Benjamin Bratt knows crime. He starred on Law & Order for fourteen years as homicide detective Rey Curtis, played a CIA agent on 24: Live Another Day, had a memorable performance as an FBI agent in Miss Congeniality and, now, he’s playing the bad guy. In Infiltrator he portrays Richard Alcaino, a high-ranking member in Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s cartel.
In theatres July 13, the film depicts a seminal moment in America’s war on drugs. The movie tracks U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur (played by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston) going undercover to take down the cartel which smuggled in over 80 percent of the U.S.’s cocaine at the time, diving headfirst into the dark underbelly of the 1980s drug world.
Bratt says he finds it emancipating to play characters based on real-life people, but that this particular role initially sparked slight trepidation inside him. “Because of the stature he held in the criminal world and the fact that he’s still around, I was particularly keen to bring the most charm, class, sophistication, wit and intelligence I could to the character,” Bratt half-jokes.
To prepare for the role, Bratt listened to Robert Mazur’s secret audio recordings of conversations between him and Alcaino. “You can hear the underlying tension,” says Bratt. “Mazur is embodying another person, and yet he is completely at ease.”
And with the film based on his autobiography, Mazur was a frequent presence on set, offering clarification and feedback to Cranston and Bratt on what really went down during those high-stakes scenes. “It was invaluable to all of us,” says Bratt. “If I had any questions about a particular incident or what the level of danger was in any situation, he could give me some insight.”
Working with Bryan Cranston was also a great tool, Bratt says. “He’s a formidable actor, so you can not show up and expect to walk through it. He’s going to give you everything he’s got. So I made sure I was well prepared.”