EXCLUSIVE: 'Detroit 1-8-7' Star Natalie Martinez on Jennifer Lopez: "She Opened Up a Lot of Doors for Me"

When she was 24, Natalie Martinez was handpicked by Jennifer Lopez to become the spokesmodel for her fashion line, JLO by Jennifer Lopez. Now Martinez has her first starring role on a major network drama, the gritty procedural Detroit 1-8-7 (airing tonight at 10/9c on ABC). The 26-year-old Cuban actress spoke to Latina.com about her new hit show and how Lopez helped her get to where she is today.

Tell us about your hit show Detroit 1-8-7.
It’s a cop show about detectives in a homicide unit. It takes place in Detroit. It deals with crimes and the things that we go through day in and day out.

Tell us about your character?
I play Det. Arianna Sanchez. She’s Cuban and was raised in Detroit. She has a very strong personality. A lot of things happened to her in her childhood. Auditioning for the show was challenging because I don’t look old enough for the part. I had to audition 3 or 4 times, but obviously each time was a success because I booked it! [Laughs]

Detroit 1-8-7 has been somewhat of a surprise hit for ABC this season. Why do you think it has been able to do so well?
It’s a little different than most of the cop shows that are on right now in terms of the angles, the way we shoot—we have an amazing DP and amazing camera work. There’s also a little comedic side to it as well. We’re filming our 10th episode and we’ll find out soon if we get to do 22 episodes.

You beat out 6,000 girls to become the face of JLo’s design company, JLO by Jennifer Lopez. Why do you think J-Lo chose you from the group?
I have no idea. I had never modeled before in my life and there were girls there that had their modeling books and that had been there forever. But maybe she just saw that rawness in me, something that I didn’t see. I’m very grateful for it because she opened up a lot of doors for me. We worked together on the campaign and she was very hands-on. She’s very inspiring.
Check out a trailer for tonight's show at ABC.com