By Andrea Park
Virgin River is ostensibly a show about a woman—Mel Monroe, played by Alexandra Breckenridge—who moves to the tiny titular town in hopes of escaping her tumultuous past, only to discover that her new life may be even more dramatic and complicated than her years spent in L.A. And while Mel is certainly at the core of the Netflix series, just as important are the neighbors, friends, and frenemies she meets upon her arrival in Virgin River, California. Most important among them: The dashing Jack Sheridan, played by Martin Henderson.
Jack is a local bar owner and former Marine who might just be the one for Mel—if only he can survive the many, many things thrown at him, including but not limited to: being shot; his house burning down; a custody battle over his twins with his ex-girlfriend Charmaine; and residual trauma from his time in the service, to name just a few. Jack is played to small-town perfection by Martin Henderson, who flawlessly encompasses that whole "gruff on the outside, surprisingly sensitive on the inside" thing that we've come to expect from Hollywood's small-town romantic leads. Here's everything you need to know about the man behind the bar.
Who is Martin Henderson?
Henderson, 46, was born in Auckland, New Zealand, where he graduated from the Westlake Boys High School and promptly decided to pursue his acting career in place of further schooling. He had begun acting in local productions at the age of 13 and in 1997, when he was in his early twenties, Henderson decided to take his talents overseas and moved to the U.S.
In a 2017 interview, he explained how difficult his first few years in Hollywood were, with the typical starving artist woes further exacerbated by America's strict immigration laws that sometimes kept him from being paid for projects and, once, got him detained at LAX. Henderson stuck it out, however, largely motivated by the success of his close friend Heath Ledger—Ledger financially supported Henderson for a time with money he earned on The Patriot—and, luckily for the rest of us, has now been working consistently in the States for almost 20 years.
That said, after Ledger's 2008 death, Henderson did leave the States for a time, later telling a New Zealand outlet of Ledger: "Here is someone who had everything, everything you could want. This incredible talent and incredible career in such a short time. And for that to have ended in the way it did was such a shock. For me, existentially, it was 'what am I doing here'?" He ultimately decided to return to the States.
Outside of acting, as evidenced by his very active Instagram, Henderson spends his time traveling, sailing, and playing with his dog. He's also an avid chef: He's documented the process of making homemade granola and embarked with Breckenridge upon a thrilling (virtual) sourdough-making journey.
A photo posted by on
What else has Martin Henderson been in?
Prior to his work on Virgin River, Henderson was probably most recognizable from his two-year stint on Grey's Anatomy. In a storyline eerily reminiscent of his new one on Virgin River, Henderson played Dr. Nathan Riggs, a cardiothoracic surgeon who strikes up a relationship with Ellen Pompeo's Dr. Meredith Grey that is soon disrupted by the arrival of his missing fiancée. So...art vaguely imitates art?
Prior to that, Henderson held recurring roles on Australian shows Big Sky and Sweat in the late '90s, and on American series including Off the Map and The Red Road since then. He's also appeared in many movies, including Everest, Miracles From Heaven, and The Ring. If you're a horror movie fan, you'll remember his turn in The Ring as ending on a uniquely horrific note (and if you haven't seen it, go watch it; just be prepared to jump whenever your phone rings for the rest of your life). Henderson's absolute best role, though, was as one of the romantic leads in Britney Spears' eternally iconic "Toxic" music video. Obviously.
Does Henderson have a girlfriend?
Sadly for anyone on the market for a new Kiwi boyfriend, Henderson appears to be happily taken. He made things Instagram official with Aisha Mendez in April of last year, and the pair have since shared a slew of photos of their romantic trips across the U.S. and Mexico. In January of 2021, they spent weeks quarantining in the same hotel in Auckland in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak—so if they can make it through that, they can make it through anything, right?
Interestingly, the last time Henderson's love life made headlines was in 2012, when he was identified as the "younger man" dating Demi Moore after her split from Ashton Kutcher. Years later, he admitted that it was "not fun" having to deal with the tabloid frenzy surrounding Moore's every romantic relationship. "I feel for her," he said at the time, adding, "I feel for anybody who has that level of celebrity where you can't lead a normal life."
What has he said about playing Jack?
By all accounts, Henderson seems to love playing Jack Sheridan and being a part of Virgin River. Not only does he regularly post excited updates from the show's set—and, of course, bake sourdough bread with his costars—but he's also said as much in pretty much every interview he's done about the series.
"It's refreshingly romantic, particularly in an era where so much of what we find on television, particularly on cable and on streaming, is this tendency to keep pushing the envelope toward darker, more sinister material," Henderson told Entertainment Weekly. "When I read this, I thought it would be quite nice to just play someone who is wholesome. People do still want some goodness. It feels like an honor to be bringing that to people's homes right now."
He's also said in multiple interviews that he's very involved in who Jack and has strong reactions to what Jack does. When it turned out that Jack had an ex-wife, for example, "“I just about spat my coffee out when I read that in the script,” Henderson told TVLine. “Like most of the audience, and certainly like Mel, I was shocked and confused. I called [Tenney] and I was like, ‘He was married? Why didn’t I know that?’ I got kind of offended on Mel’s behalf. Why wouldn’t he have shared something so relevant?”
And when it came to Mel and Jack's (thankfully temporary) breakup in season three, Henderson has said that he had strong feelings about that, too. "I’ve explored this extensively, given that I had to play those scenes and I was very resistant to the idea. I didn’t personally think that a man who would spend that much time wooing a woman and who was that in love with a woman would be that scared off by these other circumstances. But the writers insisted that they wanted to have this moment," he said to TV Insider.
Qualms aside, Henderson clearly loves his character and Jack and Mel's relationship. During a 2019 conversation with Robyn Carr, author of the book series that Virgin River is based on, Henderson thanked her profusely for creating the character of Jack. He also praised the strength of the relationship at the core of the show, saying that his own respect for Breckenridge echoes that of Jack and Mel. "That's essentially what the friendship's built on," he said. "And I think that's why the love and the romance that is there, is the whole drive of the show, in a way, comes out of a genuine friendship."
Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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