Benito Martinez Q&A: ‘American Crime’

“He has a set of rules that he lives by” says Benito Martinez about Alonzo Gutierrez, the grieving father he plays on "American Crime," who is trying valiantly to keep his kids safe and away from the perils that lay just outside his door in a rough part of town. In our video chat below, the actor revisits the challenges of bringing this character to life in the critically acclaimed limited series created by Oscar-winning writer John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave").

“These are rules that will get him by and solve all his problems, and of course when these problems happen, these rules don’t apply, these rules don’t work. Being completely honest is not the right way sometimes.”

Martinez drew from personal experiences to play the over-protective father in scenes with his son Tony (Johnny Ortiz). “When I read the script, I was both guys. I was Tony, [as] I remember being that kid, who looked up to his father but I had my own things I was doing on the side and I thought I knew what was what,” he recalls with a laugh. “The father character is part me and part my dad. My dad was actually a mechanic and he served in the military so he had this set of rules [like] yes sir, yes ma’am, put the tools where they belong, even though you’re a mechanic you can’t ever have oil underneath your fingernails; that was a detail I made sure they kept in the piece, and they always wanted to dirty my hands! They were like, ‘well, you’re a mechanic!’, and I’d respond ‘yep, so was my dad!, and the rule was you don’t have to have oil all over your hands!’ … That was a genuine relationship I had experienced on both sides.”

However, playing Alonzo brought with it other unexpected obstacles. “The wonderful challenge about playing Alonzo that I didn’t know was being a widower. That was profound for me because she, my wife ‘Roberta’, was still a character in the piece. That oftentimes I would silently say ‘if only she were here’ to help me out, to calm my anger, to let me take a deep breath.”

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UPLOADED Jun 9, 2015 10:55 am