When I saw the interview list for #PixarCocoEvent, I about died when Benjamin Bratt’s name was on the list. I’ve been a fan of his for years. And that’s right, I’m declaring he and Jerry Orbach as the best cop partners in the history of Law and Order. After watching COCO, I was in awe of his talent once again, especially his singing voice. Benjamin Bratt gets deep when he talks about his role as Ernesto de la Cruz in COCO, so join me for his words of wisdom. And please stay tuned for the picture when he puts his arm around me.
Thank you, Disney, for inviting me to the Pixar Coco Event and providing travel and accommodations. All opinions about my Benjamin Bratt fangirling are my own and totally professional.
On Singing for His Role as Ernesto de La Cruz
My friends who attended D23 in California came home last summer raving about Benjamin Bratt’s performance on stage with Anthony Gonzalez, who voices Miguel. I looked up Benjamin Bratt’s bio, because I didn’t remember him on Broadway or anything. His character, Ernesto de la Cruz, is Mexico’s most famous and beloved singer. So I told him I didn’t know he could sing and asked him where he got those pipes.
Benjamin: “Yo, I didn’t know that I could sing. So, here’s the deal. You know, I acknowledge that I’m a fairly decent actor but I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I just admire singers so much and musicians in general because with singing, your voices is your instrument. And it translates across all language, all cultures because a beautiful voice is a beautiful voice.
I don’t possess one when it comes to singing. And I’ve always said I’d give my left big toe to be able to be a balladeer like Marc Anthony, say. He’s just a phenomenal, powerful singer and a friend but someone whose talent I admire immensely. So, when I was offered the role, I thought it was a bit ironic that I was meant to play the most, you know, famous singer and musician in Mexican history.
I had a little chuckle for myself. Then, of course, I became immediately terrified because Lee and Darla and Adrian wanted me to attempt it. What better circumstances could I do that? They provided me with Liz Kaplan, who’s the instructor, mentor to the stars in New York. I had several sessions with her. And they just gave me the opportunity to fail. And the first few sessions, I’ll tell you, they were horrible. They were really horrible. But, you know, they gave me a shot. I was happy to do it, and I recorded every song that’s in the movie, I’m really proud of it.”
On What Coco Means for the Latino Culture
Benjamin: “What I’m most excited about with Coco is it’s finally an opportunity on a global scale to illuminate the beauty of the Latino culture.
Way back when I was first given a tour of the Pixar Studios up in Emeryville, Lee and Darla and Adrian led me into this room that, from floor to ceiling, on every wall, was covered in Mexican iconography, Day of the Dead colors and images, and some of the characters that were drawn, illustrated that they were going to portray in the film. And it affected me in a way that actually kind of surprised me because it was in that moment that I recognized these beautiful brown faces-albeit they’re animated figures-they looked like people I know, the people I come from. And it underscored the fact that that portrayal hasn’t been done yet on this kind of scale. And so, in a way, it reintroduces who we are as a people in our uniqueness but also in our sameness to everyone else in the world whether you’re from China or Africa or Europe or anywhere else in the world. That at the end of the day, for all the uniqueness that we have, and there’s a lot that’s vibrant and authentic and beautiful about Latino culture, we all at the end of the day are more alike than we are different. And this need or sense of wanting to belong to something-to recognize where you come from, to stay connected to the people that paved a path for you before you got here.”
“I recognized these beautiful brown faces-albeit they’re animated figures-they looked like people I know, the people I come from.” -Benjamin Bratt
It was here that I felt my eyes water. I felt the exact same way. These were people who looked like my family, who looked like where I came from. I want my daughters to feel that same pride, even though most of them don’t look like that.
On The Most Meaningful Moments in Coco
What surprised him the most about the film?
Benjamin: “There was a lot about it that affected me, but I think I was most struck by the beauty of the artistry. It’s such a beautiful film to look at. And then when you add that technical expertise to the emotional depth of the film and what it delivers at the end, there’s no other word for it. And powerful. It was a really powerful result.”
Was there a moment that made him cry? (Because we were all crying!)
Benjamin: “A moment? There were a handful of moments. One of my favorite scenes in the film…was that scene with Eddie Olmos, who plays Chicharrón, where it really spells out what it is to finally die, the final death. It’s expository, but it also-it just punches you right in the heart because you realize, oh, wait a second, if we don’t stay connected to where we come from, we don’t remember our antepasados, the people who came before us, that’s it, we’re finally moving on to where? Who knows? But it’s probably not a good place because you not supported by people in the land of the living. And then the song that Gael delivers: raw, simple, emotional, truly moving.”
On How Benjamin Bratt Wants to Be Remembered
There’s a song in Coco that his character, Ernesto de la Cruz, sings called, “Remember Me.” It’s one of Ernesto’s most famous songs.
So how does he want to be remembered?
Benjamin: “If I am to be remembered at all I would hope it would be for my kindness or my generosity, for the love that lives in my heart for people that I hold near and dear. And as someone who tried to live his life with integrity. Nothing too deep. Oh, and he’s pretty fun, too. He was a fun guy.”
What message would you pass on to your children?
Benjamin: “To have compassion, to be empathetic, to recognize that wherever you come from, whatever your gender is, whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your religion is, lead with kindness, lead with empathy and lead with love.”
What an amazing interview. It’s not often that you feel uplifted and inspired after an interview, but Benjamin Bratt was an absolute pleasure. He reiterates the importance of family, connection, and love, and I couldn’t agree more.
COCO is in theaters November 22nd, and tickets are available now! You won’t regret it.