What Bryan Cranston Learned from the Real Undercover Man in The Infiltrator

Bryan Cranston from The Infiltrator
Bryan Cranston from The Infiltrator

Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad on Going Undercover in The Infiltrator

In his off hours, Bob Mazur was a family man — a devoted husband and father living a normal life. Then off to work he’d go to play a most dangerous game of make-believe. As an undercover operative using the alias Bob Musella, he infiltrated the narcotics trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. And then he’d somehow have to go home again and do it all over again.

“That struggle of the human mind and heart battling each other, it was fascinating to me,” says Bryan Cranston, who plays Mazur in the based-on-a-true story “The Infiltrator,” opening Wednesday and costarring Diane Kruger as fellow agent Kathy Ertz. “It’s a dangerous world. As an actor, we’re used to taking on these characters, but when we shed those personas we go home and we’re ourselves with very little risk. But Bob Mazur and Kathy Ertz, they don’t have that luxury.”

What Bryan Cranston Learned Talking to the Real Undercover Man from The Infiltrator

To research the role, the “Breaking Bad” actor hung out with the real-life subject. “Spending time with Bob Mazur was incredible and invaluable because he was able to relay certain specifics and ideas and approach to how you would do it methodically,” Cranston tells Made in Hollywood reporter Patrick Stinson. “And I was then able to also ask him about him as a man, as a husband and a father. How did you reconcile with that? How did you do that? What were the things that you were most worried about?”

Top of the list was his family’s security. “On his way home, when he was done with his work, and going to his real home as Bob Mazur, not Bob Musella, he always took a different route home,” says Cranston. “He never went straight from point A to point B because he was always nervous about being followed. He would turn, turn, turn, turn, stop, go back, turn, just to make sure nobody was trailing him. Can you imagine living like that every day?”

Cranston found that surviving in this kind of pressure cooker requires a unique personality. “It is heroic, nerve-wracking, specialized work,” says Cranston. “You have to like the adrenaline rush that that creates. You have to know that the greater good is why you’re there, and strap on, hold tight, because it’s going to be a rough ride.”

You also may have to be just a little bit crazy. “He had to be very guarded and very OCD and say, I need to make sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted, everything is in line, no mistakes can happen,” says Cranston. “And to this day he never appears on camera or (use) his real voice. He’s still an infiltrator.”