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Former Webster University student, TV actor returns to field of dreams
The last two days have been busy for Stephen Martines. After a 3:30 a.m. flight from Los Angeles to Nashville, Martines traveled to a music studio to record a couple songs. The next morning he is back on an airplane, taking a connecting flight to Dallas and then back to Los Angeles. Martines makes soccer practice in the afternoon and, in the coming days, will be working on the production of an independent film.
His schedule would be daunting for any professional. But Martines, a 35-year-old former Webster University student, knows what he wants.
“My dad had the saying, ‘Do something because you love it,’” Martines said. “I love it.”
Followers of the soap opera “General Hospital” will recognize Martines as Nikolas Cassadine, Greek prince and head of his family’s company, a role Martines played from 1999 through 2003. More recently, Martines has appeared on the HBO drama “The Closer” and CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.”
But Marty Todt, Webster’s men’s soccer coach, remembers Martines for his soccer skills.
As a forward for the Gorloks in 1995, Martines played in 20 games under Todt. He scored 7 goals and recorded 3 assists. That year, the Gorloks finished 13-5-2 and were the first team in Webster history to win the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
In a profile that ran in The Journal in 1995, Martines listed his plans for the future. They included modeling, acting, opening a health care office, piloting an F-15 Eagle and playing soccer in Europe. Sixteen years later, some goals have been achieved, some discarded, some reconfigured and some newly arisen.
Martines Comes to Webster
Martines recalls a memory from his early childhood in which his father laid out sports gear on the floor of the family’s garage. Martines’ father encouraged him to select a piece of equipment, and Martines picked a soccer ball. From that moment on, Martines’ father trained his son to play the game well.
“He was my coach for most of my career,” Martines said. “He was my mentor and my best friend.”
As a youth, Martines displayed terrific athletic ability. He won seven championships and six MVP awards with his youth team. At 14, top college coaches from around the country scouted him. When the time came, Martines chose to play at Division I Southwest Missouri State University.
But then tragedy struck. On an October weekend during his freshman year, Martines’ father suffered a heart attack and passed away.
“He loved his kids,” Martines said. “He always treated people really well. It has gotten harder over the years with him not being here.”
Martines, distraught over the loss of his father, left SMSU soon afterwards. Months later, Todt contacted Martines and offered him a spot on the team. Eager to get back onto the field, he moved closer to his home in St. Louis. To fulfill his father’s wish of completing college, Martines accepted and became a Gorlok.
In his first three starts at Webster, Martines scored at least one goal in each game. Todt remembers Martines as an “integral” member of the team.
“He was a really good player,” Todt said. “He had great ball control and was an impact player. He had a good chemistry amongst the players.”
Martines helped the Gorloks win the SLIAC tournament championship game. Martines said he wasn’t the best student, and he is grateful to Webster for allowing him to play. At times, he was more concerned about soccer than his business management degree.
“I wasn’t in the best place mentally,” Martines said. “I have to thank them for allowing me to play there.”
But tragedy struck Martines again. While playing in a postseason game, Martines’ right knee was clipped by another player. Martines recalled hearing his knee pop out of place, subsequently tearing multiple muscles and ligaments. With his dreams of playing professional soccer crushed, Martines became depressed and left Webster at the end of the ’95 fall semester.
A Wonderful Epiphany
Martines entered physical therapy and began building muscle. He took an offer from a St. Louis-based modeling company and appeared in local clothing ads. Years later, Martines entered a national underwear modeling competition and beat out over 650 contestants for a top spot as a spokesmodel.
At the time, though, Martines said he felt lost. He moved to the Lake of the Ozarks that year and lived off the inheritance his father had left him.
Martines said his grandfather was furious about the lifestyle he had adopted. He urged his grandson to join the Air Force. Martines did, in hope of becoming a pilot. However, Martines never reached this dream. He was miserable while in the Air Force, and on the weekends, he said he would go AWOL so he would be discharged.
“I admire the troops who do it,” Martines said. “It just wasn’t my calling.”
In 1998, he was honorably discharged from the Air Force, and returned home to St. Louis. He recalled a memory of a day when his mother was watching the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The angel Clarence had just saved George Bailey from committing suicide. Bailey then pondered what life would be like if he hadn’t been born.
“It was exactly how I was feeling,” Martines said.
It was in this moment that Martines said he decided he wanted to become an actor. Martines said he was in awe of Jimmy Stewart’s ability to show what he was going through.
“I wanted to be able to relate to someone like that,” Martines said.
Shortly afterwards, Martines moved to Los Angeles with only $200 in his pocket. For several weeks, he lived in his car and showered at a local gym.
The Road So Far
When he arrived in Los Angeles, Martines appeared in independent films and guest starred on various talk shows. His big break came when he met his future agent in a restaurant. Within a year, Martines assumed his role on “General Hospital.”
After he left daytime television, Martines said it was tough to find work because he was typecast. It took five years for Martines to break away from his soap opera reputation. In 2009, Martines landed a multi-episode role on TNT’s “The Closer.”
“It was a great experience,” Martines said. “It opened doors for me.”
Martines said he now wants to focus on producing and writing his own independent films. He is also producing his second country-rock album. He hopes to be a father one day, and he would like to teach his children what his father taught him.
Martines is most excited about returning to the soccer field, a dream he had abandoned. At 35, Martines made a semi-pro team, the Lancaster Rattlers, and later signed with the squad.
Sixteen years later, when asked once again by The Journal about his future, Martines answered confidently:
“My future is what I want it to be.”