The pressure still lies on the shoulders of Benjamin Bratt as he enters the second season of the A&E show “The Cleaner,” which premiered June 23. While all eyes are on Bratt as a leading man, the 45-year-old actor, who has starred in such films as “Miss Congeniality,” “Traffic,” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” is just happy A&E gave the show a second opportunity to build on last season.
“I count it as a major victory to not only be on a series that’s had a full season run, but to actually be on one that’s gotten picked up for a second season,” Bratt told me during a phone interview last week. “I think the biggest leap for new TV shows is from Season 1 to Season 2. From there it gets a little bit easier.”
In “The Cleaner,” which airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on A&E, Bratt plays William Banks, a drug addict who makes a deal with God that if he is given a second chance to live he would turn his life around and be a mentor to people with the same affliction.
During the first season, which is currently available on DVD, William keeps his promise through 13 dramatic episodes by helping a number of drug addicts, including a high school athlete with heroine and methamphetamine addiction and a math professor who starts doing cocaine so he can meet a deadline to publishing some research. The show is based on real-life recovering drug addict Warren Boyd, who is known in Hollywood as an “extreme interventionist.”
“[Warren is] one of those guys who has…an aura of gravitas to him and a little bit of mystery that you can’t really penetrate,” Bratt said. “I think that’s part of what made him appealing for me to play because I don’t have any of that. There’s also a lot of subtlety to who Warren is and what he does.”
With a satisfactory premiere season (according to the Nielsen ratings, “The Cleaner” averaged 1.1 million viewers weekly) already in the books, Bratt says he is looking forward to new and exciting adventures that fit into A&E’s new motto of “real-life drama.”
“I think [A&E] was really encouraged by the initial response to the show,” Bratt said. “As good as it was last year, I think it’s dramatically improved this year.”
In the first episode of Season 2, William faces his old sponsor (guest star Whoopie Goldberg) and helps a news anchor fight of an addiction. The guest role by Goldberg is only one of many that viewers can anticipate this summer.
“We have a really impressive roster of guest stars that come to play with us on the show…from Christine Lahti to Joe Don Baker, Michael Beach, Shirley Jones, and Rebecca Gayheart,” Bratt said. “And what that really means…is that the writing is strong enough to draw this kind of talent to a television series. That increase in qualitative level has resulted in bringing some really accomplished performers on board.”
Bratt adds that at the end of the day, “The Cleaner” is a show that should remind people that if given a second chance they should seize it and turn it into something positive.
“That’s our real aim in creating the show and telling these stories,” Bratt said. “Whether you have familiarity with addiction or not, everyone knows what it’s like to receive a second chance.”