As the newest doctor on NBC's hit medical drama, Kellie Martin doesn't mind that you think she's annoying

By Tricia Johnson
Updated May 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

In a TV season that’s produced some memorably obnoxious characters (Felicity‘s ultra-pierced roomie, Meghan, the cast of Costello, Linda Tripp) no one has gotten under viewers’ skins quite like Kellie Martin’s thong-wearing, hyperactive ER med student, Lucy Knight. ”Lucy’s like a gnat that won’t leave you alone,” concedes Martin, 23. ”She’s got this nervous energy that sometimes comes off as being annoying — but maybe that’s just partly me being nervous on the show.”

Who’da thunk the Southern California native would still feel on-set jitters? After all, she’s acted since age 7, when she nabbed a part on Michael Landon’s Father Murphy, simply by asking her friend (who happened to be Landon’s daughter) for a role. In 1989 Martin went on to play plucky Becca on ABC’s family fave Life Goes On — a job that prepped her for her ER gig. ”Becca was annoying because she knew everything,” Martin says. ”Maybe I’m annoying and that’s what it boils down to.”

Really? ”I wouldn’t agree with that,” protests ER producer Lydia Woodward. ”Kellie couldn’t be further from being a prima donna. She plays a bright person who isn’t quite capable yet.”

After starring in CBS’ ’94 drama Christy, the actress headed to Yale for three years before ER producers poached her from academia. ”Even though I haven’t gotten my diploma yet, I feel like those years were a huge accomplishment,” says Martin.

Especially since that’s where she met fiance Keith Christian (the two will marry this summer). As for Lucy, she’s dealing with a made-for-sweeps psych rotation that has her counseling a tormented preteen and a man who hears voices. Plus the rookie doc is still trying to get her patients to warm to her. ”I walk in and say, ‘Hi, I’m your doctor.’ And they’re like, ‘Whatever,”’ Martin says. ”I look 12 years old. I wouldn’t want to be treated by me either.”