Ricky Martin hadn't had zero acting experience when he was cast as Antonio D'Amico, partner of Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez), in Ryan Murphy's The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story — he appeared on Glee, some Latin American telenovelas and even General Hospital way back in the day — but the initial announcement came as a surprise to many. Could Ricky Martin of Menudo and "Shake Your Bon-Bon" fame deliver the goods in a real-deal dramatic role on par with those in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story?
If Martin's performance didn't erase all doubt the answer was an emphatic yes, then the announcement heard 'round the world Thursday did: Martin received an Emmy nod for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. He told TV Guide he found out when he was startled awake by a loud banging on his door. "Mr. Martin! Wake up, it's an emergency!" shouted a woman who worked for him; he'd gotten home from a recording studio, where he was working on new material, at 4 a.m. His publicist had dispatched the woman to rouse him, and, in the hours since, he's gotten so many messages his phone's battery just gave up and shut down. "I don't even know how I'm feeling," he said, sounding slightly groggy but obviously thrilled.
He stayed on the line long enough to tell us four things we didn't know about his star turn on American Crime Story. Keep scrolling for the full Martin tea.
1. The scene that earned Martin a nod had a key edit that the actor himself asked to change up on set.
Martin traversed between catatonic despair, joy and humiliation when Gianni's sister Donatella (Penelope Cruz) shut him out of the Versace family business and home. Martin, who has previously described the experience of shooting the series at the Versace mansion as supernatural, credited Murphy's direction and the sense of trust he created on set as the reason he got noticed — even if the license Martin took surely played a part too.
"Ryan is very specific about the things he needs but once you commit to those things, he lets you fly," he said. Martin asked for permission to actually hold Gianni's bloody body in the now unforgettable scene when Antonio discovers his partner had been shot. "Ryan said, 'Why?' I said, 'I need to feel him,' and I asked Edgar if I could hold him. I was just bawling. They were very difficult emotions to tap into."
2. While the recognition is great, what makes Martin the happiest is the fact that justice prevailed, even if it was delayed.
Martin's role wasn't just good but resonant too; only eight years have passed since Martin publicly came out (on his website) and the now married father of two, who's been famous most of his life, is intimately knowledgable about dealing with homophobia and the pressure to stay closeted as a celebrity, which Versace explores in depth.
"To be recognized by your peers — it doesn't matter how cool you try to act...it is the industry telling you you've done a good job. But for me most important [is that] the show means justice prevailed. We all jumped into this show because of the need to shed some light into this world. The FBI never caught (Andrew Cunanan, played by Darren Criss) in Miami, which is a small city and [Andrew] was not hiding. I guess the FBI said, 'It's a gay man killing gay man, look the other way and let it happen.' We have to be careful because history tends to repeat itself. This heavy atmosphere we're dealing with — the xenophobic atmosphere, the racism — we have to stand up and be aware, eyes wide open to stop injustice."
3. Martin's already planning on making the most of his nomination — and right now that means celebrating with his castmates and family.
Martin said he's going to look for "any excuse to throw a little party" and that starts with his Versace teammates. He's going to Spain in a few days, so he'll look up Penelope Cruz, he said, and though Edgar Ramirez is in Atlanta, he's already making plans to turn all the way up this weekend with Darren Criss and Ryan Murphy — possibly at his house.
As for the most important people in his life — his family — he's pretty sure he knows how they're going to react. "My husband [artist Jwan Yosef] and my kids put up with a lot — my frustration and crying...My husband says to me, 'I forgot I was married to Ricky, all of a sudden I'm married to Antonio.'" His 10 year old sons are in camp, he said, and he has no plans to interrupt their idyllic summer moment to tell them papa got nominated for the highest award possible in TV. "They're somewhere else. 'Dad, look at this! Look at this kick!' They'll care, they'll say 'Congratulations Papi!' and they'll be on to the next."
4. He knows what he's wearing to the Emmys in September.
Martin said he'd wear something "conceptual and chic" the night of the ceremony, but importantly he knows just where to put that glossy hardware if he's lucky enough to bring it home: right next to his two Grammys.
The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Monday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC.