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‘Native Gardens' Tells Story of Gardens, Neighborhood Feud and Family

"In a weird way," Actor Eddie Martinez explained in a phone interview with NBC7. "The prettier that a garden is, the worse it is for that particular environment."

When Actor Eddie Martinez joined The Old Globe's "Native Gardens," he expected to learn a few things about gardening - but not as much as he knows now. 

"In a weird way," Martinez explained in a phone interview with NBC7. "The prettier that a garden is, the worse it is for that particular environment."

"Because you're bringing in foreign plants that are foreign to the ecosystem and that then triggers a chain of events that isn't good for the land," Martinez said. 

It's all about the native garden, a more natural garden with more weeds and naturally-occurring plants, versus the primmed and proper garden in The Old Globe's "Native Gardens," a new comedy about a disagreement between two neighbors. 

Martinez, known for his work on Netflix's "Sense8" and NBC's "Chicago Fire," plays one half of the young power couple that has moved into an upscale house in a historic Washington, D.C. neighborhood. He lives with his wife, Tania, played by Kimberli Flores.

Shortly after they move into their new home, the couple clashes with neighbors Virginia (played by Peri Gilpin) and Frank (portrayed by Mark Pinter) on the exact location of the property line that separates their backyards. 

It's Karen Zacarias' smart and witty script, which delves into territory deeper than just gardening, that attracted Martinez to the play. 

"It's funny, and had something to say," he said. The actor first did a reading of the play several years ago in Chicago, but later auditioned for the show's West Coast premiere at The Old Globe

The "Chicago Fire" actor said he's used to playing working-class characters, so he was excited to tackle Pablo, a successful Chile-born lawyer who is trying to make partner at his big, industrial law firm. 

Martinez grew up in Chicago, he said, a son of immigrants, so he found some similarities in the character.

"There's definitely a class difference between the two of us, but I was trying to find the things in which we could relate as much as possible," Martinez explained.

When he approached the character, he said, he wanted to look at what it meant for Pablo to be an immigrant.

"He has a lot of lines where he says people are being so American," Pablo said. "I wanted to define what that was for him." 

He found that for his character, he said, despite growing up wealthy in Chile and coming to the U.S. with some degree of wealth, people still judged him on the way he looks. 

Martinez hopes that when people walk out of the play, they see the underlying similarities all the characters share. It's love and family that motivates them both, above all else. 

"We have a lot more as people (in common), regardless of class, race; we all have a lot more in common," Martinez said.

The importance of communication, Martinez said, really comes out at the end of the play. 

"If we just communicate with each other, regardless of if we agree or not, communication can help us get through some of the problems these days," Martinez said.

"If we listen, more than anything, too," Martinez added. "Sometimes people think communication is being heard. But I think it's...even more important to listen. Especially when you don't agree."

The Old Globe's "Native Gardens" runs from May 26 to June 24 at Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. The play is written by Karen Zacarías and directed by Edward Torres. To buy tickets, click here. 

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