Actor Michael Peña likes to work. He’s been doing it since he was 13 years old. While his prep school friends in Chicago were going on vacations during the summer, he was working two full-time jobs to help pay for tuition.
“I’m the kind of guy who likes to work all the time,” Peña told Remezcla during a recent interview. “I would see my dad work construction. He would always keep himself busy. I think there’s honor in that.”
Although Peña has kept himself busy in Hollywood for the last 25 years in films like Million Dollar Baby, End of Watch, and Ant-Man, his career has never been about accepting whatever role is offered to him next. His priority, he said, is the project itself. “There’s been times, scarily enough, where I haven’t worked for close to a year,” he said. “It’s about the material first.”
The material that makes up his latest film is of the sci-fi variety.
In Moonfall, Peña plays Tom López, a successful car dealership owner, whose wife’s ex-husband was once a NASA astronaut. When a mysterious force knocks the moon out of orbit and puts it on a collision course for Earth, Tom must keep things together on the ground while a team of astronauts and a conspiracy theorist blast off into space to save the planet.
The film, which is directed by disaster movie extraordinaire Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), also stars Academy Award winner Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) and Patrick Wilson (Aquaman).
Accepting the supporting role was an easy choice to make, Peña said, because Emmerich was involved. “I’ve been wanting to be in a Roland Emmerich movie since I can remember,” he said. “He’s a proven director.”
With disaster flicks like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 on Emmerich’s résumé, Moonfall fell naturally into place as a movie where people on Earth are experiencing a catastrophic event. During production, Peña said it was impossible not to be reminded of the issues that the world is facing today like a global pandemic and a climate crisis.
“It put a lot of things into perspective,” Peña said. “When you’re doing these movies, you can’t help but think about it. You have to buckle down and appreciate every day because you never know when you’re going to go.”
Sure, climate change and its consequences are things that should concern everyone when talking about potential extinction-level events, but what about something like an alien invasion? Emmerich, of course, made two Independence Day films about such an incident. Maybe it could happen, Peña said, but he’s hopeful that an interaction between humans and extraterrestrials wouldn’t be as violent as it usually is in the movies.
“If some alien just landed on Earth, I think the one thing that would happen is that teenagers would want to get a selfie and post it on Instagram to get as many likes as possible,” Peña quipped. “A selfie with an alien would be amazing!”
Moonfall is in theaters now.