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Bryan Cranston: Acting and filmmaking are not (always) BS

by Alex Cohen with Monica Bushman | Take Two®

Actor Bryan Cranston readies for action on the set of THE INFILTRATOR, a Broad Green Pictures release. Liam Daniel / Broad Green Pictures

Bryan Cranston is probably best known for his award-winning performance as cancer-riddled drug dealer Walter White in the show "Breaking Bad."

In just about every episode, Cranston's character adeptly lied to protect his real identity.

In his latest film, "The Infiltrator," the actor is at it again, playing a real-life guy named Robert Mazur, who also lied a lot, but in his case to bust the drug-runners.

Back in the 1980s, Mazur went undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar's Medellín drug cartel.

He transformed himself into a money-laundering businessman named Robert Musella who befriended one of Escobar's head honchos — a guy named Roberto Alcaíno (played by Benjamin Bratt).

Take Two's Alex Cohen recently spoke with Cranston and director Brad Furman about "The Infiltrator."

Interview highlights:

Bryan Cranston on what drew him to the role

What really got me… was that this man as Robert Musella, laundering money, was then clocking out and going home as Robert Mazur and helping his daughter with a math test and taking the trash out and being dad and ‘Honey, how was your day?’ and he can’t say anything. How did he reconcile living that dual life? How did he go and pretend that he was someone else and possibly lose his life on any given day and then go home and be family man and husband? It was fascinating to me.

And the other element that really got to me, if he does his job right, it means they have gained a considerable amount of trust in him. In order to get that, he has to make friends, he has to break bread with these people, he has to meet their families, he has to infiltrate on a social level as well, and so he does… And at the end of the two-and-a-half year operation, he then has to ostensibly betray that friendship by saying “I am not who you think I am. And you are under arrest. And I will do everything in my power to send you to prison.” Now you can intellectualize and say, “Well it was his job, it’s good for society, it’s the right move.” But emotionally how you deal with that?

Brad Furman on how getting into filmmaking involves a bit of ‘BS’

Unfortunately, and I’m not necessarily proud of it, but everybody in life has certain versions of gifts. I’m quite an okay orator, and you know, I remember watching “Fletch” as a kid, which is a funny analogy, but there was all this Chevy Chase giving his bulls---, and I was fascinated and I wanted to learn how to bulls--- like that. That was like something that I wanted to do. And when you become a filmmaker and you have no idea what you’re doing… I think you’re lying if you’re not completely frightened and you’re lying if you’re not insecure and worried that you can’t do or achieve what these other people who’ve come before you can achieve, so that’s when you tell people you know what you’re doing, and that’s when you sell people a bill of goods that you have no idea if you can deliver, but you’ve got to convince them that you can or you’re never going to get your first shot. And then all of a sudden as you go through the process you make a believer out of yourself.

Bryan Cranston on whether he saw similarities between the characters of Walter White and Robert Mazur, two characters who lead double lives

There are some similarities in the umbrella sense of it: that they’re both dealing with the drug wars and whether you’re going to get caught or not and that sort of thing. I think there’s some similarity there, but I think by and large the stories were so different in my mind that I didn’t even cast a thought back to that entity at all. You know, Brad was talking about whether he was bulls---ing or something, but sometimes I would say that it’s not always bulls---, but you’re speaking from a point of view of faith… because bulls---ing has a connotation that you are trying to con someone out of something.

Bryan Cranston on how acting and filmmaking is more than just lying or pretending

It’s not about lies. You look at a child when they play house or they play doctor — they do it with devotion. They don’t stand outside of themselves and critique what they’re doing. They’re just all in. And we as actors and as filmmakers, you have to take that sense of childlike devotion and put it in and believe it yourself, and dive in the deep end, and just see what happens.

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