"Let's face it, it feels, feels great. I mean, you know, it does feel great, but after a while, I guess it gets to your head, it definitely gets to your head," he said.
"It was people that changed my brother -- free drugs, free booze, free women, you know," Vinny Brancato said.
By that time, Brancato had found a way to keep the party going: cocaine. He was using it at least as far back as 1999, when he was cast in the second season of the HBO series "The Sopranos," playing an enjoyably thick-headed hunk with a notably violent streak that would eventually cost him dearly at season's end.
Was he high when he did "The Sopranos"?
"I may have been, yes. I may have been, yes," he said.
Yet, even as his partying continued, Brancato never moved out of his parents' house in Yonkers, N.Y., where his mother doted on him like a favorite son.
"I guess 'cause my mom made it easy for him, you know?" said Vinny Brancato.
"This kid had so much natural ability but did nothing with it. Nothing. Zero," said Palminteri. "Never went to acting school. Never really read scripts. Never networked the business. Didn't do anything."
By 2005, with time on his hands, Brancato started getting into hard drugs, like cocaine and heroin, full time.
"Instead of having two drinks, you'll have four. And then from the four drinks, then you'll snort a line of cocaine," he said. "And then from that line of cocaine, to come down, you'll do some heroin. And then it, it doesn't end, it doesn't end -- the drugs always, always win."
His family staged an intervention and got Lillo into rehab.
"His personality was going away. He had no personality anymore," Vinny Brancato said.
But nothing took, and his brother felt he knew the secret that had driven his brother to drugs: Brancato had been adopted from an orphanage in Bogota, Colombia.
"He'd be going in my mom's room at 3 o'clock in the morning talking about that," Vinny Brancato said. "He must have felt that he wasn't accepted in life, at an early age, from his mother and father. It always bothered him."
By December 2005, his drug use was out of control.
"I was a lost cause." Brancato said. "I was getting worse every day."
"I thought he was going to die," his brother said.
But Brancato didn't die. Somebody else did in the early morning hours of Dec. 10, 2005.
Brancato and pal Steven Armento had spent the night at a strip club. By 4 a.m., they were out of drugs and craved more.
"The crack cocaine was eating the heroin to the point where I was, I was noticably dopesick -- where I felt every ache and pain," said Brancato. "I needed a fix."
To get that fix, they drove to the apartment of Brancato's friend Kenny Scuvatti. Brancato broke Scuvatti's window, and that sound apparently awakened Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who lived next door. He went outside to check and called 911.
"OK, what's the address and what borough?" the 911 operator asked.
"Bronx. 3119 Arnow Place," he said. "I'm not sure they're still in there."
It would be the last phone call of Enchautegui's life. Seconds later, as the 28-year-old officer came upon Brancato and Armento, shots rang out.
"I remember walking and I remember hearing someone say, 'Don't move,' and I was startled," Brancato said. "So I turned around quickly and I was shot, I was shot twice."