Gina Ro­driguez of­fi­cially is a movie star

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - An­drea Man­dell

LOS AN­GE­LES – Talk to Gina Ro­driguez – sip her cof­fee, take a seat on her mid­cen­tury leather kitchen stool, laugh over her Marie Kondo closet-purg­ing sto­ries – and it seems as though noth­ing fright­ens her.

The 34-year-old made it through her 20s as a strug­gling ac­tress be­fore hit­ting it big with CW’s “Jane the Vir­gin.” Ro­driguez has since an­nounced a “Jane” spinoff, along with sev­eral other projects from her pro­duc­tion com­pany. She’s the new face of Net­flix’s Carmen Sandiego.

Yet on Fri­day, her new ac­tion thriller “Miss Bala” hits the­aters, the first big movie she’s head­lined. And, yeah, she’s ner­vous. “It’s very scary,” she says. “It just feels like the stakes are dif­fer­ent.”

In “Miss Bala,” Ro­driguez plays Glo­ria, a Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can makeup artist who drives from her home in Los An­ge­les to Ti­juana to help a girl­friend get ready for a lo­cal pageant. Caught in the cross hairs of a bloody club shootout, Glo­ria is taken cap­tive by a drug car­tel.

Threat­ened with a life of traf­fick­ing and sub­ju­ga­tion, Ro­driguez’s Glo­ria in­stead chooses to hit back, an el­e­ment Ro­driguez clearly rel­ishes. “If some­thing was to hap­pen, you know that fight or flight? I’m the one for an apoc­a­lypse,” she em­pha­sizes. “Like, be on my team. Be­cause I would pro­tect you.”

“Miss Bala,” based on an ac­claimed 2011 Mex­i­can in­de­pen­dent film, has been reimag­ined for to­day’s au­di­ences. In the up­date, Glo­ria was given more agency and, frankly, more fight. “The only thing I kept ask­ing, and we all kept push­ing for, was if this were a man, what would he do?” says the ac­tress, whose fa­vorite movie is Har­ri­son Ford’s “The Fugi­tive.”

But even in the af­ter­math of such suc­cesses as the Os­car-nom­i­nated “Black Pan­ther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” the in­dus­try is wait­ing to see how “Miss Bala” – an English-lan­guage Latina-led thriller sup­ported by a mostly Lat­inx cast – will do at the box of­fice. And Ro­driguez knows it.

“I’ve seen it in the past when it comes to Lat­inx-led films,” says Ro­driguez, proudly de­scrib­ing how “Miss Bala,” which shot in Mex­ico, was 95 per­cent Lat­inx-staffed both in front of and be­hind the cam­era.

“They don’t do great, then you don’t see an­other one for awhile.”

On the set, she took the op­por­tu­nity se­ri­ously. Ro­driguez, who has Hashimoto’s au­toim­mune disease, stuck to a strict diet and fit­ness reg­i­men for “Miss Bala,” with the help of her fi­ance, pro­fes- sional Muay Thai boxer Joe LoCicero.

“He helped me train be­cause he has also helped me re­cal­i­brate my re­la­tion­ship with my weight and my body from an ath­letic stand­point,” she says.

Even now, back at a curvier “Jane” weight, “I’m not afraid of the scale,” she says. “I don’t see a re­flec­tion in my value.”

As Ro­driguez talks, stand­ing bare­foot in her white-tiled kitchen, pups Marty and Casper are un­der­foot, eye­ing the ev­ery move of LoCicero, just back from a gro­cery run. Marty howls. “Baby, will you take Marty? It’s like our chil­dren. I’m like, ‘ Honey, please take the child,’ ” she laughs.

Di­rec­tor Cather­ine Hard­wicke (”Twi­light,” “Lords of Dog­town”) de­scribes Ro­driguez as both den mother and per­sonal cheer­leader.

“In any film, you’ve got set­backs,” says the di­rec­tor.

“The weather doesn’t co­op­er­ate, you can’t get a per­mit, or they cut two days out of the sched­ule. One time, she saw me mop­ing or com­plain­ing about some­thing and she said, ‘You’re made for this! You’ve worked your whole life for this!’ She would not lis­ten to any neg­a­tiv­ity.”

If “Miss Bala” works as coun­ter­pro­gram­ming this Su­per Bowl week­end, it could mean a fran­chise for Ro­driguez, a Ja­son Bourne, if you will.

But a di­ver­sity win in the in­dus­try isn’t just about be­ing “the Latina film” that won at the box of­fice, says pro­ducer Pablo Cruz. It’s about chang­ing the norm.

“What will be amaz­ing is if in a year or two we’re mak­ing the third in­stall­ment of ‘ Miss Bala,’ and we say (ex­ple­tive), there’s two more films like ours, be­cause now things have changed.”

For Ro­driguez, it’s all about the push. “I played a woman that pro­tects her­self and saves her­self and tries. I do that ev­ery day. Don’t you?”

PHO­TOS BY GRE­GORY SMITH/SONY PICTURES EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

Glo­ria (Gina Ro­dríguez, with Is­mael Cruz) is taken cap­tive by a drug car­tel in “Miss Bala.”

Ro­dríguez says the film’s cast and crew is 95 per­cent Latino.

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