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Max Martini: How the underrated actor is breaking out on the big screen

For four seasons, we enjoyed watching Max Martini's nuanced and intense performance on CBS's The Unit - so we were thrilled when this underrated actor broke out on the big screen with roles in blockbuster flicks Pacific Rim and Captain Phillips. BFTV had the chance to sit down with Max last week to discuss his successful 2013, and how his career is changing because of it.

Max Martini had a strong feature year with the successes of 'Pacific Rim' and 'Captain Phillips'
Brian Bowen-Smith

"I had a great year," he reflected. "It kind of started with Pacific Rim. I got Pacific Rim, I was offered a part in Batman that I couldn't do because of Pacific Rim. Then I got a movie called 42 I didn't do, because at the same time I had an offer on Captain Phillips. And then I got an offer on this movie called Sabotage that I did, that comes out in April. Now I'm shooting 50 Shades of Grey. I've had a huge feature year."

For the actor whose early career included films like Contact and Saving Private Ryan, it's a welcome return. "When I started as an actor, I kind of started with a couple features," he told us. "I've been waiting for the opening."

In Pacific Rim, Max played Herc Hansen, father and co-pilot to Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky), in an epic battle of humans and robots versus monsters. He followed that up by commanding Navy SEALS in the critically acclaimed Captain Phillips. They're not only two high-profile films, but also roles that he's tremendously proud of.

"The stuff that I've done over the last year is, for me, the highlight of my career to date," Max said. "Captain Phillips, I'm super-proud of it. I was very proud of Pacific Rim; I was a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro. For me, working in these movies, you're working at such a higher level and you're working with people that are so evolved creatively that you feel like you're walking away from something really special."

That's not to discount what Max himself brings to the table. No matter what material you hand him, you're going to get a solid performance, one that's nuanced and often adds more depth than what first appears on the page. He has a strength that's not just physical, but also exists in tems of screen presence; even if the role is a minor supporting one, you're going to notice that he's there. It's a true joy to almost watch the wheels turn and see what he does with a character.

And it doesn't hurt that he's capable of being more than imposing, creating characters you wouldn't want to cross. Which leads us to a quirk of his resume: his best known roles, be they pilots like Herc Hansen in Pacific Rim or soldiers like Mack Gerhardt in The Unit, do tend to be military types. Not that we're complaining, or that he is either, because he's doing much more than just shooting the bad guys.

"Fortunately for me, I love playing those guys," he told us, pointing out how complex some of those roles have been. "My part on The Unit, it was a David Mamet television series. I had an incredible story arc. I had a beautifully complex character. I was in a dysfunctional relationship with my wife, a sometimes violent relationship. I had two kids that I loved and adored. I had issues from combat. I'm getting these characters that, you've got to bring choices to the table to pull off. And so in that, I'm fortunate as an actor to have people that I've had writing the material for me."

"I think the more high-profile roles lately have been military ones," he added, "but I do a lot of other roles that aren't military." Like that you'll be able to see him playing Jason Taylor in the hugely buzzy adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey next year.

Max has already established himself on television, first and foremost from his work on The Unit, but also from other parts on popular series like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 24, Burn Notice, Flashpoint and Revenge. And it's on the small screen that it's become apparent just how versatile of an actor he is. He's excellent at playing the hero who saves the day, but he's also been the bad guy (see Hawaii Five-0) and been abducted (in Lie To Me). If there are movie fans who are just now learning who he is, there are countless places to start discovering his talent. We asked Max what he'd point people toward after Pacific Rim and Captain Phillips.

"I think everything that I did before The Unit was my training ground. Television was a great place for me to kind of fall on my face and make mistakes and be okay with it and move on," he reflected. "But I think once I got to The Unit, I really had matured as an actor and I think that as far as my work, I would say go to that. And if you haven't seen it, you'll love it regardless. It's a really dramatic and exciting show to watch. And I think it's where I sort of started as an actor, and I can say that I'm proud of it."

He's done more than well for himself on television, but now it's on to a bigger stage. He's more than earned the opportunity to have an equally impressive career on the big screen, and hopefully with the success of films like Pacific Rim and Captain Phillips, he'll break out all over again in feature films. At least, that's the direction in which things seem to be headed for this talented actor.

"My career is changing a little bit right now," Max told us. "Because I've been doing the movies that I've been doing with the people that I've been doing them with, the projects that are coming my way now are much more interesting." Here's to him no longer being underrated, but instead being celebrated for how gifted he truly is.

Pacific Rim and Captain Phillips are now available on Blu-Ray and DVD; you can get your copies by clicking here and here. The Unit: The Complete Series is also available on DVD here.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

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