Natalia Reyes on Terminator: Dark Fate, working Tim Miller, and the future of Latino Characters in Hollywood
Last weekend, before a week full of crazy wildfires that ultimately lead to the cancelation of the Terminator: Dark Fate premiere in Hollywood, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with actress Natalia Reyes who plays Dani in the film. Natalia has been working as an actress in Columbia since she was very young and shared with me what it was like to go from stage to television to film while also being part of a major iconic film franchise like Terminator.
Natalia: Hi Scott, it is very nice to meet you.
Scott Menzel: It is nice to meet you as well, Natalia. I want to start this interview talking about being an actress on television and making your way from television into movies. So, before we talk about Terminator, can we talk about, how as an actress that transition is from one medium to the other?
Natalia Reyes: Well, I started in theater.
Scott Menzel: Oh you did? I didn’t realize that.
Natalia Reyes: Yeah. I started when I was young. I was nine when I became part of this musical theater company in Colombia, in Bogota. So, that was my first approach, it was music and theater, and I loved it. I was so happy. I’d spend hours, months, and years there and I loved every minute of it. And I was like, “This is my life. I love it.” Then after high school, I started doing television and that was a whole different language. I think TV was my school, I spent almost 10 years on television and if saw the first thing that I did on TV, it’s terrible, absolutely horrible. I was overacting because I came from the theater. And then I learned the language and this world. I worked a lot as an actress, so that was a lot of experience for me as an actress, and I think that’s something that is on my background and helps me to just improvise and be ready for everything.
But actually, movies were always my dream. Since I was little I was like, “I love movies, I would love to do movies, and I love going to movies.” I started when I was doing TV, I started getting these roles in movies, but I didn’t like them, so I think with movies I want to do the best movies. I need to be careful with my career in film because that’s something that I want to take care of.
Scott Menzel: Right, I get what you are saying.
Natalia Reyes: Yeah. I said no to so many movies that were funny and light because they were not the kind of movies that I wanted to do. So I think that was important, because I started getting these really important directors, and movies that were more independent and different, but I said, “No, that’s what I want to do.” And just by making those decisions I was getting there. And I needed to learn from this language because it’s a different language, like movies you have the camera here and everything is huge, you cannot do everything as big.
So I’ve been always getting ready and preparing myself. I went to Argentina to study, then I moved to New York for two years to do mostly film acting. It was like, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do, so I have to do this.” And then, that was it. I started doing films in Colombia and working with the directors that I admired and loved, and that’s how it started. So in movies, my career has been much more independent, indie, small films, and there’s is Terminator.
Scott Menzel: Wow, that’s impressive but I applaud you for going after what you want and knowing what it is that you wanted.
Natalia Reyes: Yeah and I got this movie. This is a huge opportunity, and it’s a big challenge for me because now it’s not only the movies, but it’s an action movie. That’s another language you need to learn. This is a whole different way of doing a movie. This is a different thing, you need to be ready for that, so that was a new challenge, and it was really exciting.
Scott Menzel: When you talk about film, and it seems like you knew that your passion was always in movies, and that’s where you wanted to end up, but when you were growing up was Terminator one of the films that you loved? What were some of your favorite films when you were growing up?
Natalia Reyes: I wasn’t even born when the first one came out, but it is part of the pop culture around the world. It is like we all know it, I just have this idea of Sarah Connor doing the pull-ups and Arnold with the hand. It was not one of my favorite movies, it was like, “oh yeah that’s cool” and it was so different back then. And Sarah Connor I want to be like her, that’s it. I am not a crazy fan of the franchise. I am not into science fiction or action in general. So, when I went to university and I had all these Asian directors and Latin American directors who I love. I love Latin American movies and I love Asian movies but Korean movies are my favorite. I grew up watching all these independent moviemakers, and I fell in love with that.
So then when I got the movie, they didn’t say it was Terminator, it was just a big Hollywood movie, and so I sent a tape. So after I sent it in, they told me, “This is a Terminator something” and I didn’t know if it’s a remake or a series, or whatever.” And I’m like, “Why are we telling this story again?” What are the stakes in Terminator? Like my gosh, it’s done.
And then I watched T1 and T2 again, and they’re great movies. It’s been 35 years since the first one, and of course, the visual effects now are different and better, and these movies are masterpieces visually. But I’m like, these are great movies and you can still feel how important the story is. It’s really powerful and the characters were well built and strong. And you felt sorry about Sarah, and you care about her. So then I was like, “Yeah, it’s a great idea for a movie, I’m not an action movie fan but those first two films have great plots and are great movies, and now to be part of this, it’s surreal and amazing.”
