Michelle Rodriguez’s establish instantly conjures the image of a hard-charging brunette, in maximum instances dressed in black leather, with a gun strapped somewhere to her body. The well-known particular person of five Fast and the Furious movement photos doesn’t bear fools—she’s sexy, then again on no account in a way that conveys susceptible level. In the course of her 18-year occupation, which moreover incorporates movement photos like S.W.A.T., Machete, and Avatar, she’s cemented her character as a symbol of a definite type of female empowerment.
So it was once a surprise to Rodriguez—who sees herself near to the identical way most of the people does—when Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) were given right here to her with an not really serve as, that of a prone mother of two, who prefers espadrilles over combat boots, and will have to fend for herself after her husband dies in a robbery lengthy long gone mistaken. As Linda in the heist drama Widows due out November 16, Rodriguez at some point dons black tactical garb, then again first she had to divulge a black hole of sorrow and longing.
Faced with the sort of chance, Rodriguez in fact discussed no in the start. Sure, she was once fed up in the roles she have been taking part in. And positive, she was once in love with the script from McQueen and Gillian Flynn—which, in her words, “examined men and their quest for power, all told via [these very specific] women on a quest for survival.” Rodriguez was once moreover depressed after the 2016 presidential election, and was once pronouncing no to a bunch of roles folks in Hollywood idea might be very best for her. How would possibly she take on one who left her so unmoored?
“It was my ego, basically,” Rodriguez discussed throughout a modern interview with regards to her space in Venice, California. “My idea of strength is a demonstrative exaggeration of male qualities: assertive, independent, always making the right decisions, never letting anybody swindle you. I didn’t see the strength in these women. I was like, ‘Why would I want to play a weak bitch? Why would I want to play the reality of poverty in the ghetto?’ I grew up like that.”
Rodriguez was once born in Texas to a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father, then again was once raised in each and every of her other people’ international locations of starting previous than transferring to New Jersey as a teenager, where she was once immersed in a convention she felt de-valued women—one she vowed to escape. “I grew up backwards to most women,” Rodriguez discussed. “Pounding my chest, earning my keep, earning my respect. I didn’t want to get pregnant before 17, like all my friends. I was avoiding a bullet.” Her resolution to sign onto Widows, in other words, marked a deep departure for a woman who’s spent her entire life channeling her alpha-male side.
“In essence, Steve [McQueen] wanted me to go to a scary place,” she discussed. “He thought that I could pull this off for him, and I had no idea. I’m looking at this woman, and I’m seeing my mother. I’m seeing all these girls that had kids very young. I’m seeing all these women make the wrong decisions. And I feel sorry for them. In my mind, I thought, ‘What could I do by playing this statistic?’”
Still, Rodriguez agreed to satisfy with McQueen. He was once in Los Angeles. It was once the beginning of 2017, and the actress, who was once remaining in on 40, was once changing into further introspective. She was once finding out such a lot, traveling, and on the lookout for a way out of her occupation stagnation. “Talk about beating a dead horse,” she discussed with fun. “I can do an action movie with my hands tied behind my back.”
Rodriguez was once certain there was once now not the rest McQueen would possibly say to her that may convince her to do his movie. “It’s known as Widows, and in addition you’re talking about female empowerment? The entire title is about an individual,” she discussed. But with Widows, McQueen discussed, he wanted to position exact women on-screen, so he talked to Rodriguez about poverty and what female energy in truth seems like in neighborhoods where it persists.
“I had this big self-reflective moment,” Rodriguez discussed of their conversations. “I looked at myself, and I saw this surface layer, papier-mâché creature with no dimension, and I said, ‘I need to do this movie.’ It will help me see the beauty in my mother, the beauty of all those women that I felt sorry for growing up. Nobody talks about soft power. In these poverty-stricken areas, where this machismo is through the roof, to see the strength in these women, raising these kids by themselves. It always brought me such deep sorrow, which is why I never wanted to go near that.”
Rodriguez began working with appearing teacher Greta Seacat, the principle time Rodriguez won appearing classes since her film debut in Karyn Kusama’s 2000 Sundance darling, Girlfight. She hadn’t been challenged since that first film, Rodriguez discussed. Seacat worked with the actress on one of her tougher emotional scenes in the film, in which her character has to confront an individual who may be mourning the loss of a spouse. In a 2nd of mutual vulnerability, they kiss.
“I can imagine breaking down, crying,” Rodriguez says. “But to go and make out with a perfect stranger that you don’t know, aren’t attracted to—like, I didn’t get it. It was hard,” she discussed.
McQueen on no account idea Rodriguez sought after the teacher, then again was once impressed by means of manner of her willpower. “What was commendable was she wanted to go there,” he knowledgeable me now not too way back. “She did all the heavy lifting.”
Widows flipped a switch in Rodriguez, and opened her up. It started with the risk to art work with Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo, and ended with the concept that that she can also be more than just a hard girl. “It was incredibly uncomfortable,” she discussed. “For somebody who’s been wearing armor her entire life, it’s not something that I can easily jump into and start running with. I’m gonna have to go slowly.”
Rodriguez discussed she is conscious of she has a reputation for being hard in Hollywood. She doesn’t be told neatly in auditions, she discussed, and attributes her success to such directors as Kusama, McQueen, James Cameron, and Robert Rodriguez, who all spotted something in her.
“The only thing that’s difficult [about her] is she asks questions,” McQueen discussed. “But that’s my bread and butter: people asking questions. That’s how we work. I’ve never found the most interesting people to be the ones who say yes every five minutes. I like the ones that ask questions.”
Rodriguez has all the time been one to downside the brooding about in the again of her characters. Back on 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, “They wanted my character to be with [both] the Paul Walker character and the Vin Diesel character,” she discussed. “And I was like, ‘Dude, why are you turning her into a slut? I’m not playing a slut in front of millions of people.’ By the way, that’s not the dynamic of the ghetto. You stay with the strongest guy, and you don’t get with the Barbie doll-looking dude—because that’s temporary, honey. Survival in the streets is different.”
On Widows, Rodriguez found out she’d on no account been on a suite with that many alternative women. Her revel in traditionally was once of the lone girl hanging with a bunch of guys—“lots of protein shakes and gas,” she discussed with fun. Now she craves a distinct atmosphere on set, one where women are growing the characters and are in rate.
“I’m officially bored of men’s opinions about women,” she discussed. “Talk to me about science, talk to me about physics, talk to me about the economy, but do me a favor and shut the fuck up when it comes to women.”
This awakening has prompted her to place in writing further. Rodriguez has been writing stories since she was once 15; she merely on no account finished them. And she admits to all the time re-writing her lines on the Fast and the Furious movement photos. Now, even supposing, she’s doing it for exact, and easily landed her first re-write job on a film undertaking she took on beneath a pseudonym for fear of exposing herself. If the art work is superb enough, she will well-known particular person in it.
It’s a big step for Rodriguez, who was once so steeped in the tough-girl image of herself she was once striking in the marketplace, she hadn’t let herself be human.
“My desire is to take a sledgehammer to that persona,” she discussed.
What would she put in its place?
“Something more mature, something grown-up, something that has a deeper reason [to exist] than survival,” she discussed. ”And I’m now not pronouncing that one takes transparent of the other, that one’s higher than the other. It’s merely that I’m in quest of a distinct type of downside, creatively—and, in truth, in every fucking sector of my lifestyles.”