We are used to seeing Michelle Rodriguez in some sort of leather jacket co-ord, driving a high-speed car, and wielding a gun, flanked by a bevy of hench men who have never skipped a gym day. You think of Michelle and you simply think ‘badass’, right?
However, in her latest role – under the direction of 12 Years A Slave’s Steve McQueen – the explosions come from within as Michelle stars alongside the Oscar winning powerhouse, Viola Davis in Widows, a tale of four women who pull off an unthinkable heist. It’s gritty, it’s intense and Michelle’s newly-found femininity will break down your emotions.
Sat before me, The Fast and The Furious star couldn’t look less like the character that rocketed her to international fame and girl crush status. “I have got a new stylist, I am finding my inner girl,” she tells me, swishing the hems of her long silk dress. Here, Michelle discusses how she had to, “loose Michelle Rodriguez,” to tackle her toughest role yet. Don’t forget to watch our exclusive video interview with Michelle Rodriguez, above!
What did you learn about badassary from your fellow ‘Widows’ actresses?
Viola Davis, my god, what a force! To have someone laughing in your face and then five minutes later she’s just on a screen being a force to be reckoned with. And Elizabeth (Debriski), my god, her theatre background! I’m surround by so many talented people. Cynthia (xxx), voice of an angel! It was really inspiring.
What did you learn about yourself as an actor through ‘Widows’?
How to destroy the ego. Wham, that was the biggest lesson. To play someone like Linda was rough for me. First off, I was like, ‘why would I play a woman who puts herself in this position to begin with?’ We can dodge that bullet, honey! It’s that whole thing about women who love unconditionally and would do anything for their children and husbands. I’ve always hated the women in my life who have done this – mothers, grandmothers, aunts – women in my life who I’ve seen suffer. I think, ‘why do you love so unconditionally. They’re stepping on you, the men in the world.’ I needed to dive into what it’s like for a woman who does that. It’s very powerful, it’s soft power. In many cases, it’s about being the bigger person to love so unconditionally like a mother does. It was a journey. It wasn’t easy.
These women lead with their femininity – how much of a new script was this to you?
The whole thing in general was, yes. I was thinking, ‘where’s the part where I get to kill everyone with my weapon,’ or ‘when do I get to make something explode?’ It was all internal explosions instead. That’s the beauty of it. You’re working with a guy (director, Steve McQueen) who understands the subtleties of being human and he loves to explore those most uncomfortable moments where birth happens. This is the first time I have faced my fears in one place in my forty years of living. Working on this film is a metaphor: if you’re scared of it, run towards it!
This is a very representative film – what would the younger you say watching this?
I would have been all about Daniel because the younger me was very violent. That kid’s a beast! Growing up in inner city, that’s what you respect, a beating warrior. The younger me would totally be like, ‘Whatsuppp, Daniel?’
How did you cope with the change of physicality within the role?
I had to tone down my Michelle Rodriguez, drop the ego and become mum. It was more about not looking like I know what I’m doing. ‘Is this how you shoot a gun?’ It was hilarious.
Widows is in cinemas now