After wrapping his photo shoot with the Mexican actress and CoverGirl spokeswoman, our photographer trades his camera for a pen and paper as he sits down with his subject to probe below the surface.
Charlie Sheen has been all over the news with all his various rants and theories. Many believe they are just seeing the live version of the character he’s played all these years. I always felt that many actors play some sort of version of themselves; would you say any of your roles are an extension of Ana?
Certain things are an extension of you, because sometimes you improvise a little bit and many things come from your life. I’ve been very lucky to play very different characters. I’ve played the love interest many times, but I’ve played different roles. You put a little bit of yourself in every role and you develop that. Sometimes when you play a role that is close to something in life, it works very well. Sometimes I get a role that has nothing to do with me, and those are the hardest roles, because you feel a little bit lost. You ask where shall I go, and you work it out with the director and do a lot of research.
I actually thought of that question after seeing your commercial for Kahlua. It seemed like that part came easy for you — like you were almost playing yourself.
I didn’t know the commercial was like that until I got onto the set. The director was amazing. He was asking me to do these things, and of course I had to do my version of it. I do a little bit of a stronger accent, but I didn’t want to be too obvious or cliché.
Despite growing up in Mexico and only moving to LA relatively recently, you seem to pick up on American humor. Did you grow up around American movies and television?
I did. I grew up with American TV, since we had satellite TV with no subtitles. I watched all the American cartoons and TV. We only had like four channels in Mexico, but then we had a whole rainbox of channels from the U.S. I grew up watching comedies, John Hughes films, and American humor. That’s why I get it.
Do you have any particular inspirations or influences from what you watched growing up?
I have a lot of John Hughes references. Those are the kinds of movies my sister and I watched over and over again. And because she was older, I couldn’t change the channel. I remember watching 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, and Some Kind of Wonderful … those types of movies. I saw them hundreds of times.
How did you first get involved in acting?
I started dancing when I was young. I always knew I liked the stage. Dancing, singing, whatever. When I was 11, I realized I didn’t have the proper training to be a professional dancer because I was from a small town. Then I found out about an acting school in Mexico City. And I told my mom, “When I turn 17, I’m going to go there.” I later went as an exchange student to study in New York, and then when I came back I started in the local TV channel. I was doing a TV show there for a little while. Then I went to the theatre — my hometown theatre — for six months. Then when I turned 16, I tried out for this school. I did the audition, and I got in. I moved to Mexico City when I turned 17 and became an actor.
What was your first big break?
I did a telenovela when I was 19. I had an amazing role. It was a dramatic and romantic role. It was kind of like a Romeo and Juliet … I fall in love with my cousin, and I later kill myself. It was a period-telenovela. I won an award for that as a newcomer, and that’s when people noticed me.
I was lucky to get into film right after the telenovela. I got a big break on this TV show, but I wasn’t the lead. I wasn’t carrying the whole show, so then I could go and do a movie. I was the lead in the movie and suddenly people recognized me from the movie and from the show.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the acting world?
You have to be very focused and not get lost along the way. You can’t just go to an audition sometimes and sometimes work in a store. No. You have to stay running and give it a shot. Many people find out that it’s not for them, because the rejection is very difficult. But you have to be patient, if you really want it.
Tell us about your new film, Cowboys & Aliens. How did you prepare to become Maria in the movie?
It was crazy because when I read the script, I thought I was perfect for that role. I love period films. This takes place in the 1800s, when the Western U.S. became part of the U.S. California, Arizona … those were part of Mexico before. I read a lot about what was going on at that time. I talked to the director. We improvised a lot.
What does it mean to you to be working in a movie produced by Steven Spielberg?
I haven’t met him yet. I hope to meet him soon, because I know that will be amazing. He’s a visionary.
Your career has obviously developed a lot in recent years. Do you have any goals for the years to come?
As an actor, you are always worried that you’ll never be called again. It feels horrible. Now I’m between jobs. I’m probably going to do a movie again in May, but until then you feel nobody is going to call you again. I just want to pass that.