A Martinez had a long enduring career that spans over six decades, primarily on TV while taking the occasional film role. The actor's appeared in several dramas, from daytime soaps including Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, One Life to Life, and The Bold and the Beautiful to recurring roles on primetime and streamers like L.A. Law, Profiler, CSI, The Bay, Longmire, and Cowboy Bebop. While promoting his latest action thriller in Ambulance, Martinez spoke to Bleeding Cool about finally working with director Michael Bay on Ambulance, his character Papi, co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and how acting has changed in the streaming age. The film follows adoptive brothers in Danny (Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Abdul-Mateen), who are on the lamb following a heist hijacking an ambulance while holding some first responders hostage.
Bleeding Cool: What intrigued you about 'Ambulance'?
A Martinez: It's thrilling to witness it. The two times I saw it in a room when the director's credit came on the end of the picture where it says, 'Directed by Michael Bay.' The room exploded in cheers. It's a victory, so that was one thing; getting to do it and play this unforgettable character was pretty cool, too. I just loved it.
BC: What are some of your favorite films of his?
AM: I loved the one where he was with Martin [Lawrence] and Will [Smith]….' Bad Boys'. I just thought that was such a revolution to have this sensibility show up and those guys. It's so fresh and tight, and I just loved it. That stands through time is that stands the test of time.
BC: What about your character, Papi, resonated with you?
AM: There are things I think about, like: How will this feel? How will it play? I've been working for a long time. You start to notice that certain things you do stick in people's minds where most of what you do passes through, which is normal in the way it's supposed to be. As you get toward the end of your career, you start wanting to make sure that the things you do matter. I just thought, 'If I get to play this guy, what I get to do in this movie will be unforgettable.' I'm not going to go into the reasons, but you look at it on the page, and you go, 'This is something that people will remember when they think of the movie. This will be one of the things they think about is what my character did and experienced.' There's also the grace of being able to work with someone who commands an international audience. [Michael's] earned the love of people worldwide. It's a badge of honor to be asked to be a part of it. I heard so many stories about him and how amazing it could be to work with him, and I found that to be true. The experience of making of actually doing the work made me feel really good about him and myself. I just loved it.
BC: What was it like working with Jake and Yahya on set?
AM: The thing going on in my most important scene is that Jake and Yahya are super jacked up and on a mission to keep the pace up. My character's goal is to slow them down, and they don't want to. So we have a problem immediately just because of that. One thing you notice about these guys beyond their amazing chops as actors is that they're just monstrously gifted athletes. They're in the throes of they're in total crisis mode, as they are for basically two hours. You watch these guys get ready to do any scene. They would just basically both explode into physical activity. Jake would start sprinting in place. Yahya would hit the floor and start doing push-ups. They pop up and breathe really hard, and here goes the action. You're into it and reading that kind of physical stress in them through what they just put their body through to get prepared to start talking. It was amazing to watch and look at the two of them side by side; it was really impressive. They're just amazingly strong and vital people. It was beautiful to see.
BC: How has acting changed for you over the years?
AM: There's so much good acting to be had. It's part of the advent of streaming. There is so much stuff you can look at now. It's almost overwhelming the number of choices you have. If you're paying attention, asking questions, reading reviews, or talking to your friends, you get a sense of what compels people. I love that on any given day, you can find exquisite acting to watch that makes you a better actor. For years, there was all this talk about once streaming became the norm, there will be so many more great opportunities for work. It took a while to get off the ground, but I think now it's become the case.
I just turned in a series in Vancouver that will come out next year, but I worked with a lot of really young talent, and there was a lot of talk about what it means to design a path to get better at this. There's still nothing better than actually getting involved in studying. If you can get involved in getting on the stage where there is no take two, you don't have a net. People have paid real money to sit in a real room and watch you do what you do. You can't stop and apologize and start again. You have to be ready to perform in full from the start to the end.
I think that evokes a discipline in people that will see them through the rest of their work. When I went back to the stage maybe 10 or 12 years ago, my work jumped in terms of what I could do. There's any substitute for that. I'm not sure a lot of people care about that as much as they used to. Who knows what we'll be doing in 30 or 40 years when we're all basically performing as holograms? I think that still stands as a key thing to shoot for. It was really nice to see some young actors who are receptive to thinking about that.