Gina Rodriguez Opens Up About 'Miss Bala' And Her Outspoken Activism NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro asks actress Gina Rodriguez about her new film, Miss Bala, and about her push for more representation in Hollywood.
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Gina Rodriguez Opens Up About 'Miss Bala' And Her Outspoken Activism

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Gina Rodriguez Opens Up About 'Miss Bala' And Her Outspoken Activism

Gina Rodriguez Opens Up About 'Miss Bala' And Her Outspoken Activism

Gina Rodriguez Opens Up About 'Miss Bala' And Her Outspoken Activism

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NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro asks actress Gina Rodriguez about her new film, Miss Bala, and about her push for more representation in Hollywood.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Gina Rodriguez is having a moment. Her leading role on TV's "Jane The Virgin" is ending. It earned her a Golden Globe in 2015. But she's now graduated to a lead in a major motion picture, which opens Friday. It comes at long last and with some stage fright.

GINA RODRIGUEZ: It is scary. It's - I can be very transparent and say it is very scary.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The film is "Miss Bala," where Gina Rodriguez plays Gloria Fuentes, a young Hispanic-American makeup artist who gets involved with a drug cartel in order to find her missing friend.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISS BALA")

RODRIGUEZ: (As Gloria) I grew up in the States. I've lived here for a few years. My father is American. And he owned a factory of (speaking Spanish) here.

ISMAEL CRUZ CORDOVA: (As Lino) I can help you find your friend. But you have to do something for me first. You do that, and I'll help you find Suzu. You mess around, and I'll kill you both.

RODRIGUEZ: I was actually more intrigued by this role because of what it meant and what they were creating. So when I was approached with it from Sony, they told me they were reimagining the original Mexican film "Miss Bala." And they wanted to do it with an all-Latinx cast and crew. And they wanted to make sure that the American girl was Latina. I was very excited about that prospect. It has never - that - I've never been approached with that opportunity in my life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Like, the explicit opportunity to be who you are in a film (laughter).

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, the explicit opportunity to be who I am in the film as well as make it with my community in front of and behind the camera. And I then read the script. And what was beautiful was the open conversation of making sure that this young girl who goes from an ordinary woman to an extraordinary woman and really solidifies her power and finds her strength was going to have agency, was going to have an agenda, was going to work consistently at every opportunity she had to save herself and to save her loved one. And that you don't see often in action movies. And you definitely don't see it reflecting in action movies led by women, which felt like a really great opportunity.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISS BALA")

RODRIGUEZ: (As Gloria) La bala - in the end, the bullet settles everything.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Gina Rodriguez grew up in Chicago salsa dancing and learning from her Puerto Rican parents the importance of confidence and hard work. Rodriguez made it big late for an actress. She was 29 when she landed "Jane The Virgin."

RODRIGUEZ: I was in first class for, like, the first time ever.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

RODRIGUEZ: I was making sure I wrote down every feeling, make sure I was sitting in - all that hard work, all those nos, all that failure, all that rejection, sitting there and appreciating it because it got me to this point.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And now she's starring in "Miss Bala."

Do you feel like it has to be a success because you represent so much to so many people because you are trailblazing?

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, man. Well, now I'm going to take that one.

(LAUGHTER)

RODRIGUEZ: If I wasn't thinking about that before...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sorry.

RODRIGUEZ: Thanks, Lulu. No, I'm kidding (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, my pleasure.

RODRIGUEZ: But, you know - no, you know what it is? - is that if this is a success, then they will make more. That's the pressure. I just want the studios to see, see. You made your money back. Now go make more. Now stop acting like we're such a risk, you know? And, like, that's what I want.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you say that when you go into the room with executives?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, of course I do (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you are so outspoken in public. But I'm wondering if behind closed doors, there has to be a different kind of conversation.

RODRIGUEZ: No.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Or do you think that that works?

RODRIGUEZ: No, the conversation is the truth. We call a spade a spade. And it's very real to me. I was just having a conversation the other day with a possible line producer for a TV show that we just sold - who happens to be a white male. And we're doing an interview. And he says, you know, I would do this. And I would do that. And I would do that. And I was like, OK. I won't allow that. And he was like, excuse me. I said, I won't allow that. We're doing 50 percent females at the head of department. He said, well, makeup and hair - I said, no. I want a female DP. I want females in the art department and in construction. I want women everywhere. And I want it intersectional. So if you're down for that, then you can jump on board. If you're not, there are plenty of productions out there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She's been pushing for representation consistently, but it hasn't been without controversy. Two years ago, she tweeted, Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women. But where are the Latinos? - asking for a friend. She was referring to the movie "Black Panther." Black Twitter said Rodriguez was ignoring Tessa Thompson and Zoe Saldana's roles in other Marvel movies that year. Both are Afro-Latinas. And she's received criticism for other things - comments about pay equity, not inviting enough Afro-Latinas to a brunch at her house - prompting think pieces asking if she's anti-black.

I'm going to ask you about a controversy. You've been criticized for what some people see as the erasure of Afro-Latinos. What are your thoughts now on that?

RODRIGUEZ: But where have I erased anyone? You're telling me that people's opinions about my advocacy makes them feel a certain way, which is unfortunate for me because that's not my intention. But that has never happened. So it's - so I - personally, it's very difficult to have a conversation about people's opinions that haven't read or understood the factual words that have come out of my mouth. I've never said anything controversial about anyone in particular - period. I am not against anyone. I create opportunities for everyone. So I think we often - like, we're living in a culture and in a climate where this is where we're getting our factual information. But they're not facts. They're opinions. So I can't live my life based off of social media opinion. Like, that's unfair for me. And that's unfair for me to have a legitimate conversation with a journalist about something that I don't believe is a - is fair. I don't believe that the context was taken correctly. And if I hurt anyone, I apologize.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've mentioned this. And you've been very public about your anxiety and your mental health and how that's escalated with your success. Now that you're busier than ever, how are you handling it? How are you sort of taking care of yourself but also doing all the things you need to do?

RODRIGUEZ: I'm figuring it out one day at a time with each interview. Because of my words being taken out of context, it has definitely prevented me from wanting to have interviews and speak up and speak out, which is unfortunate because that was so much of who I am. I am currently in search of a therapist that understands this world because it's a very specific experience and not too many people know it. It draws me to speak about it because I felt so alone and afraid and embarrassed because I used to feel so strong in my ability to stand up for what I wanted and what I believed. And to think that it debilitates me is interesting and different as I evolve, as I get older and remember that the - you know, at the heart of everything is family and love. And that's most important. So that's what you do, I think. I guess. I'm still learning, though.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

RODRIGUEZ: I'm definitely still learning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How would you describe this moment in your life? If you had to say, you know, this particular moment that you're living through right now, what would you say?

RODRIGUEZ: It's a mix between feeling 13-year-old Gina say, one day, I'm going to be in an action movie, and I'm going to be the lead - and that only took 21 years to get here - and kind of scared. Those two feelings at once make for a crazy, little ying yang (ph) in your body.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Gina Rodriguez - her latest film is "Miss Bala." Thank you so much.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Lulu - appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASEY ANDRE AND JOAKIM KARUD'S "DREAMS")

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