By Jack Rico
Rosario Dawson One on One Interview For ‘Eagle Eye’
By Gabe Lerhman
Question: Do you feel like a role model for Latina women in this role?
Dawson: Absolutely. That was very much a reason why I wanted to play this part. I think that we have a lot of Latinas in the military who are unrepresented especially the forty-two thousand who are fighting overseas for us right now that are residents here who aren’t even citizens and are hoping to gain their citizenship by being in the military. I just think that it was such an incredible opportunity to represent women and Latin women and minority women in such a high profile part and such a high profile movie. It’s an incredible opportunity. Also the obvious stuff, it’s a thriller, entertaining and fun. But it does have some serious intonations about government responsibility and specific participation and where we all fall into the middle of that with our technology. It was such a great opportunity to learn a lot about what goes on behind the scenes because I went to Andrews Air Force base. I went and visited a lot of the young men and women who are doing all of the work behind the scenes. I was there as well when we were welcoming back troops that Friday. I stayed a little extra longer to meet people who had just come in. It was incredible to see how young they are and them saying, ‘I wish I was back there to kind of protect all the people that I was with.’ There’s such a solidarity there and discipline. I just wanted to get it right when I was portraying Zoe Perez.
Question: She’s almost the hero in that she almost dies to stop this awful thing, right?
Dawson: Yeah, so it’s an interesting thing. You play that person who is so sure and she’s someone who’s created herself to be ready and she doesn’t know to what extent the demands will be and doesn’t know if she’ll even get that opportunity or even be put into that situation, but she will be ready. So it’s interesting to test someone, to see this woman who’s brought up in this very small charge that’s going where someone died and she just has to look into it and make sure that everything is okay and his brother got something attached and he has all this military stuff. They’re like, ‘You just need to interview everyone.’ It just keeps escalating and as it escalates to all the other characters it escalates for her. She has to wrap her head around something that’s bigger and it’s great to have played someone who from the beginning said, ‘I think this is bigger.’ As it was happening she was prepared for it to get larger. I loved being able to be in the position where I was arguing with Billy Bob Thornton’s character, the head of the FBI. I loved being in the position where she was standing up to the other people around her. When she’s standing in the Secretary of Defense’s office she’s also very strong, going, ‘Sir, please pardon me –’ and goes forward and is strong. She’s nervous too and I loved being able to show that she wasn’t just militant and disciplined to the point of not being human. She’s someone who takes her job very seriously and is not afraid of coming off badly because she knows she’s doing the right thing and she’s put her entire being into being the right instrument and doing the right thing. That’s an incredible kind of character to portray.
Question: I like that she’s so smart that she’s like the detective in the movie.
Dawson: It was really interesting. Especially in a big movie like this where you look at it and go, ‘Okay, this is the story and this is what certain moments need –’ or whatever and you’re playing someone who was so vital, I think, and making sure that certain details were taken care of and information was gained. She becomes that vessel for the audience, a window for the audience to get to see what’s unveiled. I love playing the person who gives the audience the little eggs of information and allows you to see from her perspective and how she deals with it – is she blown away, is she shocked, can she handle it? That bleeds into how the audience gets into it. ‘Do we just expect this –’ like it’s plausible or do we question it and go, ‘Oh, okay, that’s too far fetched.’ I think it’s a striking thing to not only represent your character well, but also help the story move along and make sure that the audience is following because there’s so much going on all the time. I felt like a lot of time I was doing stunt acting because I was racing down the hallway and talking really fast and saying all of these things that took me a while to learn what they meant. Someone like her and in her position with that much military personnel around, they use shorthand. They’re not going to spell it all out for the audience. I had to really make it understandable for everyone in that situation so that we can follow along in the story and be able to cut from a dialogue scene into a car crash. So it’s got to have a pace and an energy. It feels so strange to do stuff like that, but on a movie like this, as big as it is, you’re always thinking about where the audience is and what they’re feeling and what they need right now in the story. So you want to always inject energy into it and I always felt like a very stirring experience, to always be thinking about that. This is one of those movies where you want them to be sitting on the edge of their seat and you want to have that lump in your throat, going, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ I grew up on movies like this. I love thrillers. I love action. So to be in that position where I’m knowing that as I’m doing this someone in their seat is going to be squirming is such a great feeling.
Question: Is it as enjoyable watching an action movie as making one is?
Dawson: It depends. There are certain movies that I would watch that I would know I wouldn’t like playing that type of character in those types of situation and it is fun to just be entertained. So I think it’s really kind of incredible to watch a great action movie, but to be in the position where I get to do one, where I get to watch myself up there and I get to put myself in the harness and get slung around, that honestly is the best thing. It’s great to do a great dramatic role, dialogue scenes and all that kind of stuff where it feels like you’re really acting and it all feels connected and amazing, but it’s even better to just all day long be jumping in and out of a pool and fighting and breaking things and getting flung from here to there. You come home feeling battered and bruised. I had bruised all throughout the making of this movie. I think that we were very specific at times to make sure that I had long sleeves and long pants on because it was just impossible to not get bruised throughout the making of this movie. It feels so physically rewarding. You go out and do a scene and you feel really good about it, but if you knock that wall down and you were supposed to you definitely know that you did that and that always feels good.
