Benjamin Bratt: Details About The Actor You Won't Soon Forget

Benjamin Bratt has been a standout star on both the big and small screens thanks to hit roles in varied projects ranging from TV dramas to blockbuster romcoms. His major breakthrough came in 1995 when he was cast to play Detective Rey Curtis on "Law & Order," and he stuck with the series for four seasons before the actor eventually left the show in 1999. While surprising, the move proved to be a good one as he soon won hearts around the country with two very different but equally memorable movies: namely, 2000's "Miss Congeniality" and "Traffic."

Bratt continued to work non-stop in the years that followed, but the hit roles appeared to slow down, and he seemingly stepped back from the limelight, which left many wondering what really happened to Bratt. Well, he's still acting, and the star has no plans to give it up — but he is balancing his career with a number of other passions and priorities. As you'll soon learn, Bratt is much more than just an actor, and he doesn't consider his work to be the most important thing he does — far from it. Rather, he's a loving family man with wide-ranging hobbies and interests that are sure to surprise you. 

Here are some details about Benjamin Bratt you won't soon forget.

Benjamin Bratt's childhood had its ups and downs

Growing up in San Francisco, Benjamin Bratt faced his share of hardships. More specifically, as he told CBC, "I didn't have a father who was present in my young life." That impacted the family both emotionally and financially, as the actor's single mother worked to make ends meet as a nurse, per Datebook. Bratt further opened up about his childhood in an essay penned for Esquire in September 2022, in which he recalled, "After five kids and seven years of marriage, my father vanished and went off and started yet another family." However, despite her pain, Bratt's mom put her kids first and decided to keep them close to their dad. "She bought a house two blocks away from my father, which was also near some aunts and uncles and other cousins," the star wrote.

That meant Bratt did have the chance to see his father occasionally, and he even lived with him briefly in the 1970s. And while he had what Bratt called a "very gruff male persona on the outside," the actor previously told Esquire how, after some wine, his dad would show a touch of a softer side. "He would come over to me and my brother Peter and he'd say, 'Ben, Pete, you got the world by the a**,'" Bratt reminisced, explaining, "He was essentially telling us that we had no idea of the potential we possessed. ... It was his way of saying, 'I love you and I am so hopeful about what awaits you.'"

He never actually wanted to be an actor

Benjamin Bratt has over 65 acting credits to his name, as of this writing, per IMDb. The actor's starred in a slew of big screen and TV hits like "Miss Congeniality," "The Cleaner," "Modern Family," "Catwoman," and "Doctor Strange"; he's been nominated for an Emmy Award for "Law & Order"; and he's won a SAG Award for 2000's "Traffic." 

And yet, as Bratt confessed to Parade in 2010, "The irony is that growing up I wanted to be anything but an actor." Rather, he had his sights set on a few careers that couldn't be more different from showbiz. "I was thinking maybe a racecar driver or a fireman," he mused. In fact, fame was the furthest thing from Bratt's mind and not something he ever imagined for himself. "My brother Peter was always the life of the party and so the running joke for the first 12 years of my life was he was Pete, and I was 'Re-Pete,'" he shared.

What's more, Bratt told the mag that the fact that he's now an A-lister is all the more surprising because of where he comes from. "Growing up in La Mission, you were presented with all kinds of different options, you realize how easy it would have been to go another way," he stated. "I certainly had friends who made that choice."

Benjamin Bratt puts his children before his career

There is nothing more important to Benjamin Bratt than family. Given his own strained relationship with his father, the actor has made a point of prioritizing his kids: Sophia (born in 2002) and Mateo (born in 2005). As he told CBC, "I recognize the importance of nurturing, and love, and being there, just being present really in my children's life." It's a sentiment he reiterated to Cape Cod Times, saying that work takes a backseat because, "Unless I'm home, I cannot be a great husband and father."

That's especially true for his daughter, who, as Bratt shared with Esquire in March 2022, experienced a brain injury when she was born. That means that he and his wife, fellow actor Talisa Soto, always put her first. "Almost everything we do, every decision we make personally and professionally, is informed by our daughter, Sophia, and her needs," he said. Sharing that this has included moving over a dozen times to help her thrive, Bratt noted, "We've lived this kind of vagabond lifestyle in search of the best therapies, the best schooling, the best social situation for her."

The actor couldn't be prouder of both of his kids. While celebrating his eldest's 16th birthday in 2018, Bratt wrote on Facebook: "She is thriving and happy, and continues to embrace life with her beautiful, strong spirit." As for Mateo, the loving father similarly celebrated his son's 15th birthday in 2020 by gushing on Instagram, "Mateo, dear son, you light up our lives with light and love. So proud to be your papa!!"

His wife is his ultimate inspiration

Benjamin Bratt and Talisa Soto have been married since 2002, and their decades-long union could be the basis for a great romantic film. The couple first met at an audition for "Blood In Blood Out" in the early 1990s, but sparks flew when they reunited to co-star in "Piñero" about 10 years later. As Bratt, who'd just amicably called it quits with Julia Roberts, later told Esquire, he popped the question after only six months of dating, and he hasn't looked back since. "Falling in love with Talisa cemented what I've instinctually always known: Above being an artist, even above defining myself as an actor, I see myself as a husband and a father first," he told the mag.