Scott Menzel: I can only imagine. As someone who’s climbing their way up in the movie industry, do you feel any sort of intimidation when signing onto a movie like this? Where you are working with two actors who are widely known in popular culture but are also viewed as icons?
Natalia Reyes: Yeah. I mean there’s a lot of pressure all around. It’s a huge movie, and this new world for me, and these legends, who you know. Arnold can go anywhere in the world and they’ll know who he is, and Linda’s such an amazing actress. The first part is saying like okay, “I’m going to work with these people and I have to do it well.” And then you just go there and with Linda, it was like love at first sight, it was amazing. And with all of us, I think we just got along together. We love each other, and we were lucky to just like each other, and at the end you’re like, they’re human beings. And Arnold is funny, he likes eating ice-cream, and Linda has her problems, and we’re just all human and you just realize that when working together. We’re all humans and we are just on a film set. We’re all people creating a movie. I think Tim was great at that, it was not for better or for worse, and no one in the film was more important than others, we were just a group of people working together and creating a story.
Scott Menzel: That’s great. As someone who has made the transition from theater to television to film, while also being from another country, do you feel like the environment has changed for you over the last couple of years? Do you feel like the movement of the diverse voices is working?
Natalia Reyes: I think so. I mean this is a reflection of our world that has changed, and it is a different Hollywood in a more inclusive world. I got this part. I’m an actress and I’ve been acting for a while, but I was living a life on an island in front of Cartagena in Colombia in the Caribbean, where it is so isolated. I am really isolated from this world, and I was there, and I sent a tape in and now, I’m here. So, this talks about how different the world is now, I didn’t even live here and I got the role. And I think they were trying to find a Latina, and a person that was an actress, but also just a human who could portray Dani’s story and they found me. I think this shows how different the world is. I think Hollywood is being more inclusive, and it was just time. I think it’s been a long journey for Latino characters being portrayed in a cliché and stereotypical way like always related to drugs or prostitution, or something illegal. So, it’s great that Dani is the main character, who has nothing to do with that and is just a simple normal girl from Mexico City. She is brave and has a good heart and is a hard-working person that loves her family. And she doesn’t die in the second scene, so that’s something (laughs). I think it’s fair and great, and this is just the beginning of bigger and better representation of Latinos in Hollywood movies.
Scott Menzel: I hope so, and I think you’re good in the film. It will be interesting to see how this film does. Whether you get to continue playing this character and being part of the story. Because I do believe it would be nice to kind of have a different perspective than what we’re used to for future Terminator films and I hope you get the opportunity to do so.
Natalia Reyes: We’ll see. I hope so.
Scott Menzel: A big chunk of this movie takes place in Mexico City. Did you guys shoot down there, and what was that like?
Natalia Reyes: We didn’t. That was a pity, and I think that it was an insurance and security thing, because of Narcos thing, you know the scouter?
Scott Menzel: I do remember hearing something about that.
Natalia Reyes: Something had happened, recently when we started shooting, so they decided to shoot between Spain and Hungary. But Tim, the director, was really careful and I was there and Diego Boneta, who is also Mexican was really careful. He was like, “I need this to feel authentic, and not the fake Mexico they did here in Versailles.” This needs to be real and I think they did a great and respectful work with a lot of research. It has that soul of Mexico and I think it’s there. All of the detention centers and immigration and crossing the border parts are accurate and real, honest, and human. So I’m proud of that.
Scott Menzel: You made mention of Tim Miller a few times while we were talking and it seems to me, at least that he had an impact on you. Is there something that as an actress, that you learned from him that you didn’t feel like you knew before? Or is there something about him that stands out from others who you have worked with?
Natalia Reyes: Yeah. Sometimes I’m shocked when the industry allows people with crazy, big egos or just bad behavior. I know very talented people that are great human beings, so I don’t get the point of working with people that are talented but are assholes. I don’t get that, and I think Tim is one of those people that doesn’t allow those kinds of people. You have to be human, humble and creative, and that’s it, we’re all the same, there are no egos, we all just work together. I think he’s great at that because he doesn’t allow assholes.
Scott Menzel: That’s great to know. Tim Miller has no time for anyone being an asshole. Well, thank you so much for your time and I wishing you the best of luck.