In Shakespeare’s classic comedy, Al Pacino stars as the Shylock in the Public Theater production of The Merchant of Venice. Antonio, a young man who pledges a pound of his own flesh to a moneylender, Shylock, so a friend can woo his lady-love in style. Antonio learns a hard lesson in loyalty, humanity, friendship and prejudice when the revenge-seeking Shylock comes to collect and he is unable to pay.
The show also stars Lily Rabe, Jesse L. Martin, Byron Jennings, Richard Topol and Christopher Fitzgerald.
Jesse L. Martin has been easily been able to move from Broadway (Rent), film (Rent and the upcoming Marvin Gaye biopic) and TV (Law & Order) throughout his career. Now, he’s back on Broadway starring opposite Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice.
He talked with the AP about Law & Order, Shakespeare and the need to create his own work.
On Leaving Law & Order:
“As interesting as you can be and as hard as you can work, it starts to feel the same after a while. So I knew full well that if I didn’t get out of that position and get back on stage or explore other roles, I’d be really hurting myself. I’d be really dimming myself as an actor.”
How did he get the part of Detective Green on Law & Order?
He auditioned for the show as a guest star 13 times. When he was finally cast as a thief with 4 lines, he declined the part. “It was so small and I was scared that if I took that role I wouldn’t be able to be on that show again for another year or two. So I didn’t take it. I don’t know who I thought I was! I was totally broke as an actor, needed all the exposure I could possibly get. … But it turned out well because I ended up getting The Role.”
On his character, Graciano, in The Merchant of Venice:
“He’s one of those guys who’d rather have a drink than be serious, who would rather laugh than not. He spends a lot of time getting encouraged and reprimanded at the same time.”