Benito Martinez on playing a monster in Menendez: Blood Brothers

2017-08-31 09:30
 

Channel24 interviewed Benito Martinez about his true-life role in the Lifetime Original movie Menendez: Blood Brothers.

Cape Town – The Menendez brothers need no introduction. In a crime that shocked the world, they were found guilty of murdering their parents in 1989.

From the outside the Menendez family looked like they had it all: A house in Beverly Hills, wealth and a great family life – so what drove these boys to kill?

Their story has been documented many times before and now a new Lifetime Original movie Menendez: Blood Brothers takes a closer look at never before seen details. 

In Menendez: Blood Brothers Benito Martinez best know for his roles currently in American Crime and How To Get Away With Murder plays the father Jose Menendez.

In a telephone interview with Channel24 Martinez says what makes this reiteration different is that they wanted to explore in greater detail that the father did molest his children.

"This gives credence to the theory that they had to kill their parents because they were endangering their lives."

He continues: "It was interesting to me because I wanted to explore what it must have been like or could have been like when you're victimised to that degree. It was in this light that we wanted to explore the story."

PLAYING A MONSTER

To prepare for the role Martinez did a lot of research. He found Jose to be a fountain of information – he was very complex, Trump like, a big presence that sucked all the air of out of the room.

"I had to walk in his shoes and say to myself 'I am going to abuse my kids and be mean to my wife but I am going to paint the picture that I am successful, intelligent and loved'". 

He continues, "I knew had permission to just be ruthless and disgusting, which in some parts are fun when you get to play an evil character and be mean to everyone you know."

For Martinez the hardest challenge in playing this role was to get his mind set right to be ugly and disgusting and to become the devil because it serves the story. 

"When you play a character that is ugly the biggest challenge is to at the end of the day let that go into the ether, just wash off your body and say 'that's not me.'"

The toughest scene to film was towards the end of the movie when Jose hauntingly visits his son while in jail and he remembers being molested. 

"I thought it was really difficult for the actor and myself only because it is just an uncomfortable situation when you have to do a scene where your body is touched that way," says Martinez. 

Courtney Love stars alongside Martinez as his wife Kitty. In his opinion she had the hardest role.

She plays a woman who is a victim of her whole family: Her husband was cheating openly and was ruthless and unkind. Her sons were raised as monsters, she had to clean up the mess, numb herself and somehow put up a front of having a normal life. 

"It is hard to play a living ghost and a semblance of being a good mother. Courtney was outstanding and came in with such a big heart. She was a delight to work with," says Martinez. 

ESCAPING THE MOROSE

Working on a film with such dark themes was difficult but the cast did not skirt around the topic. They had open discussions about the content which lightened the atmosphere on set. 

For Martinez one of the most difficult scenes to film was the murder of the father and mother. It was brutal and terrifying when they got shot even though it was a prop gun. It was difficult but they had to find the humanity in it.

"On set I am a person that likes to laugh and joke a lot. It breaks the tension and the monotony of the moment. And then we are all musicians and singers so we were walking around singing and talking when we could because you don’t want to be stuck in the morose," says Martinez.  

THE APPEAL OF TRUE-CRIME

In recent years the true crime genre has seen a rise in popularity. Martinez thinks the appeal of the genre is that these stories are intriguing. 

"It's a story about a family gone wrong. And people want to know what happened for two young men to shoot their mother 15 times with a shot gun and blow away their father."

What does he hope viewers will take away from the film?

"I hope they find a touch of empathy for what it must have been like for these guys to live with this horrible creature of a person."

He continues: "I still think that what they did was wrong and the film doesn’t excuse that. But I do think that if we do bracket the possibility that these kids really did perhaps feel so threatened with the abuse of the father that they had to defend themselves, it could be possible that they thought this was the only way it could be stopped."

Menendez: Blood Brothers airs Saturday, 2 September at 20:00 on Lifetime (DStv 131).

(Photos supplied)

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