A major key to their success has been collaboration. Speaking with People in 2010, Bratt enthused that the longevity of their relationship felt like no time at all, "Because we're so aligned." There's also been plenty of compromise. Bratt shared with Esquire how Soto pushes him to pursue his acting dreams while she makes sacrifices for the family. "Raising children, especially one who is as challenged as our daughter, is physically and emotionally exhausting. My wife carries the brunt of it," he explained. 

Calling her his hero and inspiration, Bratt has also revealed just how much strength he draws from her: "She is always there and she makes me feel loved and her love for me, her expression of her love for me, it gives me center, it gives me anchor."

Benjamin Bratt is a breast cancer awareness advocate

Benjamin Bratt and Talisa Soto's beautiful union was shaken at its core when Soto was diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing the ordeal on "Today" in March 2022, Bratt told viewers that Soto discovered the scary diagnosis after a self-exam followed by her yearly mammogram. She quickly began treatment and has since been pronounced cancer-free, but the prognosis understandably hit Bratt and the couple's two kids hard. 

"It made us realize that we perhaps take her strength for granted," Bratt told Esquire around this same time. "... I think of her as almost superhuman and I know that's not fair, because I have this expectation that she is always there because she tells me she is always there." The health scare also made him focus more on his own health, telling "Today," "I immediately got on getting my colonoscopy, which I had held off for too many years." What's more, Bratt's since become an advocate for yearly breast cancer screenings and encouraged viewers to always prioritize their well-being. "It's important to ... self-advocate for yourself and take care of yourself," he said. "Not just eating well, but you have to get to the doctor and make these exams a part of your regular life." 

Indeed, according to the American Cancer Society, women who are at average risk for breast cancer (in other words, those without a personal or family history) may consider starting yearly screenings at the age of 40.

The actor's hobbies include cars and cooking

When he's not busy working or spending time with his family, Benjamin Bratt likes to indulge in a few beloved hobbies, namely car collecting and cooking. While he admitted to Parade in 2010 that he drove a Prius in his day-to-day life, he was also the proud owner of a 1964 lowrider Chevy and has been known to drive a slew of different makes and models. "My taste has been all over the map," the star shared. "The first car I ever owned was an Italian sports car, a convertible, and I've kind of owned everything under the sun since then."

But let's dive into Bratt's love of the kitchen. During an appearance on Univision's Spanish language morning show "Despierta America" in 2016, the actor helped prepare a classic Peruvian dish, lomo saltado, as an ode to his Peruvian mother. Meanwhile, during a chat on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," he revealed that he loves watching cooking reality shows ("Chopped" being one of his favorites), but also enjoys getting his hands dirty because of the bonds it creates. "I enjoy cooking for the fact that it's a leisure activity, it's always, you know, involving family," he shared. "I come from a Latin family, of course, so that's the center of the universe for us." 

As for what he loves to eat most, Bratt told the Multi Cultural Cooking Network that he enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Puerto Rican cuisine, especially pernil con arroz y frijoles (or, pernil served with rice and refried beans).

He is passionate about Native American rights

Benjamin Bratt's mother was influential in shaping the man he is today, from teaching him about the importance of family and education to instilling in him a pride in their heritage. "My mother's a Peruvian Indian from Lima. ... And she gave me a strong sense of social justice because she was very active politically," the actor told Parade. Indeed, as he later wrote in a 2022 essay for Esquire, "I strongly identify with the indigenous culture that I come from." 

Bratt's mother moved from Lima, Peru to San Francisco, California when she was just 14, but she never forgot her roots. Most notably, she became involved in the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island, during which Native American activists tried to reclaim the unused land around the shuttered prison, per History. Bratt was just five at the time, but he and his mother headed to the island regularly. "I remember spending most weekends out there," he told Datebook. "... My brothers and sisters and I had the island as the greatest playground you could imagine."

Since then, the actor himself has been actively involved in the community. In 2020, for example, he encouraged Native Americans to vote in a video posted to Facebook by Native Organizers Alliance. It's also something the star is passing onto his kids. "My 16-year-old son Mateo was recently invited to participate in what we essentially call a manhood ceremony — which is like a Native bar mitzvah," Bratt wrote for Esquire, noting that he and his mother were extremely proud to attend.

Benjamin Bratt has a secret love of singing

Benjamin Bratt is a man of many hidden passions! While he may not have wanted to be an actor originally, he always dreamt of showing off his musical side. Bratt made the somewhat surprising revelation in 2017 while promoting "Coco," a film in which he was asked to sing for the very first time. While taking on the role of Ernesto de la Cruz, the Pixar flick's iconic yet villainous Mexican music star, Bratt sang "Remember Me." As he told Yahoo! Entertainment, "The great irony is I have always wanted to be a singer or talented musician." So much so that he's even been known to tell people, "I'd give my left toe to be a talented balladeer."

Admitting he was extremely nervous, Bratt told the outlet he was able to move past his fears thanks to vocal coach Liz Caplan's guidance. "Through lots of rehearsal, lots of training, lots of nerves, and lots of tears, we finally arrived at something that was usable," he shared. However, the star also confessed to News Corp Australia Network that his vocal prowess likely got some movie magic help during editing.

Whatever the case, "Coco" helped Bratt achieve a lifelong dream, plus it gave him some extra clout at home. "The greatest success is I can now lord it over my children who tell me to be quiet every time I try to sing," he laughed. "I can now tell them, 'Look, I have full permission to do so because I am officially a professional who is paid to sing.'"