Graham Patrick Martin
From sitcom kid to star of TV cop show Major Crimes, Graham Patrick Martin has grown up on the small screen. As he begins his sixth year playing gay teen Rusty, he tells Gay Times about becoming an advocate for gay youths... and surviving James Franco.
Do you remember your first gay kiss? Twenty-five-year-old Graham Patrick Martin does, probably because it only happened a year ago. “We get together and we’re good friends and we’re cool about it,” he tells Gay Times. “I’m like, ‘So are you ready?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ So they give us a bunch of breath mints and stuff. They call ‘action’ and we do the scene, and the kiss is great, it’s an awesome kiss, but what took me back was that I’d never felt a beard on my face. I said, ‘Bro, if you don’t shave that thing, I’m making sure they never write a kissing scene for us again!’”
Ah yes, we should clarify. Rather than a declaration of love, this stirring moment of passion was actually Graham’s first on-screen gay kiss. For six years, he’s played teen Rusty on TNT drama Major Crimes and, just last year, Rusty finally got his first full-on pash with boyfriend Jackson (Rene Rosado). It was a historic moment not only for Graham who (sorry) is straight, but also his character, who entered the show as a troubled homeless kid taken under the wing of Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell).
“I was like, ‘This is gonna be great, I’m so excited that Rusty gets to do this, after all this trauma he went through, he finally is able to open himself up and feel love,’” he reveals. Chatting to us in LA, he’s on a rare day off from the show, which shoots ten months out of the year on the Warner Bros lot. “I’ve been locked in the studio all week!” he laughs. “I’m probably gonna go for a hike or something and get some sun because I’ve been shooting non-stop lately. I haven’t been seeing a lot of daylight this year.”
It makes a change from his first major TV gig on sitcom Two and a Half Men, in which he played Angus T Jones’ buddy Eldridge. He stayed with the show from its seventh season until the end of its ninth, when he landed the Major Crimes gig, and although he now has 92 episodes of the show under his belt, he still remembers the terror he initially felt hopping from comedy to drama.
“Working on multi-camera sitcoms is the best gig in the world because the hours are so easy,” he reveals. “But sometimes people typecasted me. They’re like, ‘Oh, he’s a sitcom kid.’ Major Crimes was the first thing that took a shot on me. It was a shock, but it was a good shock.” Less of a shock was the revelation that Rusty was gay. “James Duff, the show’s creator, called me in to his office one day and he’s like, ‘You know, I think Rusty’s gay because Rusty is me.’ He said, ‘How do you feel about that?’ I said, ‘If Rusty is you, he has to be gay, and I love that.’”
The role has proved an eye-opener on numerous levels. While Graham admits the gay scene is nothing new to him (“I went to musical theatre summer camp,” he laughs), he’s embraced the responsibility of portraying a gay character on prime time.
“I’ve been going to LGBT+ events and doing interviews with LGBT+ magazines,” he says, “just to make sure I’m not just swinging by collecting a pay-check, getting by on playing a gay homeless youth, which is a very vulnerable community.”
Close to his heart is Covenant House California, a youth shelter that houses homeless kids aged 18-24, where Graham has participated in writing workshops.
“Everyone knows the story of the gay kid getting kicked out of his house because he’s gay,” he says. “But seeing it, going to a shelter in Hollywood and seeing these kids who just straight-up got screwed over at such a young age... It’s been an eye-opener, and it wasn’t until it was put in front of my face that I was able to take action.”
The dark side of La La Land is something he’s generally managed to avoid. Though he was born in Louisiana and owns a place in New York, Graham spends the majority of his time in LA, which he describes as “a strange place; there’s a lot of money up here, so there’s a lot of people who come to chase it. It has a dark side but I guess every city and every industry does. I’ve never really been a part of that.”
Instead, he keeps busy. During downtime on Major Crimes, he shadows the show’s directors. Outside the studio, he works out whenever he can. “I do this crazy weird yoga called kundalini, you should check it out,” he enthuses. “I have looked at myself on television during a stretch where I was a little more relaxed, and you know that 10million people are seeing the difference!”
Earlier this year, he directed a music video (Google Tried to Be Nice by Phantoms and Harlie) and he has feature film Bukowski in the can. “I walked in to call backs and James Franco’s there,” he reveals of meeting his director and co-star. “We’re working on the scene. He comes up and he puts his hands in my hair and starts pushing it back, slicking it back. Then he takes out his phone and takes a picture of me, and he’s like, ‘OK, you can go.’ I left and I’m like, ‘Did James Franco just push my hair back?’”
With an autumn hiatus from Major Crimes coming up, Graham’s taking a break from Rusty to direct a short film. But what of kissing Rene? Has he got used to the stubble? “We’ve kissed so many times now it’s just another day for us,” he laughs. “It’s an awesome beautiful moment and I’m lucky
I got to play such good writing and such an awesome scene.”
“Everyone knows the story of the kid getting kicked out of his house because he’s gay.”