I’ve always been a sucker for the Hollywood take on a man vs. nature scenario. Whether it’s giant ants created by an atomic bomb in the 1954 creature feature THEM!, or Seventies classics like EARTHQUAKE or AIRPORT ’77 – the one where the plane crash lands in the ocean – I adore that kind of survival story. This brings me to the IFC Midnight thriller CENTIGRADE. Inspired by a true tale, a woman and her husband find themselves trapped in their car after a snowstorm while in Norway. And we’re talking fully frozen beneath a few feet of snow and ice. The new film features the impressive talents of Genesis Rodriquez and Vincent Piazza. Considering that the focus remains on the two for the entire run time, the performances they give are all the more impressive.
We recently had the sheer joy of speaking to this wonderful cast. First up, we spoke with the lovely and talented Genesis Rodriguez. Full disclosure, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of talking with Genesis many times before. And yet, this performance may be her best thus far. She is grounded, natural, and vulnerable, but stronger than even she realizes. It’s simply fantastic work. During our chat, we discussed the basis for the film, and just how difficult it was to shoot a film in what was once an ice cream truck. Ms. Rodriguez is one of the most personable and kind people I’ve had the pleasure of geeking out on movies with, and it’s exciting to see her work in this impressive new feature that is currently available on your favorite streaming site.
Massive thanks again to Genesis, and look for more from CENTIGRADE with Vincent Piazza coming soon to We Live Entertainment!
What is it about working in thrillers that attracts you to the material? With this and TUSK, you really just excel at it?
I don’t go into it thinking like, oh, this is my wheelhouse. I’m terrified of this because it’s so vulnerable. So with this specific film, the lines weren’t set in stone, they were changing every day. Every day I had new scenes, so I couldn’t marry my script. Which for me, I’m like a type a, I love to know my lines. I love to overstudy them. And I like to figure out my beats and my actions just because the more I memorize it, the safer I feel. And the more freedom I can feel. This film was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done because I shot a whole movie like that.
Now, similar to TUSK, that’s something that Kevin would do. And then the next day he would show up with like 15 pages and be like, look, you can try this out if it doesn’t turn out good we don’t put it in the movie, but try it out. Do you want to try it out? And I’d be like, okay. And that kind of prepared me for something like this, but you never really think like, oh this is awesome. Like, I’m going to freaking kill this job. You really go in thinking, this is terrifying, I have no idea what I’m doing. And I pray to God it turned out okay. And people like it because yeah, cause it would apply. It was so on the fly.
Terrifying makes sense. I think it’s a perfect word for the experience because it’s just you two. That’s it for the whole movie. That’s a lot of pressure.
Well, my God, that is also so much pressure. You have no one else. No cast, no special effects. So if it’s not good, it’s because of us two, do you know what I mean?
Yeah. Very true. I also found it interesting that you, shot this in an ice cream truck? Is that correct?
It’s true. So we shot this in an ice cream freezer and it was absolute torture because I went on a very extreme diet. I wanted you to see the physical change in appearance. So I was surrounded by ice cream and obviously crew members have to eat, like seeing piping hot chili and the juiciest cheeseburgers in front of you and you instinctually are just staring at them. Like I want that cheeseburger. What does it taste like? Immediately you go into this primal mode that happens when you’re hungry and angry. So the whole film, I was really, really angry. I got to say that never went away.
Wow. Well, did you take this character with you? Do you kind of go home and go, oh my God, I’ve got to get out of this place or something?
It was hard. That movie stayed with me. I would say for at least six months, I couldn’t shake it off. It was just emotionally, really, really taxing. And it was just torture. And then I felt like I ran a marathon and I didn’t know what the consolation prize was. You know, I had no idea if it turned out okay. If it didn’t, it was just instinct as actors and it was fearful, but I feel like if you don’t have fear, you’re not growing as an actor. And my whole thing is I never want to get comfortable in what I do because then you never become better. And you never have those special little moments that you take from those special, iconic films, things that happen are always moments that actors take because it can be magic. And the only way to get to that is if you have fear and some butterflies in your stomach.
This whole entire experience was fear-driven. It’s not like I went home and I was able to relax or not feel hungry. All I could think about was, oh my God, what are the lines going to be tomorrow? I have no idea. How am I going to say this? I don’t even know how to say this. But all those things help. And so I, I was constantly stressed for about a month, and it was, it was a very, very stressful situation, but it all helps. It all helps the circumstances we were under. The sad thing is, is that Naomi, you know, the real Naomi, she couldn’t get out of a car. So I had that luxury, that one luxury of getting out of the car whenever I felt like it, whenever I got too claustrophobic or I was able to sleep in a bed at night. That’s not a luxury that she had. And that helped me keep things into perspective. Like, hey, Gen, things could be a lot worse. Like, let’s just, let’s just make a movie here, you know? Keep it fun. So, yeah, that helps.
This is a true story correct?
There were a lot of different survival stories within our story just to make our movie better. But I know for a fact that there was a couple that got trapped for that amount of time. I’m not entirely sure if she was pregnant or not, but that adds another layer to the movie. And it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that the first instinct wasn’t to break the window and get out of the car. I was like, why aren’t these people doing this? This makes no sense. If I was in a car with a husband I wasn’t getting along with, I would have been the first one out of the car; like Genesis would’ve been out walking two miles within the first ten minutes of this movie. They had to really show me what ice looks like, the thickness of the ice. And then until I went to Norway, that’s when I understood like we shot where they shot Planet Hoth, you know James, so like Planet Hoth with walls and wall of frozen solid ice. And, I had no idea how cold it could possibly be until I went there. I don’t wish that upon my worst enemy, seriously.
Wow. Now, with the film coming out at such an interesting time, when I spoke with your co-star Vincent Piazza, we talked about what we’re kind of going through, how the entire world basically is going through a similar survival kind of type mode right now. How has that affected you? I know you’ve been doing a lot of animation, so that must be kind of a dream come true right now.
Well, unfortunately, all those animation jobs, I shot them a while ago. So like I am in a pandemic. I don’t have a job and I’m really, really struggling here. I’m trying to do auditions by Zoom and it’s just not, it’s just not the same experience. Of course, this pandemic is very hard on all of us. And if anything, I hope this movie shows that 1, it could be a lot worse. And 2, we have to aim for those little moments of happiness, just the little ones that give us hope. Is it making your favorite coffee in the morning or eating, you know, your favorite food whenever you feel like it? Or is it not working out on the days or, you know, like taking it easy on yourself. This is really, really important because this is very difficult. And I hope this movie can help bring some perspective that it could be a lot worse. We should be grateful for the roof over our heads and the food in our bellies, and the bed we sleep on at night.