UM Alumnus and Natalie Martinez Star in “Ordinary Joe”

Season Finale Airs Monday January 24 

Natalie Martinez’s role as Amy on NBC’s Ordinary Joe is far from ordinary.

“I just loved the idea and the concept of the show that you have them living these parallel lives. I think that’s a question we always ask ourselves – the what ifs. As an actress, it’s such a meaty part where I get to play essentially the same character but in three different worlds, molded by her experiences and things that had happened to her in each of those lives. We’re all really defined by our experiences and what we go through. I thought it was amazing to be able to do a job like this; it’s not something you see very often, so that really attracted me to it,” explained Martinez, of Los Angeles, who previously appeared on Detroit 1-8-7, Under the Dome, and Secrets and Lies. 

3 Different Realities

On Joe (its season finale airs Monday, Jan. 24), the show centers around Joe Kimbreau (Farmington Hills native/University of Michigan alumnus James Wolk (Mad Men, The Crazy Ones). On the day he graduates from Syracuse University, Joe must choose with whom to celebrate: his family; Jenny (Elizabeth Lail, You), his on-again/off-again girlfriend; or Amy, whom he just met at graduation.

The story picks up 10 years later, splitting into three separate timelines. If Joe goes with his family, he becomes a cop. His uncle Frank (David Warshofsky, The Mentalist), a veteran detective, mentors him. Amy eventually becomes his love interest in this reality.

If Joe goes with Jenny, he learns she’s pregnant and becomes a nurse. They get married and raise their son Christopher (newcomer John Gluck), who has muscular dystrophy. In this reality, Amy is married to Joe’s BFF, Eric Payne (Charlie Barnett, Chicago Fire). 

Farmington Hills native/University of Michigan alumnus James Wolk (left) and Natalie Martinez (right) star in NBC’s Ordinary Joe. Photo by Parrish Lewis/NBC.

If Joe goes with Amy, he becomes a famous rock star, while Amy becomes chief of staff for Congressman Bobby Diaz (Adam Rodriguez, Criminal Minds). Amy suffers multiple miscarriages and decides to focus on her career. This upsets Joe, who wants children. That’s compounded when he learns he got Jenny pregnant, and she gave their son up for adoption. They eventually connect with their son, who’s named Zeke in this reality.

What’s more, Amy cheats on Joe with Bobby, believing Joe is having an affair with Jenny. Bobby is later assassinated at a rally. Amy confesses about her affair with Bobby and is pregnant with Bobby’s child. Hurt and angry, Joe wants to leave Amy and goes down a self-destructive path, drinking and philandering. 

When I graduated from U-M… I was very uncertain about what road I should take. Everything was like, ‘Should I do this? Should I do that? What’s the right choice?’” said Wolk. “Ultimately, I really connected with Joe. I felt like, ‘Wow, I get that.’ Should he do what his family thinks he should do? Or should he follow his passion? Or should he do what’s familiar? There’s so many things about the script I love. Universally, we all feel that way. We all feel ‘what if?’ It’s a really fun concept.” 

A Fun Set 

It was hard for Martinez to answer which incarnation of Amy she liked the most, but she did.

Natalie Martinez in a scene from NBC’s Ordinary Joe. Photo by Eliza Morse/NBC.

“I love them all – I love them all for different reasons,” she said. “I would have to say, as an actress, I love music world because there’s so much going on – there’s so much drama, there’s so much in the relationship, she’s battling so many things as well. I love the cop world because it’s fun and flirty and young love… I would have to say music world is my favorite.”

Martinez addressed how Joe has been called “the next This Is Us.”

(Us) is a great show,” she said. “I think by comparison, it’s a very touching show. We deal a lot of issues on (Joe) – things that happen in a marriage, fertility, work, friendships, family. In that, it’s compared to (Us), just the quality of it, the writing of it, the emotions of the show – I take that as a compliment.”

According to Martinez, the Joe set is a happy one, filled with plenty of laughter. 

“I really, really enjoyed working with everybody from top to bottom. It’s a really great set. It’s a fun job. I look forward to going to work. I love working with everybody… Everyone loves being there, loves what we do, loves what we’re doing with the show,” said Martinez. “James is a sweetheart. He’s so nice and has such a good attitude… I really enjoy working with James. We have a lot of fun. We laugh pretty much half the time. On Episode 12, James and I in cop world were sitting down at the dinner table and talking to each other. When I saw that scene on-air, I thought, ‘Wow, that actually turned out pretty well’ because we could not stop laughing the entire time! The editors did a really great job on that one.”

Martinez Loves Detroit

Martinez has fond memories of Detroit when she was on 2010-11’s 1-8-7, which was the first TV series set in and filmed in Detroit. It was headlined by Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos). Martinez played Det. Ariana Sanchez. 

I loved it. I actually loved Detroit. I had such a great time there – the food, the people,” recalled Martinez. “It was my first real network TV show. I was just on a high. I’m actually still friends with everybody on there. We have a chat going on. It’s been going on 11 years; it’s composed of actors and crew members. We still talk all the time… We really made some great friendships on that show.”

Martinez, who lived in Royal Oak during her 1-8-7 days, spoke about what attracted her to Sanchez. 

“I loved how strong she was,” she said. “That’s what draws me to a lot of characters; I really like playing strong women.”

Wolk admitted he’s jealous that Martinez got to film in Detroit. 

I’ve asked her about her time in Detroit (filming 1-8-7). She loved it. She had a good time. I’ve never shot in Detroit, so I was jealous,” said Wolk. “She’s so much fun. We laugh constantly. That’s a big theme on our set; even though the show has heavy content, there’s a ton of humor behind the scenes. She’s great. She’s really fun to work with and is really talented.”

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