience day in and day out would be a pleasure.
You lived in Chicago until you were 12 years old. How did your time here influence your career? PM: I grew up in the heyday of Michael Jordan and the [Chicago] Bulls. Growing up there during that time, and seeing that kind of high-caliber work on the basketball court, inspired me. No matter my track—whether it was sports, or acting, or even finance like my father—I could really achieve my dreams and bring that spiritual energy to [my] work. Michael Jordan was my first hero.