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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

A Glimpse: Martha Millan's Career

Raised in Sydney, Australia, Martha Millan (Class of 1997) descends from Australian-Filipino heritage. Catching the acting bug from performing in a high school play which left her “enthralled,” Millan studied at the University of Sydney before making the move to New York. While in New York, Millan attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating with the Class of 1997. With Australian-Filipino heritage and one who proudly wears the badge of “New Yorker” (see: marthamillannyc on Instagram), jumping around city-to-city has been something carried through in Millan’s acting career as much as it did in her youth.

Landing consistent roles on television for the past two decades, there is no doubt you’ve spotted Millan in at least one major series. With a wide range of roles—seemingly jumping between Entourage to Madam Secretary to Succession—it is difficult to pinpoint Millan’s career down to just a few. But this writer will give it a shot. Of Millan’s countless roles comes equally impressive co-stars: Jim Parsons and Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Great New Wonderful, and most recently, alongside Danny Glover in the feature film The Drummer.

One of Millan’s most remarkable achievements has been her involvement in The Cleaning Lady, a crime drama series from Fox. The Cleaning Lady comes as a groundbreaking series for entertainment: placing a Filipino lead at the center of the drama while incorporating other cultures with a sense of nuance. Initially seen as a financial risk, the series has received overwhelmingly positive marks, with the premiere garnering the highest ratings of any Fox drama in the past two years.

The story centers on Cambodian doctor Thony De La Rosa (played by Elodie Yung), who, seeking treatment for her sick son, travels to the United States. Met with disappointment, the system ends up failing them, and desperation sets in. Millan’s role in all this is not an easy one to tackle in this drama. Millan plays Fiona Da La Rosa—sister-in-law to Thony—Fiona must raise two children and work as a cleaning lady, all while living as an undocumented person in the United States.

Of her involvement in the series, Millan comments that the show is meant to uplift “marginalized voices” and to “humanize them in a way people can connect to them… 25 years ago, I would never have been able to audition for a leading role, being with my heritage,” she says. Fans have sent her countless messages and comments on social media, which she remarks “are all positive.”

Martha Millan worked on The OA, the drama sci-fi series featuring Jason Isaacs (The Patriot, The Death of Stalin), Brit Marling (The East, Another Earth), Phyllis Smith (The Office, Inside Out), Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal, Mogul Mowgli), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men, Masterminds), and Zendaya (Euphoria, Dune). It’s no surprise that with a star-studded cast, Millan still recalls this as one of her favorite projects to have worked on.

Millan was no stranger to the necessity for a day job to make ends meet while she got her career off the ground. With her belief in empowering other people with art, for a time, Millan taught acting to children. She comments on this: “I’m not looking to make child actors…it’s all about kind of just getting them out of their shell, connecting, really building their confidence.”

No stranger to modeling or commercial work, either; we’re sure you’ve seen a still of Millan posing in front of the camera. Appearing in many commercials—both in the US and abroad—Millan is one of the worldwide faces of Clairol Natural Instincts and the face of Nooch—an upscale Vietnamese kitchen located in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York.

To find more about Millan’s work, visit her website and keep up to date with her on Instagram.


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