Can you tell us about your journey from growing up in foster care to landing the lead in a major blockbuster film?

I think so many people out there struggling will find your success story inspiring.

The thing is, different people react to adversity in entirely unique ways. For me, I chose to look at my circumstances like “Ok, well, I’m lucky–I have nothing to lose and nowhere to go but UP.” I attribute a lot of the success in my career to the talents for survival I was forced to pick up early on, because of what I went through, I’m this tenacious woman who is fairly good at handling the shit of life. I’m good at the shit. The shit is what I know.

The struggle for me *now* is–“Oh no… I’m getting everything I want, I have something to lose, there are real stakes here, what the fuck do I do now?” So, it’s a balance. You don’t want to be someone who can’t handle success, or someone who manufactures the shit because that’s what you know and that’s what you’re good at. So I’m diving deep, back into myself, to try and unpack all the trauma from those early years so that I may enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Do you prefer NYC or LA?

I’m east coast by blood but a big part of me has fallen in love with Los Angeles. I learned my craft in NYC, but I use those techniques out here in LA–for this reason the two cities are inextricably linked for me.

What was it like auditioning for Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron? Were you a fan of their work prior to going in for Alita?

I made Robert cry in the room{which}was pretty epic. Of course I’m a huge fan of both guys. I remember seeing ‘DESPERADO’ as a young girl and being completely blown away–two sexy Latinos running from the bad guys while falling in love and walking cooly towards camera while the background explodes into a big ball of fire?! To this day it’s my favourite Rodriguez film and one of my favourite films, period. Titanic made me completely jealous–it stoked that fire in my little heart that said “How do I get to do that? I wanna do that! I can do that! I gotta do that!!!” I love them both for their innovative approach to telling grounded emotional stories. I love them as humans too.

Auditioning can be a soul killing experience. Have you had to deal with rejection and how have you navigated the ups and downs of the industry?

I’m a freak because I love, love,love auditioning. Why would I hate it? I consider an audition to be a five minute play starring me. The thing I struggle with is the waiting. Acting is unlike other art forms such as painting or dancing or writing or playing music because those are all art forms you can just DO whenever you want! With acting, you’re forced to wait around until someone gives you the permission to do your art and that drives me insane. To deal with the frustration, I started playing music, I started writing, I simply had to find an outlet for all the creativity that was building up inside me which if I didn’t express, would ultimately kill me.

You have worked with some incredible industry vets such as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christoph Waltz. What is greatest piece of advice they’ve given you? Or what is the most valuable lesson you have taken away from working alongside them?

Yes. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Bob Odenkirk, etc… I’ve been so lucky to work alongside some of the greats. I cannot recall all of the nuggets of wisdom or book recommendations I’ve gotten from these amazing people but what I can say is–I’m a gypsy at heart, and gypsies believe that if you touch someone great, you will inherit some of their greatness. Being in the presence of greatness and working with such greatness, I’m sure I must’ve picked up some of the magic simply by osmosis. One valuable lessons I’ve picked up from all of them though, is to try and calm down and be more still, be more quiet, obviously a hard one for me.

Tell us more about your upcoming role in Alita – Battle Angel.

Well, there are definitely parallels between my story and Alita’s. We both came from nothing, we’ve both felt insignificant, both dive head first into questionable situations… and most of all, both of us are alllll heart.

As a woman working in the industry what has your experience been?

It’s been up and down. I’ve felt enraged by the disparity in wages, the lack of voice or the annoyance at our voice, but I’ve had a rather charmed experience, personally. I have an extremely caring and protective agent, Jason, who would never let me fall into the wrong room–audition room or otherwise. I can say that as a *Latin* woman it’s been tougher than if I were a Caucasian woman because we have less roles to choose from and the roles that are written for Latinos are often one-dimensional or exploitative of the culture. I aim to change that through representation in such roles as ALITA, but also I plan on writing more roles for the Latin community.

Over the past year we’ve seen several amazing movements within the industry from fighting for equal gender pay to inclusion riders to ensure more diversity in films. How do you feel the industry still needs to change?

We just need to keep going. It needs to be a constant effort, a constant push forward in all of those areas. We cannot tire. We cannot lose momentum.

You’ve worked in so many mediums, television, straightforward film acting, motion capture, animation, etc. What is your favourite? Do you have to change the way you perform for each?

Working for Rotoscope on ‘UNDONE’ was my favourite. I’m a performer that MUST perform or I go mad. Acting for Rotoscope is a process that allows me to act all day long with very little down time, I mean, not even a second to play on the phone or read a book. It’s a face-paced, 28 pages a day, black box theatre meets TV experience that can meet the level of energy I put out. It obviously ain’t for everyone, it takes a lot of endurance. Across all those mediums, I just do the most grounded, organic work and let all the little specific elements of each medium fall away–whether it be the performance capture gear in ALITA, or the sparse set on UNDONE or the everyday environmental stuff of practical TV and film sets. What I do from an acting standpoint hasn’t needed to change, the way it’s being picked up and translated is what changes.

2019… What’s next?