Interview: Adrian Martinez

Character actor stays focused and welcomes his breakout role

FOCUS written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, with Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro and Adrian Martinez. A Warner Bros. release. 105 minutes. Opens Friday (February 27). For venues and times, see Movies.

You’ve probably seen Adrian Martinez before you just might not have noticed him.

He pops up all over the place – with Ben Stiller in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, with Will Ferrell in Casa De Mi Padre, with Jeremy Renner in American Hustle – but he rarely gets enough dialogue to really make an impression.

Martinez’s new project, the caper picture Focus, lets him make an impression. As Farhad, sidekick to Will Smith’s master scam artist Nicky, Martinez gets to be the comic relief and share long, complex scenes with both Smith and Margot Robbie, who plays a novice grifter looking to level up by joining Nicky’s crew.

“For me it’s been a sort of universal pat on the back,” Martinez says during a Toronto press stop. “I’ve been working hard. I’ve been in small roles in big movies, and big roles in small movies, and people always say, ‘Ah, this role’s the one that’s gonna make you a big star!'”

Focus, he says, “kinda felt like I’d been in this marathon and somebody reached down and handed me a cup of champagne. ‘This is awesome! Veuve Clicquot?’ I feel rejuvenated, like I could keep going here.”

Martinez was especially gratified by writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s faith in their actors.

“They were able to open up their canvas, so to speak, and let us improvise and play with the script, and take chances. I never felt more safe on a set, ever.”

He’s also happy Will Smith turned out to be okay with goofing around for hours on end.

“Not every star wants to put up with that, you know? I just felt like, from the instant I met him, it was completely safe to work with him. Say anything, do anything, he would catch me.”

Martinez hopes Focus marks a pivot in his career, and he’s doing his best to capitalize on it.

“I’ve got a big announcement [coming] at South By Southwest,” he says. “Time Warner’s gonna put out a project I’m co-creating. And then there’s Sisters, with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, that I’ll have a nice role in. We’ll see how it plays out. I’ll keep swinging the bat no matter what.”

And in the meantime, Martinez says, you can see Focus – and maybe catch it more than once so you can see the angles you might have missed the first time.

“We encourage you to do so,” he laughs. “Let’s start at three [times] and take it from there.”

Interview Clips

Martinez on his favorite part of the shoot. | @normwilner

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