CONTRIBUTED/ZACH RIGGINS, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA Russellville native Sonequa Martin-Green is continuing to shine through her television and movie career.

Taking direction: Martin-Green makes most of Hollywood detour

By David Miller / University of Alabama

Russellville native Sonequa Martin-Green has reached another new height: being named a University of Alabama Legend.

At one time, Martin-Green had her mind and heart set on Los Angeles. She was nearing the end of her undergraduate studies in theatre at The University of Alabama and was ready to chase the Hollywood dream.

“I wasn’t changing my mind about L.A.,” she said.

Martin-Green’s professors, though, told her she should begin her career in New York because of her acting style and theatre background. It was a tough sell, initially, but Martin-Green said she saw the potential of New York when she traveled there for the department’s end-of-year showcase.

“I got some amazing feedback there, and I realized God was pushing me in a different direction, using people around me to persuade me,” she said.

Martin-Green would use New York as a launching point for her TV and movie career, starting in small indie films and eventually becoming a cast member of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Martin-Green recently won a Saturn Award for Best Actress in a television show for her role in the show “Star Trek: Discovery.”

She eventually made it to Los Angeles, where she currently resides, but she said she’s thankful for the detour and the persistence of professors like Seth Panitch, whose urging for her to start in New York was strongest among the faculty. Panitch also cast Martin-Green for a role that remains one of her favorite: Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Seth Panitch decided to make the character a woman,” she said. “It was quite a revolution for me, to be able to experience a story in that way, so fully and completely, right before I graduated. It was a springboard for me.”

It’s her continued success that qualified her as a UA Legend.

“Legends have been made in our academic halls, on our athletic fields and courts and in our endeavors to shape a better world through our teaching, research and service,” the program explained. “Many individuals have made significant contributions to UA and have distinguished themselves in their field or profession, bringing national or international recognition to The University of Alabama. They are UA legends.”

Martin-Green graduated from UA in 2007. Some 11 years later, she names numerous faculty members who influenced both her academic and professional career. From Panitch and Donna Meester to Steve Burch and former director of forensics Frank Thompson, Martin-Green said she is grateful for the people who “shaped me, believed in me and changed me in a major, permanent way.”

Martin-Green said the faculty support and experiential learning opportunities at UA exceeded her expectations, particularly UA’s forensics team, which helped her sharpen her skills on stage. Martin-Green won a national championship for her dramatic interpretation of Spike Lee’s, “When the Levees Broke,” a documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The program revealed a “beauty” of live performance that she hadn’t experienced to that point.

“I was in the theatre department and hadn’t been cast in a show yet,” Martin-Green said. “I knew I had to take a stronger hold of my education, and people were encouraging me to join forensics, where you get to build these programs and hone your own voice. It’s in-depth character work. I had a meeting with Frank Thompson, and he sold it to me. I’m still reaping the benefits of forensics.”

To learn about other UA Legends visit https://www.ua.edu/legends/list_legends.php.

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