How Dancer and “Bel-Air” Actress Jazlyn Martin is Carving Out Her Own Creative Path

June 28, 2023

While studying dance at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Jazlyn Martin fell in love with acting—and began to rethink her career path. “After high school, I was auditioning to join a dance company, but I also decided to take acting seriously,” says Martin, who grew up training in everything from jazz and hip hop to modern and African dance. Ultimately, it was her dance agency, MSA, that ended up finding Martin a role that would allow her to share her dance background onscreen, playing Jackie in Peacock’s “Bel-Air” (a reboot of the ’90s hit, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”). Streaming to 8 million accounts, “Bel-Air” has given Martin a larger platform to represent both her Afro-Latina heritage and the dance world. “The audition described Jackie as 17, Afro-Latina, street-smart, but the dancing actually came along as I was cast. The producers found out that I dance, and they said they wanted to include that in the character,” says Martin, who prioritizes finding time to continue her dance training and explore choreography with friends. “I’m very grateful to still be able to dance within my acting.”

An Eye-Opening Summer Intensive:

“Dance Theatre of Harlem was my first non-commercial summer intensive. I got to stay in New York for about six weeks, and it was so cool to see a predominantly Black company extend their resources and their talent to young people who were trying to dance. To just be around that culture was exciting.”

a female dancing wearing a purple dress siting by a window
Jazlyn Martin. Photo by Michael Higgins.

Bringing More Representation OnScreen:

“So many people say this, but growing up, I didn’t see myself. And you realize the detrimental effects it has on you and your identity and how you present to the world. Most people who looked at me just identified me as Black, so being able to unapologetically be Black and Latina, it’s given me confidence that I didn’t know that I needed. And hopefully it shows other Afro-Latinos that they belong and that they’re represented—and represented in a positive way.”

Her Go-To Classes:

“I love taking Horton technique. I was very blessed to learn from Don Martin, who performed with Lester Horton Dance Theater and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and I just fell in love with it.”

Getting the Part:

“I sent in my tape, and a couple of days later my agent called me and said, ‘They’d like to do a chemistry read with you and Jabari [Banks].’ A few days after the chemistry read, my agent called me and was like, ‘You’re going to be Jackie.’ I was extremely anxious the day he called me, too. I had taken myself on a sushi date and was reading to try to take my mind off of it when I saw his contact pop up on my phone.”

How Dance Informs Her Acting:

“I think being a dancer puts me more into my body; it helps me to think on my feet and go with what I feel.”