Question: How was the huge crash scene at the beginning of the movie?
Dawson: It was awesome. It was amazing. It was the middle of the night and it was one of those days where you slept all day and you end up being like a vampire from doing night shoots. You’re up at like four o’clock in the afternoon and going into hair and makeup and then you’re downtown and doing car chases with police escorts and going through red lights and seeing people held back at the lights going, ‘What’s going on?’ You’re doing this huge setup with smoke and broken glass. So it’s kind of incredible. I’m not a person who likes to look at a car crash. I think it’s absolutely horrible and terrifying to see one in person, but to see how one is constructed and put together and try to make it plausible that people could be caught up in something as gnarly as that and the police get diverted this way or that, but the story keeps moving on and how did those people get away and you have to get them. There’s something about it that feeds you energy and you realize how many people it takes to make a movie like this. There are so many stunt people and props guys and everything. So many people on the film make that one moment happen and it’s incredible. The details that go into it feel really exciting to be a part of especially with a movie like this that’s so big budgeted. You don’t have to cheat anything. You don’t have to fake anything. They really use real vehicles and they really just went for it as much as they possibly could even if they were only going to show a fraction of it. They still had it all there and that just gives you something to work with. It’s not some theater scene where you’re just pretending. It’s really physically happening around you and it’s very exciting and very interesting.
Question: After making this movie are you more cautious about what you say on your cell phone?
Dawson: I’ve always been that way in general. I think that people are going to be much more aware of it. I was aware when it was legally passed that our cell phones could looked at and played into. So the reality of this movie is the reality of our lives right now. We are constantly being watched. If you go online we’re told where our preference is. We can be tracked by our cell phones which can tell us what direction to go if we’re lost. There are video cameras setup everywhere you walk. You’re constantly on film or on digital anyway. It’s just really incredible, the whole idea of Big Brother and the whole ‘1984’ thing. It’s a truism right now. I wonder how many people think about it because we’re so distracted by the idea of it, going, ‘Wow, it’s cool. Look at this gadget that I have.’ But we kind of forget, like, ‘Wait a second. This gadget has you.’ I think that’s an interesting and really strong conversation to have right now, about where we are and what that means about us and can we get things done without it. I think that human tenacity and the ability sometimes when we’re bored and have to figure something out is really great. I love Googling things and finding something out when you need it quick, but it was a great experience growing up and walking around the library and having to find the book that you needed. There are good things and bad things about both and I feel like something like this begs the question that we should be curious about this and not just accept it. I think that’s the most important thing.
Question: Do you think after watching this movie someone in the White House will think this computer is a great idea, or do you think this computer already exists?
Dawson: I have a feeling that it probably already exists [laughs]. When you think about it I believe we’d be surprised at how much people know or don’t know. I think I’m always surprised at that, from what an average person knows and what we assume our government does and doesn’t know. I think it’s always refreshing to think that no one knows what they’re talking about or that things aren’t going well, this or that, but then you end up finding out later how much things were so controlled. I think when you look at where we are in our world today as a global community, as much as we complain about things going wrong, the fact that it doesn’t go even more wrong – in a movie like this you can see how wrong things can go – is really amazing. I think it’s important to recognize that. I definitely got that out of playing Agent Zoe Perez. I was really looking at the people behind these things that keep things running as smoothly as possible. I also think that you look at this and at the characters and for the American people it was just a blip. They had this huge crisis and situation and then they just kind of moved it away. ‘And now onto something else.’ I think that’s fascinating, how many times stories come and go and you go, ‘Oh, wasn’t that – I guess it wasn’t that important.’ It could’ve been huge. How much we’re allowed to know and how much we know and how much we don’t know is something that always fascinates me.
Question: I think this movie even though it’s a blockbuster has a lesson about the dangers of technology. Also, you have this new TV show ‘Gemini Division’ which uses technology in a very different way.
Dawson: Yeah, it’s webisodic.
Question: Can you talk about that, how technology can also be good?
