If only Benjamin Bratt's character on The Cleaner could balance work and family as well as the actor does.
The show's first season — A&E has just ordered a second — ended with William Banks' wife kicking him out of the house. She's convinced that Banks, a former drug addict, has a new addiction to his job: intervening in the lives of addicts to force them into rehab.
"I can't tell you how many people hit me up at airports and parking lots and grocery stores about what's going to happen with me and my wife," Bratt said in a recent interview with TVGuide.com. "It keeps me interested too."
Of course he's referring to his TV wife, Melissa (Amy Price-Francis). In real life, Bratt says, one advantage of the show is that it allows him to go home at night to his real-life wife, actress Talisa Soto, and their son and daughter.
Bratt met Soto while filming the movie Piñero, and still tries to keep movies in the family: His next film, La Mission, was written and directed by his brother and takes place in their hometown, San Francisco.
When they were growing up in the city, their Peruvian-born, Quechua Indian mother brought her children to the 18-month occupation of Alcatraz, which sought improved treatment of American Indians.
"My sense of personal strength has always come from my family," Bratt said. "But now that I have my own, I find as I mature that it just informs the work, whatever work I'm doing," he said. "I think there's a settled quality, there's a gravitas that comes with aging and with being a parent because you certainly come to recognize that there's nothing else that takes greater priority than raising your children."
Of course, William Banks might not agree. His job requires him to take care of not only his children, but other people's as well. Early episodes found him trying to help a meth-addicted teen, a young surfer caught in a heroin smuggling scheme, and a boy whose father has relapsed. Banks' Catch-22 is that helping other people's families causes him to neglect his own.
The show is based in part on the life of William Boyd, a co-executive producer. The creative team hasn't decided yet whether Banks will reunite with his family next season, Bratt said. But he believes the serialized family story provides a good counterpoint to the show's self-contained tales of addiction.
Bratt is plenty familiar with episodic series after playing Det. Rey Curtis on Law & Order — a show he continues to consider "brilliant."
During Bratt's break before the start of shooting The Cleaner's Season 2, Bratt and his brother are submitting La Mission to the Sundance Film Festival. They hope to release it early next year.
"It's about a reformed old school O.G. who's now a humble Muni bus driver," Bratt explains, "who is a leader of a low rider club. [He] discovers that his pride and joy, the apple of his eye, his 18-year-old son, who is about to go off to UCLA as a graduating senior from Mission High School, he discovers that he's gay.
"So the film explores his violent reaction to that news and the process he must go through to come to some sort of acceptance or tolerance within the confines of one of the most liberal, progressive cities in the country. I think you'll be hearing more about it."