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The Irrational’s Jesse L. Martin Tees Up the Show’s Long-Awaited Return, Answers in Alec’s Bombing Mystery

After a delay of more than three months, The Irrational returns to NBC Monday for the remainder of its inaugural season.

To get ready for the four-episode final run, TVLine chatted with Jesse L. Martin, aka Dr. Alec Mercer himself. Not long into the conversation, we began musing about what the solving of the show’s central mystery — who was behind the decades-old church bombing that nearly killed Alec — will mean for Martin’s character in the already-ordered Season 2. Read on for Martin’s thoughts on the matter.

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TVLINE | Let’s dive into Alec’s trauma.
Let’s talk about the trauma!

TVLINE | When I spoke to Arika Lisanne Mittman, your showrunner, she said the show will wrap the bombing mystery by the end of this season.
Yes.

TVLINE | For better or worse, the hunt for answers there gives him a lot of purpose, right? It’s fueled him.
Yes, jump-started [Alec’s] entire career.

TVLINE | Exactly. So, talk to me about who Alec might be when that mystery has an answer, when that road comes to an end.
Well, it’s crazy that you ask that question, because I ask myself the very same question. You think about it in the broader sense. Somebody has gone through some trauma, there is a world where what that trauma has done, how that trauma has caused you to live, how that trauma has caused you to move forward — if it allowed you to move forward — has become so much a part of your identity for good or bad, right?

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the-irrational-bombing-mystery-jesse-l-martin-interview

So, if this trauma — which becomes this huge investigation in our first season — if this trauma gets solved, if you will, if that’s a good word to use, how much of Alec’s identity changes because of it? Because it has been such an impetus for the work he’s done, the relationships he’s fostered, his work with his students, even his physical appearance. It’s like a scar of his trauma. And when that veil is lifted, the mystery of it all is lifted, how much will that affect Alec’s identity? And is there a world where people miss trauma? I don’t know, [Laughs] but I will.

TVLINE | Oh, you know!
No, I don’t know! I wish I did. I wish I did. I’m speaking quite honestly. Like, is there a world where when trauma isn’t a part of your story anymore, do you feel the same? Do you feel right in the world, because if you’ve been moving with that as part of your makeup for a very long time and it’s suddenly not there, how do you move forward? I’m assuming that the veil is lifted and suddenly you live a lighter life. I don’t know if that’s absolutely true.

TVLINE | I’m going to just guess, given what we’ve seen of him, he’s not going to go skipping into the daisies.
No. [Laughs]

TVLINE | The bombing case also, for better or worse, has given him a reason to interact with Marisa on a very frequent basis.
Sure.

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the-irrational-bombing-mystery-jesse-l-martin-interview

TVLINE | When that reason no longer exists, I’m wondering if he’ll feel some kind of way about that aspect of it, too.
First of all, I think Alec will always feel a certain type of way about Marisa and what their relationship was. And this is sort of in the same vein as what we were talking about just prior: Relationships become a part of your identity. When you have a partner… or you have a significant relationship in your life, and that goes away for better or for worse, that takes away part of your identity, you know?

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And like, how do you live without that part of you? Are you able to? Can you stand on your own identity? All those things are fascinating to play as an actor, right, and in real life it’s absolutely terrifying. Luckily, we have words by the lovely Arika Mittman to play these things out in the safe space of the studio. But in real life, you know, those things can be so debilitating to a person, particularly a middle-aged person.

Like, if your whole life has been with someone who you saw making it to the end of time with, and suddenly that’s not there… Maybe [Alec’s] work with the students saves [him] in many, many ways. But there’s plenty of time when Alec might sit alone with himself and say, “Who am I without her?”

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the-irrational-bombing-mystery-jesse-l-martin-interview

TVLINE | Rose has been in his orbit, as well. Maybe she’s a nice distraction from those existential questions?
I’ll take that even in a broader sense. I would never call Rose a nice little distraction. It’s even more than I could’ve ever imagined Alec having. First of all, you come out of a very, very strong and long relationship, and you imagine that you may never, ever get there again. And the relationship that Marisa and Alec had, you know, was based on something completely different than what is sparking now between Alec and Rose. Shout out to Karen David who’s fantastic.

TVLINE | She’s great.
Fantastic. Fantastic. Fantastic. And there’s a world of intellect that causes a reaction between these two, a banter between these two, a chemistry between these two that Alec can probably see, at least a little bit, in his sort of blind way that, “OK, maybe there is a world for me there, and maybe it is based in this intellectual space. And how interesting would that be if I had a partner suddenly who was on the same page with me in so many ways?” whereas before with Marisa — played by the lovely Maahra Hill — it was based on beautiful emotions. In this case, we’re starting a relationship with beautiful intelligence, and I think that’s quite sexy, too, and maybe a new era for me in my life, you know?

The Irrational airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC. What are your hopes and predictions for the end of Season 1? Hit the comments and let us know!

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