INTERVIEW: Natalia del Riego Talks About Supernatural Immigration Film ‘Hail Mary’

Lead Photo: Sparkhouse Media
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Actress Natalia del Riego (NCIS: Los Angeles) speaks candidly when asked about what drew her to the lead role in director Rosemary Rodriguez’s supernatural drama Hail Mary, a retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph in the New Testament of the Bible.

At the time of her audition, del Riego, who is of Salvadoran and Mexican descent, said she was at a low point in her life, living paycheck to paycheck and suffering from depression as she tried to make a life as an actress in Hollywood.

“I was in the trenches, to be honest,” del Riego told Remezcla during a recent interview at SXSW. “And then comes this script and the first scene is this girl who is also going through her lowest of lows. I felt like it was paralleling a lot of what was going on in my real life.”

In Hail Mary, del Riego plays Maria, a young Belizean girl who is trying to cross the border from Mexico to the United States to protect her unborn child from a virus that is killing newborns. On her trail are the cartels, border patrol agents, and a demon who is trying to kill her. Hail Mary made its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 13.

Natalia del Riego in Hail Mary
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Del Riego said part of her depression stemmed from being estranged from her parents for years. She also wasn’t sure she had made the right decision about pursuing a career in acting. Without that support system, she said she started to feel a heaviness on her shoulders that she had never experienced before.

“Los Angeles is a scary place to be when you’re by yourself and when you don’t have a financial safety net or health care,” she said. “I was relying on places like Planned Parenthood. I needed them. To dream big costs a lot.”

When she landed the role in Hail Mary, del Riego remembers having a conversation with Rodriguez about not wanting to make the film “cinema beautiful.” She wanted her character to look like she’s a survivor – someone who has experienced the worst that life could throw at her.

“I didn’t want to glamorize it,” del Riego said. “I just knew that when I was in that dark place, I gained weight. My skin was not perfect. I’m not taking showers and my hair gets oily. I wanted the film to convey all that.”

While Hail Mary is an immigration story at its core, it is far from a conventional one. Del Riego has played those stereotypical roles before and doesn’t feel like she’s at the point in her career to pass up the work if it’s offered to her. However, she looks forward to the day when she has more options as an actress.

“Sometimes you do what you have to do to get to do what you want to do,” she said. “I think when I’m finally able to say no to a project, that’s going to be very liberating. I’ve been in a place where I’ve carried darkness with me, but in this next chapter, I’m learning to embrace the light.”

Check back for updates when Hail Mary starring Natalia del Riego will premiere at theaters or on a streaming service or VOD.