Jesse L. Martin (born Jesse Lamont Watkins; January 18, 1969) is an American actor and singer. He is known for originating the role of Tom Collins in the Broadway theatrical production of Rent.


  • Before Rent, he was employed at the Moondance Diner, to make ends meet, when he first met the playwright Jonathan Larson, who also worked on the restaurant's staff.
  • He co-produced the Off-Broadway production of Fully Committed with Rent co-star Adam Pascal (and two other producers).
  • He is known to be a proud resident of New York City and is adamant that he will never leave.
  • Martin has always been private about his life, including his sexual orientation, though many people believed that he was gay due to his portrayal of the openly gay character Tom Collins in Rent.
  • Jesse L. Martin's character of Det. Green on the NBC show  Law & Order was shot in the line of duty to allow Martin to take several months off to film  the Movie version of Rent. 
  • The line in the Film version of Rent,"Merry Christmas, bitches!", was improvised by Jesse L. Martin. Director Chris Columbus said on the DVD commentary that Martin changed the line on every take.

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