Dawson: Yeah, that’s also part of questioning the technology around us and how we use that to interfere or develop or change human life forms, robotics and the things that we have around us. Our cell phones are really interesting, but if you look at what kinds of robots they’re creating in Japan you’ll be blown away and go, ‘How come we don’t have that kind of technology.’ There are some really insane things out there. Like, they have fake dogs and they’re making human caretakers, human-like caretakers. We’re not that far away from those i-Robots that are going to be picking up our kids from school, cleaning our houses and taking care of the elderly and babysitting. It’s an interesting kind of idea, that technology that’s being developed to make our lives quote unquote easier. The whole series is done through this woman’s PDA, her cell phone. The things that it can do are great. I mean, we’re excited about the iPhone, but wait until you see what this phone can do. It’s an interesting thing because the show isn’t ten years in the future, but more like five minutes in the future that we’re just about to have. That was a really fun thing to do. It was like, ‘Can we do this? It hasn’t been designed yet, but why not?’ Why couldn’t we be able to do that. I’m sure that they have the technology for it, but haven’t figured out how to make it widespread yet. So we were coming up with ideas and going, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if our cell phone did this?’ I’m sure these are things that someone in a lab somewhere is thinking about and actually making. I loved the idea of looking at this period in a couple of years and seeing how right we were or not.
Question: How do you balance being so busy and juggling so many projects?
Dawson: I did ‘Gemini Division’ and was shooting that in the midst of and then finished after I did both of these two films because I have ‘Seven Pounds’ coming out in December. I did that right after ‘Eagle Eye’. I had done ‘Killshot’ already before and I also shot ‘Explicit Ills’ last year before ‘Eagle Eye’. So I have these two films coming out this fall and winter and then I have two other films coming out. Then ‘Eagle Eye’ and obviously ‘Gemini Division’ is already coming out online. I’m working with my voting organization [?] Latino. We’re working on our next PSA and I’ve been doing so much with that. I’ve actually decided that I’m not working for the next couple of months to specifically focus on this election and my voting organization so that we can try to register as many people as possible and gets as much of the vote out as possible because it’s such a critical time. It’s important to me as the rest of my work is. I feel really grateful during a time when we were in the middle of a strike and there were a lot of people working. It felt really good to be able to be in a position where I was still able to take care of certain people in my family and still be working and doing really good stuff. It’s important for me to be creative as well as work on my philanthropic stuff. I’m on the board for V-Day. I work with The Lower Eastside Girl’s Club. It comes from being a New Yorker I think., multi-tasking. I like being busy and doing a lot of different things. I also like traveling and not doing all that stuff. I’m not addicted to my cell phone so as much as I do all that work stuff I also like having my private time. It’s interesting. It’s a hard balance and it’s something that I imagine I won’t always want to be doing pace wise for the rest of my life, but I have the energy for it now and so it’s probably the best time to tap into it.
Question: Why do you think that Latinos need to know that their vote is important this year?
Dawson: Well, we are the swing vote in this election as they had in 2004. I think it’s really important for people to recognize, specifically Latinos because they have such a credible voice. They’re the people who are so tremendously affected, the first ones to get hurt in a job and the last ones to get compensated. Looking at the foreclosures that have happened since January, there have been over a million, a lot of them unfortunately have been in the Latino population. When you look at healthcare and asthma and diabetes, a lot of that disproportionately affects the Latino community. When you look at the environment and how that affects Latinos, it’s disproportionate to Latinos because a lot of them are having to deal with being near train stations or subway stations or bus stations and have to work really difficult kinds of jobs and aren’t necessarily that glamorous. That’s not all Latinos, but proportionately when you look at the actual numbers that affect them are hard. I feel that’s an important voice. It’s not just like 2006 where you had two million young people marching on the street, talking about immigration and using that as a catalyst to get themselves politically engaged. We need those two million votes. If it doesn’t translate into votes then we’re actually not going to have the critical changes that we need in our legislation. I think to really embrace the fact that we’re not just Latinos, we’re Latino Americans and I think that’s something we very much appreciate in ourselves and want to be respected. As the largest minority it’s time to use that voice we have and recognize it’s power and go, ‘You work for us.’ We’re not the people who are coming here and aren’t the people who aren’t important members of this society, we are a vital and critical people to this society. I think that needs to be reflected not just in our entertainment, but it needs to be reflected in our politics and our policies and in our representation. So I hope that people look at this, especially this election and go, ‘This affects me and my neighbor and my children and my family and my friends and it’s about time that I don’t let my silence be louder than my vote.’ It’s really important to make sure that our vote is out there and let people know that we’re going to hold them accountable if they don’t make true on the promises that they keep telling us. We’re at a vital moment in our history right now where we’re either going to not do well in the next couple of years as a country, globally against the rest of the world or we are. Our education system isn’t working. Our healthcare is in a place that’s not working. We’re in the middle of a war. Our economy, our debt is so tremendous to the point where you have Brazil and Venezuela making their own currency because they’re going, ‘America, you owe so much money to China and we owe you money, but it’s better for us with our own oil to have our own currency.’ These are really major things that I think especially Latinos who quite often have a connection outside of this country within their family to have a strong idea of foreign policy. We need that voice in our politics. I’m very much encouraged with young people especially and for Latinos to get out there, register and vote because it’s your country. Represent.