When Colombian actress Natalia Reyes arrived in Los Angeles to audition for an undisclosed role in an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster she was convinced she’d be reading for “Maid No. 14.” Maybe “Prostitute No. 3.” When she saw that Linda Hamilton, the star of the Terminator movies, was there to read with her, she slightly adjusted her expectations: “Wow. This maid must be very important!” she remembers thinking. Recounting the anecdote to a San Diego crowd at the L’ATTITUDE conference of how she ended up landing one of the starring roles in Terminator: Dark Fate is, for Reyes, a reminder of how Hollywood’s treatment of Latinos has skewed her own mindset. As she eventually learned once she got to read the script to what’s billed as a straight sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she wasn’t about to play someone’s maid. No, she’d basically be taking over the “Linda Hamilton role” as a young Mexican woman who finds herself being hunted by a Terminator sent from the future. Oh, and that new Terminator? He’s being played by Austin-born Latino actor Gabriel Luna. Add in the fact that the Tim Miller actioner opens in Mexico City and you have a 2019 blockbuster ready to thwart Latino stereotypes any which way.
Not that a Terminator film heading to Mexico should feel like such a surprise. After all, Hamilton’s Sarah Connor heads there after the events in the original film, seeking solace and safety across the border, with a plan to return there during the events of T2. For Luna, having this trilogy caper begin in Mexico City is merely a way to further pay homage to the seminal first two films in the franchise. The reason why Terminator: Dark Fate sidelines the many sequels those two James Cameron films spawned and why it truly feels like a sequel close to thirty years in the making is because for the first time both Hamilton and OG Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger are back. Reprising their roles, they’re both tasked with helping Reyes’s Dani Ramos escape the grasp of Luna’s super-advanced robot assassin.
Meeting Schwarzenegger in particular was, both Reyes and Luna agreed, a moment neither will forget. For Reyes, who’s been working in TV and in films in Colombia (including in this year’s Pájaros de verano), coming face to face with an actor whose films are revered all over the world was paralyzing, in a good way. “I really wanted to touch him that first time,” she told Remezcla. “Like, ‘you’re real! you’re here!’ Because you have the idea of the icon, of the legend. But having the human just right next to you looking into your eyes and doing a scene — I was petrified looking at his eyes! He actually has beautiful eyes.”
Luna, who’d literally be stepping into Schwarzenegger’s shoes, told Remezcla that his first encounter with the former bodybuilder-turned-actor gave him the confidence he needed to take on the role as the first-ever Latino Terminator. “Look at this guy,” he remembers Schwarzenegger saying (and yes, before you ask, Luna does a great Arnold impression). “Look at his biceps. He’s so ripped!” Before they’d even been introduced here was Schwarzenegger complimenting Luna on the very thing he’d been hard at work training for months.
“That was our first encounter. It was kind of brief. And then, as time went on, we just got closer and closer. I think he saw that it was very important for me that we do this right. And that I give my heart, body and soul and everything — every ounce of what I got — for this thing. I think he saw it and acknowledged it. I think that’s how we’ve become friends.”
“I hope he sees some of him in me,” he added. For he learned a lot not just about weightlifting (yes, they worked out together sometimes) and acting, but also about how to be a kind individual on and off set. Schwarzenegger’s work ethic, with his attention to crew members, making sure everyone felt welcome and seen, was something Luna had been nurturing in himself for years. Raised by a single mom who had him (and was already a widow) at fifteen, Luna has prided himself on working steadfastly to create a career he can be proud of. That’s meant making key choices about what he projects on-screen as well as the kind of person he is on set.
“I’ve always decided to work less for the opportunity to be central to the story,” he had shared earlier when talking at a L’ATTITUDE conference panel. “I didn’t want to be a narco. I didn’t want to be a Latin lover. I wanted to be who I believe I was, which is, you know, a Texan Humphrey Bogart.” The former lead of El Rey’s Matador series knows that, as a Latino, he’s called upon to be an example, something he doesn’t take lightly. It’s the message he wanted attendees at the banner event held by The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) to take away:
“When I come to work I’m gonna be ready. I’m gonna be prepared. And at the end of the shoot, I’m gonna know everybody’s name. I’m gonna be respectful, and I’m gonna be somebody that people want to work with.” It’s the kind of burden no single actor should have to carry. But Luna, biceps and all, is perfectly content to alleviate that weight for the next guy coming along. And the next guy after that. “I think it’s good to make sure that we’re represented on the screen. But I think it’s also important to be represented at the workplace. And to show what we’re capable of.”
Terminator: Dark Fate opens in theaters on November 1, 2019.