Michelle Rodriquez is one of the few Latina success stories in Hollywood. Despite controversial moments away from the camera, she has remained a fighter, very much like the heroines she often plays. She also has a wandering spirit, which balances Rodriguez throughout her many endeavors. NocheLatina spoke with the actress about her religious upbringing, what Latinas need to know before succeeding in film, why the Dominican Republic can be the next It-place for actors, and how she’s ready to pursue her little-known passion.
nocheLatina: You have come so far since your role in Girlfight. Could you have envisioned this back in 2000?
Michelle Rodriguez: I'm exactly where I want to be and I would be lying if I said I knew 10 years ago this would be my place in life today, even with all the ups and downs. All I've ever known is that I’m capable of storytelling. I knew I would pick up screenwriting along the way, which is what I'm doing now.
nocheLatina: What impact did it have for you growing up with a father in the military and a mother who’s a Jehovah Witness?
Michelle Rodriguez: My upbringing was beautiful. My father did join the military and my mother was a Jehovah’s Witness, along with her siblings, but let’s not let the mind drive one to think that my mother and father were defined by these aspects of their lives. That would be far from the truth. I was way too young to even acknowledge what the military was, let alone to see anything different in my father other than the green army suit he wore coming home. My mother was a happy spirit. She was always singing and making homemade play-doh for me, as well as kites for my brothers to fly. My grandmother was more of the religious influence in my family. Believe me, no one messes with grandma! My uncle is a preacher as well. I learned a lot about Christianity and biblical history, but that influence left me as a teenager, around 14.
nocheLatina: You moved around a lot. Does it mirror your life now as an actor?
Michelle Rodriguez: I got my first passport at seven, which is pretty cool. It’s the age when you completely disregard every single cell in the body generated by your mother. That's part of the seven-year cellular rejuvenation cycle of humans. It can almost be a profound symbol to receive your first passport to the world at that age. I'm happy living the student/gypsy journey through life. It's stimulating enough to keep me interested in the world.
nocheLatina: What was your favorite filming experience?
Michelle Rodriguez: My favorite experience was in Girlfight and Avatar. In Girlfight, I trained for six months 10 years ago to box. I gained 25 pounds of muscle. It’s an experience of New York independent filmmaking that I'll never forget. The little money we had was proof that the people involved were there because they really believed in the story and the meaning behind its political undertone. As for Avatar, I learned so much from Jim Cameron, a man with amazing knowledge of science technology, physics, and marine biology. It was a really cool experience to pick his brain every day.
nocheLatina: You played Ana Lucia Cortez in ‘Lost.’ How was that experience?
Michelle Rodriguez: ‘Lost’ was fun because I was living by the beach. Mother Nature was at my doorstep every morning in Hawaii. But between television and movies, I prefer film. When it comes to television, even though you are at an amazing paradise like Hawaii, I have the gypsy itch that screams at my soul every six months. I need to travel and find new adventures. Movies make this process easier because every four months you move on. In television, this process can be disrupted by an eight-month shooting schedule.
nocheLatina: You’ve done a lot of supporting roles, but your significant parts are definitely seen in Avatar and Machete. Why do you believe this is the case?
Michelle Rodriguez: You get in return the energy you give. I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to express strength and will power. Soon, that strength will evolve from a masculine energy into a very balanced feminine energy. Hopefully, Hollywood is receptive to this archetypical character that has yet to be exploited as a main character in commercial films.
nocheLatina: You did a film about the controversial Trujillo regime in Tropico de Sangre. How close to the heart was that project?
Michelle Rodriguez: I did work on a film project in Dominican Republic about Trujillo and the Mirabal family. The project was very close to my heart. I'm really sad that the production I worked on was so amateur because the story is compelling and truly profound. It’s not only about the liberation of women and the suppressed people of the Dominican Republic. My mother and grandmother were living there from the '40s through the '60s. There’s also the liberation of intellectuals in the Dominican Republic. I can't wait for the foundations of a film industry to be laid out in the Dominican Republic because that place is beautiful and the youth are vibrant. It’s ready to evolve and create an industry that can very possibly thrive if driven properly. God knows there's a lot of talent coming from that island. It's time to show the rest of the world what kind of heart this little place has.
nocheLatina: The question of how far women have come in the entertainment industry is presented to you. Is it better? What needs to be done to improve?
Michelle Rodriguez: All I have to say about that is it’s every woman's responsibility. Once a person cares about social justice, it becomes, I believe, a woman's journey to be mindful of other talented women. Partner with as many women as you possibly can and hold their hand. Only by women expressing themselves and to themselves in unison can we create a balance, especially in Hollywood. It’s not about being Latino, Black, white, girl, or boy. It’s about being received for who we are. I feel the industry is truly about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness as an art form that imitates life.
nocheLatina: What’s next for Michelle Rodriguez?
Michelle Rodriguez: I recently DJ’ed in Rio De Janeiro for New Year's, visited Hawaii for a couple of days, went to London for a mini DJ set during Fashion Week, and came back to LA. I’ve been writing a screenplay the whole time. At the end of this month I’ll head out to Russia and DJ a nice set at a film festival in Moscow. Then, I’ll head to Austin to shoot a movie, The Home. It’s about a nursing home for the elderly that is haunted. I play a nurse with a child in the film. After all that, I have absolutely no clue what will happen. I’m just hoping for a peaceful journey through all of the chaos.