Michael Boatman Martin Luther King DayIt's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 18. It's 1989 and I've just walked onto the set of my first television gig, 'China Beach.' We're on Stage 9 at the Warner Brothers Studios lot, halfway through season two of the critically adored Vietnam series. I'm wearing a heavy black wool turtleneck sweater under my army fatigues; my hair is cut in a flat top, 'jarhead'-style.

I'm hot, I'm black and I'm angry. My friend and co-star Nancy Giles and I are the only African-American people on the set. At times like these it feels like we may be the only black people on the planet. Several of my white co-stars have just stopped whatever they were doing to turn and stare ... at me, respectfully, warily, as if waiting for me to sprout wings or say something meaningful: It's King Day, remember. Boatman's black; he must be feeling something, I feel them thinking. My response is automatic -- "What's everybody looking at?"