Benjamin Bratt’s ‘Loot’ cameo has us swooning

Benjamin Bratt’s cameo in episode 4 of Loot, “Mr. Congeniality,” plays up the actor’s heartthrob status while poking sly fun at the surreal nature of cameos themselves.

At the beginning of this episode — whose title is a nod to Bratt’s role in the seminal action rom-com Miss Congeniality — harried heroine Molly (Maya Rudolph) has sworn off men. Alas, she’s only human, and her urges are getting out of control. To get over that, she does what any ultra-rich philanthropist does; she jets off to an elite wellness retreat. It’s going well, and Molly is relaxed, but a latecomer to the meditation session changes everything. Enter Benjamin Bratt.


Benjamin Bratt’s cameo plays on his history of advocacy.

Maya Rudolph and Benjamin Bratt in "Loot."

Credit: Apple TV+

The Poker Face actor smiles and says, “My motorcycle broke down on the way here. I had to drag it the last mile.” Thoughts of Bratt dragging a motorcycle does something to Molly, who looks at him as if she’s watching the universe’s secrets being unlocked in front of her very eyes. (Here, Rudolph’s command of physical humor and over-the-top performance of female horniness, as in her fantastic Prince cover band Princess, becomes key.)

As he approaches Molly, one arm over his head, maintaining his cheeky grin, he says, “I’m Benjamin Bratt.”

From the moment Bratt swaggers into the episode (accompanied by the very sexy R&B classic “I Know What You Want” by Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey, no less), his goal isn’t to stand out but to immerse himself in the world of Loot. Often, cameos only have to work in a single scene for a laugh, and aren’t always woven into the narrative, but Bratt’s mission is to be a genuine romantic interest for Molly. And he does it perfectly. 

Molly is a fan of Bratt, and is thrilled (and aroused) by the fact that he’s been assigned as her partner for the meditation. But Loot twists our expectations by making him as big a fan of her work as a philanthropist. Molly can’t believe she’s talking to Bratt, and he can’t believe it, either. There’s a sense of genuine excitement and nervousness as Bratt rattles off information about Molly that a dedicated fan would know, like details about the speech she delivered in the Season 1 finale. Their chemistry is genuinely riveting. Loot plays on Bratt’s image as the ultimate sex symbol: What could be hotter than a man who can drag a motorcycle for a mile without breaking a sweat — and who has a genuine passion for your work? 

This is also where knowing a touch more about Bratt in real life comes into play. Like, yes, there’s his jawline, but here’s an essay he wrote for Esquire about the wisdom of abuelas — now that’s swoon-worthy. He’s a passionate advocate for Latinx and Indigenous representation onscreen, specifically requesting that his breakout Law & Order character have the same Peruvian American background as himself. (His mother was born in Peru and is of Quechua descent.) He’s taken on challenging and unexpected roles, like poet Miguel Piñero in 2001’s Piñero, a role John Leguizamo turned down after learning of the poet’s bisexuality. Bratt was a consulting producer on Dolores, the documentary helmed by his brother, Peter, about activist Dolores Huerta. The list goes on and on.

By leaning on his niche as a dashing leading man with heart, his performance plays into the fantasy of him falling for one of his fans. (Fictional millionaires: They’re just like us!)

From Al Pacino to Michael Cera, the self-parody is ripe for comedy. 

At their best, a celeb playing themselves is playing a heightened version of their persona. Camp is very much in play as these performers deliver goofy, hyper-violent, or comically out-of-touch iterations of themselves. That’s precisely what makes these performances fun — they provide an element of surprise that plays upon what we think we know, twisting that into something shocking. 

Many actors make a meal of these cameos. In Jack and Jill, legendary actor Al Pacino brings his manic energy to new heights as a passionate Dunkin’ advocate, hamming it up to infinite degrees. In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reunite with Dogma director Kevin Smith and play up their famous friendship with hyper-bro caricatures of themselves, filming an action-packed sequel to Good Will Hunting. The animal-loving Bob Barker beats up Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore. Most recently, the charming and suave James Marsden taps into an egomaniacal side for his turn in Jury Duty. Perhaps the wildest example is Michael Cera in This Is the End. His film persona (especially before the film was released in 2013) was a bastion of sweet nerdy innocence. This Is the End, however, showcased Cera as a coke-addled sex fiend, playing against type with glee.    

Benjamin Bratt as himself lays on the charm offensive. 

Benjamin Bratt and Maya Rudolph in "Loot."

Credit: Apple TV+

The two projects that have shaped Bratt’s public persona best are Law & Order and Miss Congeniality. During a four-year stint on Law & Order, Bratt played Detective Rey Curtis, a devout Catholic who was determined to uphold the law to the best of his ability. He was charming and kind, but unafraid to let his inner bad boy out, getting reprimanded for losing his temper on numerous occasions. And in Miss Congeniality, he’s FBI agent Eric Matthews, the love interest of Sandra Bullock’s Gracie Hart. Bratt proves to be a perfect rom-com love interest, serving a lot of the charm that would serve him for decades to come.

Bratt’s performance in Loot challenges our expectations of the celebrity cameo. Audiences have come to expect exaggerated personas doing things we’d never expect to see them do — think of Anna Faris as a coke-addled advocate for gun violence in Keanu as another funny example. But when actors playing crazy versions of themselves becomes the norm for the celebrity cameo, that starts to feel less like a surprise and more like an inevitability. By breaking this mold, Bratt’s gives us a real surprise and true delight. The real magic of his performance is that — whether you know Bratt’s persona or not  — you can believe his character is a largely accurate reflection of who he really is.

Bratt saves the best for last.

At the end of the episode, cracks begin to appear in Bratt’s charm offensive, as he starts to reveal a more egotistical side while wooing Molly. Bratt simply can’t stop himself from mentioning his work, especially when trying to seduce Molly. He compares Molly’s beauty to “the Russian tundra at twilight,” adding that he “just filmed there.” His role has subtlety — something missing from the vast majority of celebrity cameos — and it plays deliciously into the idea of the narcissistic actor, twisting the initial setup of the romantic fantasy Molly is looking for. Still, Bratt toes the line gently to keep himself an attractive option for Molly. In this way, Bratt puts his own spin on the typically heightened expectations of a celebrity cameo, gingerly dropping hints that he’s just like other ego-driven actors without going full-tilt, and delivering a delicate, nuanced performance — one that still lets him be extremely funny and memorable.

Eventually, he tells her exactly what she wants to hear: He’s not looking for anything serious. He could have just said that, but instead he delivers the funniest lines of the episode in a hushed tone, as if he’s whispering sweet nothings into Molly’s ear.

“I’m moving to London next week to shoot a live-action version of Despicable Me. I’ll be there for two years.”

Of course, a film shoot typically takes a few weeks to a few months, so the idea of filming anything for two years (especially a freaking live-action version of Despicable Me) is outrageous and an obvious lie to avoid future commitment. Bratt voiced Eduardo Pérez and El Macho in Despicable Me 2, way back in 2013, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that he’d be involved with a future iteration of the series. The time frame and making it a live-action movie is what pushes this particular excuse over the top and into surreal hilarity.

That Bratt delivers this line with complete seriousness is what solidifies the performance. It’s a terrific twist on what we’ve come to expect from playing yourself on-screen. Leave it to Bratt to have us swooning and cringing in equal measure.

Loot is now streaming on Apple TV+, with new episodes available every Wednesday.

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