Miami Living Magazine

Michelle Rodriguez

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Page 60 of 115

ML EXCLUSIVE! couldn't resist letting her know that he hopes that he can be as badass as her one day. P It's a cloudless, sunny Sunday afternoon in Venice Beach. Michelle and I meet out front of the restaurant Gjelina, which is fraught with so many patrons that we opt for a less populated space, conducive to conversation. We walk down Abbot Kinney and find The Tasting Kitchen, a recommendation of Michelle's, who claims that they have the best bloody marys (which I can now attest is a fact). Fresh-faced, with her dark hair pulled back, dressed in a charcoal-colored shirt and black pants, the naturally beautiful thespian looks diminutive, (she's 5'5 and very lean) and delicate. We both decide upon the fig and white cheddar grilled cheese, and settle in to discuss her latest film, the video game based movie, Resident Evil: Retribution (her second one in the franchise) in which she returns to play Rain Ocampo, out in September. "This one is crazy 'cause I get to play multiple characters, in a way," she breathes excitedly. "You have to watch it to figure it out. There are different versions of Rain. There's military Rain, civilian Rain, and then there's the infected Rain." A fan of the video game, Michelle was the one who pursued involvement with the film. She had just wrapped up Fast and Furious and had secured her first Hollywood agent, when she heard talk about a movie being developed based off of the video game, Resident Evil. "I called her [her agent] and I'm like, 'Dude, this guy is freakin' awesome. The video game is going to become a movie! You gottta get me in there.' Made the phone call and he figured he had a position for me, and the next thing you know I'm in the franchise," says Michelle with a smile. Sounds simple enough, right? This sort of luck seems to follow the charmed actress. eople hear the name Michelle Rodriguez and immediately think badass. This word is so strongly associated with the 33-year-old, Jersey City-raised actress, that during our chat over brunch, a handsome admirer of Michelle's "I think dreaming has a lot to do with it. You have to call a lot of things into your life… I kind of saw an open hole, where nobody had filled that gap. It's not like they were looking for a strong woman. They were looking for a strong woman who can play Spanish, the only one who could switch was Alyssa Milano, at the time, from Italian to Puerto Rican, and Jennifer Lopez is way too feminine to pull that butchy role off, so it was like, it was kinda fate, ya know what I mean? It was an open door with nobody else to take it," muses the entirely grateful actress. Since her silver screen debut, it's been a tailspin for Michelle, who What could you not live without? has fortunately filmed one blockbuster after another: Fast & Furious, S.W.A.T., Resident Evil, Avatar… With her tough-as-nails attitude and physical strength to match, Michelle has had no problem portraying powerful female roles, quickly branding herself a badass. In the beginning, Michelle consciously pigeonholed herself – intent to communicate through her art that women are much stronger than they're given credit for. But now that women have become more empowered, are more independent, and gender roles are reversing, Michelle feels that she can give the tough girl persona a break. "It's not that important for me to be strong anymore. That's why it's so slow for me (the transition) I'm like, Whoa, wait! But I'm like this badass chick, but now I have to tone it down, 'cause there's no need. I don't have to fight anymore… I don't have to be this butch bitch anymore. Now, I can sit down and I can relax and have my shoulders massaged. I can let down my guard and not be so defensive all the time." "Information. I'm all about the love thing and I'm all about family, but for me personally, I feel meaningless without my purpose. I have this drive where I can't really live and be happy unless I'm passing on information. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I'm doing what I'm here for." Paralleling society's progression, Michelle finds that she too is evolving and is entertaining a broader range of roles —roles that she wouldn't have thought twice about in the past. "Like Machete, I never would've taken off my shirt and walked around with an eye patch, especially ever even come near an older man with craters on his face," Michelle exclaims boisterously. "I love Danny Trejo —he's my favorite man in the world," she adds, "But to play like a girl who's interested in him as a girlfriend, never. I'm switching, little by little. I'm very slow." Not someone to take anything she projects onscreen lightly, she Her break into acting is a similar case of luck and talent meeting opportunity at just the right time. All set to go to Six Flags for the day, the then 21-year-old Michelle's plans took a turn when the friend she was going with was arrested. Presented with a fork in the road, she had two choices: go to the amusement park alone or attend an open casting call she'd heard about seeking a female boxer-type. The green ingénue had never auditioned for a role before. Michelle had done some extra work for two years but had "quit" and put that all behind her. Something inside told her to give it another go, so she joined the 350 other hopefuls and waited to audition. "I walked in and told them the truth. 'I've never acted before. I could probably kick all of their (the other actors) asses. But I'm not scared of your cameras,'" she told them honestly. Her star power blazed through and she landed the lead in the independent film, Girlfight. Michelle's breakthrough performance garnered her several awards, loads of attention and caught the eye of Vin Diesel, who, she tells me, requested that she be cast as his girlfriend in Fast & Furious. Awed by her story, I ask if she believes in fate and luck. explains that she's very tactical and thoughtful about the choices she makes in her career. "You're communicating with millions of people around the world. I don't want to throw anything out there… I'm not just going to go and play the girlfriend, fuck this one, fuck that one onscreen like it's nothing, that shit means something to me," she expresses passionately. It takes an intelligent woman to succeed, and Michelle is rapidly illustrating that she certainly has the brains to cultivate a long and fruitful career. Perspicacious and a masterful negotiator, Michelle shares with me that she has persuaded writers to re-write her role when they've tried to kill her character off. "I was supposed to die in Machete," she states matter-of-factly. "He altered the script for me. I said, I'm tired of playing people who die! What is it with you people? You don't give up the ass or you're not the girlfriend and all of sudden you're getting killed?" She throws her hands up animatedly and laughs. "I'm like, 'Jesus! Get creative man. Strong women exist too!'" Right when you thought you've seen the last of her, think again, she's not going anywhere. "I come back in Fast & Furious too. I guess they're all feeling bad for killing me off. They're MIAMI LIVING 59

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