Even though she's hit the big time, Natalie Martinez is still a Miami girl at heart.
Currently starring in Broken City as Mark Wahlberg's girlfriend on the big screen and CSI: NY on TV as Det. Jamie Lovato, Martinez is living out a dream her mother had for her years ago.
"My mom guided me into this whole thing," recounts Martinez from the Setai Hotel. "She forced me to go to this contest when I was 17."
Natalie grudgingly went and ended up beating out 6,000 other girls to be the face of JLO by Jennifer Lopez.
More modeling gigs followed, and the Cutler Ridge native, who had been attending St. Brendan High School, moved to Los Angeles the following year.
"I come from Cuban parents who spent all this money on private Catholic school and to not go to college? That's unheard of, " says the actress. "Everyone [in my family] still lives within a mile radius of my grandmother's house!"
Ten years on, Martinez is sharing screen time -- and kisses -- with the man formerly known as Marky Mark.
"I'll tell you what: Mark is good looking, but my dream man is old school, like Marlon Brando. I saw On the Waterfront and almost died," says Martinez, who used to date Taylor Kinney. "Another one is Paul Newman. Gorgeous."
Martinez, who also costarred in End of Watch as Michael Pena's wife last year, didn't think she initially clinched the part in Broken City, in which she coincidentally plays an actress named Natalie.
"They had already seen everybody," she remembers. "Then I did a chemistry [reading] with Mark, and I walked out of there gushing tears. You know when you feel like you blew it? I felt I was so close and messed up."
Wrong! The next morning the movie's director, Allen Hughes, called her for a Skype session. Next thing she knew the job was booked.
"I realized later the whole time Mark was rooting for me. Had I known that, I wouldn't have been so stressed out!"
Something that keeps Martinez calm is her current role in CSI: NY. She is having the time of her life with the cast.
" Gary Sinise is heaven-sent," she says, adding that she and costar Eddie Cahill need their own comedy show on cable due to the colorful language they share off set. "We get along so well it's ridiculous."
In her down time, Martinez likes going into the room where the CSI "corpses" are made up.
"I don't get grossed out by that stuff at all," she says. "I used to want to be a nurse. Now I can just play one."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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