Benjamin Bratt: “For as limiting as the opportunities are for actors and actresses of color I’ve been very blessed”
“The choices that you make in terms of what you do in your career is down to what’s offered to you and it’s dangerous to keep going down the same artistic path.” – Benjamin Bratt
Actors who are minorities are often faced with difficult decisions when offered a role that is stereotypical — is it better for their career if they say yes or no? On one hand, work is work — but should they want to avoid typecasting? Or should they make a stand in avoiding a stereotypical character? Though he has been a strong supporter of Latino and Latina causes, actor Benjamin Bratt spoke to the New York Daily News about why he chose to play real-life drug trafficker Roberto Alcaino in The Infiltrator, and he explains why it was important for him to take the role despite typecasting of Latino actors as drug dealers in crime films.
Being part Latino (his mother is Quechua), Bratt admits he is often offered roles to play drug dealers and gangbangers. Because of that, he is wary about taking too many of these roles. He explains, “The choices that you make in terms of what you do in your career is down to what’s offered to you and it’s dangerous to keep going down the same artistic path. And I started to feel that way playing roles similar to this, whether it was Traffic or Snitch or, in a more comedic way, more recently in Ride Along 2.”
What changed Bratt’s mind about playing Roberto Alcaino was listening to secretly-recorded tapes of Alcaino speaking of his life. He reveals, “What I discovered is that there was a gregarious larger than life persona to who is. He was a man of large appetites for everything — homes, cars, food, women. … He had a certain kind of allure and charm. But the lynchpin for me and you can hear it in the tapes. All of this was in the presence of menace. I always felt there was an implied threat in everything he said.”
Nonetheless, Bratt believes that he has had opportunities to play a variety of non-stereotypical roles — and that opportunities are increasing for others as well. He explains, “For as limiting as the opportunities are for actors and actresses of color I’ve been very blessed. But is it here a diversity issue in the industry? Absolutely. In the wake of #oscarsowhite and other social movements I think things have finally started to turn.”