The Root Interview: Michael C. Martin and ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’

How a totaled car + a wrecked back = Hollywood success for a former subway worker.

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TR: All the actors in Brooklyn’s Finest are phenomenal thespians, but which actor do you really feel brought his character to life?

MCM: At the time of casting, it blew my mind that some of my favorite actors were auditioning for a part in a movie I wrote, especially Ethan Hawke that played the character Sal. It takes a really dedicated actor to really to get into the heart and soul of someone portrayed as twisted. He would always say on set, ‘It’s great to play real people.’ He understood that people are out here making really tough decisions daily, hence becoming my favorite actor when the movie was over.

TR: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from this process?

MCM: It’s one thing to sit in a room by yourself and write something; it’s another thing to be in the production office with 50 people involved. It’s then that you realize how every line, and every motivation in every line will be dissected. It’s a process that makes you a better writer because of the questions you don’t have as writer, but the director or editor will have. If you don’t go through the process, you will never understand that.

TR: Do you feel like you were able to write an epic cop film with Brooklyn’s Finest?

MCM: Yes, it’s unique because the movie highlights a sense of twisted morality. There are certain decisions people can look at and will say, ‘Well, when youre put into that position, you have to do something.’ That’s what makes it epic to me, to bring someone to that reality. To have someone to walk into a movie theater with certain beliefs, but to go through a cinematic experience and walk believing something else? That is epic.

TR: How drastically has your life changed?

MCM: Everything happened very fast. They started pre-production much quicker than usual. Every day for a month, I would call in sick to the MTA, in 2008 I ran out of sick days, so I had to resign. I’m not Hollywood, but I do love what I do now; glad I no longer work 12-hour days in a subway tunnel. My family thinks they are all going to be stars, and I finally have a cara Chevy Malibu. (Laughs.)

TR: Many hear your story, and say this guy, Michael C. Martin, got randomly lucky do you agree?

MCM: I admit the quick story is: To see a guy, he’s working a regular job, get in an accident, decide to write a screenplay and it’s that easy. But I’ve busted my ass on short films, editing jobs, [production-assistant] jobs and intern jobsmost I didnt get paid for, having to work another job for money. I went through a lack of money, lack of sleep and an endless amount of ‘No to chase a dream that seemed so far away. Even this script first got a no, but the success story is a man who secretly tried countless times, and ultimately very publically got one. My story isn’t as much about luck, as it is not being afraid to fail.

Shirea L. Carroll is an lifestyle/entertainment writer and event consultant. Follow her on Twitter.

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The original version of this story included a picture of Michael Martin, instead of Michael C. Martin. He was misnamed in the Getty Images database. The picture has since been corrected.