Benito Martinez as Jose Menendez with Courtney Love as his wife Mary “Kitty” Menendez in a scene from Menendez: Blood Brothers. Picture: Supplied
While the name Benito Martinez may not be familiar, his face certainly is.

We have been watching him in a slew of TV shows. Currently in the latest season of American Crime, he’s been on Criminal Minds, Graceland, The Blacklist, House of Cards, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, Major Crimes, Sons of Anarchy and a host of other big TV series.

Tonight bagged an EXCLUSIVE chat with the actor about his Lifetime movie, Menendez: Blood Brothers, which is based on a true story. He plays Jose Menendez, the patriarch and business mogul.

Very polite and disarming, we exchange pleasantries before Martinez dives into what drew him to the project.

He says: “I believe they called my agent to look for me. And then I read the script. I was curious as to why they were going with a different angle that wasn’t most popular and I kind of shied away from the project. Then they approached me again and I had a wonderful conversation with the directors. We talked about what it could mean for other victims down the line.”

Then he really sunk his creative energy into his character.

He reveals: “Actually, he was a very successful, ambitious Cuban immigrant who moved to Miami when he was 15. His parents had had enough of him. At the same time, Fidel Castro was taking money from the rich citizens in Cuba. Apparently his folks were well-off. They sent him to Miami, where he bounced around and ended up in high school there. And again, this was an ambitious visit. He became a competitive swimmer, so much so that he got a scholarship to the University of Southern Illinois. That is where he met his future wife and together they moved to New York.”

Benito Martinez. Picture: Supplied

“He worked at various firms and when he was denied a promotion, he left and came to LA with his two small children and his wife. They moved to Calabasas. He went on to produce movies like Rambo. He got into music. He discovered Eurythmics and Duran Duran. He had his finger in many pies. Meanwhile, his kids kept getting into trouble and he would cover up their mistakes by throwing money at it (the problem). He had this need to be perceived as this really successful mogul. But he was hated by everyone. He was ruthless, ambitious and he didn’t give a damn about anyone else.”

I teased that his character shares a lot of similarities with US President Donald Trump.

He laughs: “Glad you picked up on that. In one scene, I do this gesture, like where Donald pincers his two fingers and makes lines across his face, saying, ‘You can follow me into business.’ It was very Trump-like.”

The movie looks at the murder of Jose and his wife. During the investigation, troubling facts about sexual abuse and so on emerged.

One pleasant surprise for him was Courtney Love, who plays his wife, Kitty.

He says: “I haven’t worked with her before and I expected this wild roller-coaster ride with a rock star going, ‘Alright let’s do this!’ What struck me was that the character was nothing like what I wrongly assumed Courtney to be like. She came in, knew every line, she was never late. She told me that she lived abroad, that she started as a child actor. All of our conversation was about the work - creating the character and this family atmosphere. I’m very fortunate to have had the chance to work with her.”

What does he have coming up on the big screen? “I have a film with Tom Cruise called American Made. It’s based on a true story.”

Back to TV and what appeals to him when it comes to roles, he offers: “I always want to find a character that has some kind of spark. You don’t always get that but I always aspire to that. I want to know who I’m working with. Right now, I’m working with Viola Davis on the fourth season of How To Get Away with Murder. Working with Viola is such a pleasure.”

* The Menendez: Blood Brothers movie airs on Lifetime (DStv Channel 131) on Saturday at 8pm.

@Debash_Bev