Bernardo Badillo

Emily the Criminal star Bernardo Badillo on his ‘grounded’ role in the drama

Bernardo Badillo has a pivotal role in the new Aubrey Plaza film Emily the Criminal. His character Javier is the one who turns Plaza’s title character on to the world of credit card scams, which is the catalyst for the entire plot of the movie. Without him, it would be a short-lived and much less memorable picture.

Yet even though Javier enables Emily to go down a dark path, Bernardo describes the role as different from his past crime drama characters—and spent some time talking to me about his next performance, which is on the complete other side of the entertainment spectrum. Get to know him better in our interview.

Brittany Frederick: What attracted you to Emily the Criminal at the outset?

Bernardo Badillo: I knew that Aubrey was in it and I love Aubrey Plaza. Who doesn’t, right? (laughs) It’s a thriller and I’ve always wanted to do that genre. I generally don’t get to do that kind of film, even though I have done some TV that has some of those elements. I loved that the character was a father as well; you only get to see my son briefly in the movie.

But I liked that he was a hard worker, he was intelligent, a father—a lot of stuff that I don’t always get to play. Even though he is a blue-collar worker, I just felt like he was a survivor. He does what he needs to do. I just fell in love with the script, to be honest with you. I love the story and I’m excited to see what people’s reactions are to the movie, because there are definitely some surprising moments.

BF: Your character Javier is the catalyst for the entire film because he introduces Emily to the credit card scheme. What’s it like for you to play the guy who essentially gets everything started?

BB: That was the fun part, because one of the scenes that I auditioned with was actually that scene where I give her the information about dummy shopping. I tell her, “Do you know what that is?” and she’s like, “Oh, yeah.” And I’m like, “Oh yeah, do it. You’re gonna make a hundred dollars in an hour, it’s quick and easy money.”

I thought if this were real life, would I have done it? Would I have gone through with this opportunity if it presented itself and no one knew about it? I love the idea that you just never know when you’re in a tough spot or situation, what you’re capable of. I was like, “Oh, this is going to be awesome!” Then as I read more and more, I was like, “Oh, damn. I gave her the phone number and I started this off and now things are getting messy and spinning out of control.” That’s what you want—you want to impact the story as an actor and as a character. I was really, really excited about that.

BF: You alluded to this a second ago, but you’ve had some other roles in the crime drama like episodes of Chicago PD and Queen of the South. Did any of that past experience help you play this part?

BB: Honestly, I felt this character was the most like I am personally. The other characters I’ve played in the past felt more like a departure. A lot of them are drug dealers or murderers…This character just felt more grounded, more real. When I picked up the dialogue and started saying it, it just flowed and I didn’t feel like I had to do all that much. I felt like I was the character and I brought my own authenticity and truth to it. I think when you have a character that you feel is so similar to you, you’ve just got to get out of the way and let it come through you.

BF: Do you have favorite scenes from Emily the Criminal that you particularly loved?

BB: There’s a couple scenes. There’s a sequence where we’re moving through this office space, and one of the things the director John Patton Ford asked us to do was to improvise. Some of what you see as we’re moving and going up the stairs carrying our catering bags was improvised. We would do a take where it’s exactly what’s written, and then we would do a take where we were improvising—adding things, making things up, filling the space.

I’m excited for people to see what that sequence looks like and what is kept in the movie, because I still haven’t seen the movie. I’ve seen snippets, but I don’t know what will be in the final cut. Also, there’s a scene outside where we shot in downtown Los Angeles off of Figueroa and 7th with traffic and cars, people walking by filming us as we’re shooting. That was definitely a challenge. Hopefully, we kept it together and made it work.

BF: What do you have in the works after this? Or is there anything else you’ve already done that you’d tell people to check out after the movie?

BB: I actually have a new show called This Fool premiering on Hulu this summer. Fred Armisen is executive producing. I’m proud of working on the show because it is a predominantly Latino cast. Chris Estrada is a well-known stand up comedian and the show revolves around him and his family and his dating life. I play his cousin and I go toe-to-toe with another one of our cousins; we have bad blood from the past.

It’s just great to be able to play in that sandbox with other Latinos who are hilarious. I was rolling every time. I’m really, really excited about it. I can’t wait for people to see it, especially because you hardly ever get to see Latinos in comedy.

BF: You mentioned how you hadn’t gotten to do a pure thriller before Emily the Criminal. Is there another genre you’d like to tackle? Or anything you want people to know about you that they don’t yet?

BB: I think it’s important as artists that we don’t just defy stereotypes, but also defy genres. As Latino artists we get stereotyped or typecast as narcos or murders or bad guys in dramas or procedural shows, so it’s nice to seen or cast in different genres. I would want to be in a horror film and be the hero. I think the industry is evolving and we’re getting closer to a more well-rounded entertainment universe where Latinos, African Americans and Asians are being considered for better roles in different styles of media. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m hopeful that we can star in sci-fi films, possibly the next Alien movie, and I’m really excited to see where the industry is headed.

Emily the Criminal had its world premiere at Sundance on January 24.

Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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