September 20, 2013

Martinez’ TV series debuts this weekend

Charles Oliver

— J.R. Martinez returns to TV screens this weekend as one of the stars of a new syndicated series from the creator of “Baywatch.”

Martinez, a 2002 graduate of Dalton High School, plays Alfonso Rivera, a California paramedic-firefighter and U.S. Air Force pararescueman in “SAF3” (pronounced “safe”). The series focuses on an elite division of the Malibu Fire Department, charged with making the most difficult rescues in the most dangerous situations.

The show premieres on Tribune Broadcasting this weekend. It airs locally on Chattanooga WDSI Sunday at midnight (OptiLink channel 161) and on Atlanta WATL at 9 p.m. Sunday.

The cast also includes Dolph Lundgren, Lydia Hull, Texas Battle, Danielle Anderson, Katie Meehan, Travis Burns and Jocelyn Osorio.

The series is being shot on location in Cape Town, South Africa, and is being brought to the screen by some of the same production team behind “Baywatch,” including executive producer Gregory J. Bonann. Bonann, a longtime lifeguard and firefighter, co-created “Baywatch” and was a part of the team for its 12-year, 289-episode run.

Martinez will also be featured with Elmo in the Oct. 17 episode of “Sesame Street” titled “Leela’s Cell Phone Addiction.”

Martinez was seriously injured in a March 2003 explosion in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Army. He suffered burns over more than 40 percent of his body when a Humvee he was in struck a roadside bomb. Martinez spent three years in the hospital and has had 34 surgeries.

During his recovery, Martinez became a motivational speaker, then in 2008 he landed a role on the soap opera “All My Children.” He stayed with the show until its cancellation in 2011. That year, he and partner Karina Smirnoff won season 13 of “Dancing With the Stars.”

His autobiography “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit” was released last year by Hyperion.

Martinez continues to fly back from South Africa regularly to deliver motivational speeches.