Gina Rodriguez on Her New Sci-Fi Flick: “I Transformed into a Person I Barely Could Recognize”

Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

When the Los Angeles Times reviewed Filly Brown, it singled out newcomer Gina Rodriguez, “a festival ingenue who deserves to be discussed in the same breath as Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Lawrence.” While the latter two Sundance breakouts have gone on to play Marvel characters in summer blockbusters — and in Lawrence’s case, become an Oscar staple — Rodriguez’s rise to stardom has been steadier but just as inevitable. Her Golden Globe-winning role in Jane the Virgin introduced Rodriguez to mainstream USA and she’s slowly built up a following aided no doubt by her charming personality.

Remezcla caught up with the actress to talk about her future projects and her most recent collaboration with Verizon, “Bienvenido a lo Mejor,” a contest that hopes to connect US Latino millennials with social media influencers to advance their own creative careers. Don’t worry, we obviously asked her about Jane’s season two cliffhanger. “I know nothing,” she said almost apologetically, acknowledging that the events of the Villanueva-Cordero wedding were pretty shocking. “And if I knew and I told you, I’d be fired!” she joked.

She was much more forthcoming about her future projects which will bring her back to the big screen. Audiences will see her next in the Mark Wahlberg film Deepwater Horizon. The Peter Berg-directed big-budget flick centers on the explosion and fire that eventually destroyed the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. Rodriguez plays Andrea Fleytas, a 23-year-old worker who was the one to send out a distress signal when the fire first broke out.

Getting cast in a blockbuster inspired by real events like Deepwater Horizon, which will screen at the Toronto Film Festival this September, was a new experience for the actress. “It was playing a real life human being. It was dealing with such a delicate subject — with people’s lives, their memories, and the memory of their lost ones. It was very delicate. It’s a gripping film. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.”

It’s not the only big project she has lined up. Next year we’ll see her as we’ve never seen her before in Annihilation, the upcoming feature from Ex Machina director Alex Garland. The movie co-stars Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac (not bad company, right?) When I ask her about the project, Rodriguez has two words for me: “Freaking. Awesome.”

Garland’s Annihilation is an adaptation of the sci-fi novel by the same name which follows a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor who set out to explore Area X, which has been abandoned and is cut off from civilization. “It was the most transformative film I’ve ever done,” she said, unable to hide her enthusiasm for the project. “I cut all my hair off. I transformed into a person I barely could recognize. I saw a teaser for the movie just before I left London two weeks ago — I was blown away by what I saw. It was crazy.”

“You know Gina, the idea of celebrity is to celebrate a person. Not to idolize them.”

But true to form, Rodriguez was quick to praise her collaborators. “And working with all these cast members — they’re outstanding not just in acting but as human beings.” That she would be sure to praise her fellow actors in terms not (just) of their talent but of their more down-to-earth features is keeping with what she says has been a lesson she learnt from Lou Diamond Phillips on the set of Filly Brown. “We were sitting in front of his little trailer. I was telling him how incredible it was to see how genuine he was. And he told me, ‘You know Gina, the idea of celebrity is to celebrate a person. Not to idolize them. You celebrate somebody. Never forget that. Never forget the people who help. And never forget to use that as a means to help somebody else.’” It’s a mantra she’s stuck to. It’s what drives her #MovementMondays on Instagram where she singles out Latino talent, paying it forward and nurturing a sense of proud community.

View this post on Instagram

Movement Monday's. This is Oscar Isaac. He is a Guatemalan American actor. This is a picture from Ex Machina directed by Alex Garland and was released this past year. With all this Oscar Talk and lack of diversity I decided to start a movement and speak from the perspective of a Latina American who desires to see more Latinos on screen. There are 55 million Latinos in this country and although we all come from various backgrounds our unity can make a movie explode at the box office or a tv show soar to the highest viewers possible. The better these projects do financially, the more money they will spend on putting Latinos In blockbuster films, as leads in tv shows Etc. My solution is this, support is needed. Right now there isn't one Latino that can Greenlight a movie. That means no studio will put their money behind a Latino face as a lead of a movie because they don't believe we can make their money back. I am told time and time again "Latinos dont watch Latino Movies. Latinos don't support each other" and sadly that is true. I'm not saying go and see a movie you don't like to blind support, im saying if you want to see us represented on film and tv, if you want to see Latinos nominated for Oscars, we NEED to support one another. The industry sees money, the excuse can't just be racism. We can make a difference in a very powerful way if we unite our support as one Latino community. Oscar Isaac, in my opinion had an Oscar worthy performance in this film. Let's start making noise with where it matters most, where we put our dollars. Go support these films, watch these shows (mine is on tonight by the way, shameless promotion feel free to watch on the CW) and we can take making a change into our own hands. Each Monday I will highlight a latino artist we can support. Let us use our numbers and powerful voices to prove we support one another, to prove we can make a box office hit, to prove they need to support all the various Latino cultures in the media. That can be one part of the solution, so next year we have many movies that are worthy of Oscar contention! #MovementMondays Pick any Latino currently working we can support!

A post shared by Gina Rodriguez-LoCicero (@hereisgina) on

It’s with that in mind that she came to partner with Verizon for their latest venture. Having understood the value that connections and that one-on-one interactions can have on someone’s career — say, an earnest talk with Lou Diamond Phillips — she’s now encouraging millennials to enter the “Bienvenido a lo Mejor” contest for a chance to exclusively connect with an influencer in beauty, music, sports or cooking. All you gotta do is post on Twitter or Instagram why it is you’d want this chance to connect with these individuals (which include YouTube singer Megan Nicole, beauty Vlogger Yasmin Maya, soccer player Alejandro Bedoya and renowned chef Juan Manuel Barrientos). Just be sure to tag your photo, video, or written entry by August 15th with #LoMejorDeMi and add @verizon to guarantee your entry.

Rodriguez sees this as a chance for people to value the power of their own voice as well as the value of making personal connections. “I feel like that’s been lost in our digital age,” she says, “so we’re bringing that back and showing people how powerful they truly are.”