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Actress Natalie Martinez has officially arrived in Hollywood, shining in her new role as Mark Wahlberg’s girlfriend in the crime thriller “Broken City.”In a role that proves that sometimes art can imitate real life, Martinez plays an aspiring actress named Natalie; a tough girl whose love for ex-cop Billy (Wahlberg) leads her through a dramatic journey as he’s double-crossed by a an unapologetic, scheming New York City mayor (played by Academy Award winner Russell Crowe).

“It feels great,” says Martinez of her second big film within the last six months, the first being“End of Watch” where she played actor Michael Peña’s dedicated wife. “I’ve been working at this for quite some time now, and to have made such great movies with amazing actors makes me feel like it’s been worth it.”

For Martinez, who was joined in “Broken City” by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Emmy winner Barry Pepper, several parts of the film rang true.

“I am an actress, so the fact that my character was one too definitely felt real,” the 28-year-old says of her role in the movie which opened Friday across the country. “And then the way my relationship with Mark goes up and down – well, we’ve all had broken hearts. But throughout it all, my character is very tough and headstrong about her career.”

It’s a stubbornness that Martinez says characterizes her as well; a character trait that has served to propel her from a spokesperson for Jennifer Lopez’s “JLO” line ten years ago to budding Hollywood starlet. Of Cuban descent and proud to be a Miami native, Martinez was picked as a model for Lopez’s clothing line from a nationwide contest; an opportunity she says, which eventually lead her to pursue acting.

“I came out to Los Angeles as a model and what should have been a short trip turned into a career that I would have never expected,” confesses Martinez. “I had no aspiration to act, but when my modeling agency sent to me into an audition, I discovered that there was something about acting that I loved. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

And while Martinez may owe her start in the industry to mega-watt star Lopez, she says she wants to carve out her own career without comparison to fellow Latina actresses.

“I don’t want to limit myself by being compared to other actresses. I want to be known as someone who has come into her own by showing off different aspects of her personality. I’ve done dramas, done television and I would love to do a comedy or romantic movie to see what it’s like,” explains Martinez, who is currently guest-starring on an multi-episode arc of “CSI: New York.” “I am always open to new opportunities.”

And supporting her as she continues to come into her own is her loving family, back home in Miami.

“I left home so young so there always lots of questions about what I was doing,” says Martinez, a self-professed family girl. “But they’ve always supported me every step of the way.”

With “End of Watch” and “Broken City” behind her, Martinez says she’s looking forward to continuing her story arc on “CSI: New York,” as well filming more projects this summer and into the end of the year.

“I’m in talks to do another TV show and more movies,” shares Martinez.

“I love growing as an actress. I’ve worked and worked, but I know I have much more to deliver.” by Nina Terrero [NBC]