12BY6 Interviews Rosa Salazar from “Alita: Battle Angel”
“We’re here! We’re here to stay in film this time. We’re not going back!” -Rosa Salazar
In theaters on February 14th Rosa Salazar brings a cyborg warrior to life with her charisma and conviction in James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’s new film “Alita: Battle Angel”. Growing up in Washington D.C, getting out of foster care and becoming legally emancipated at 15 helped create Rosa’s determination and drive. This type of willpower and bravery can’t be taught, it has to be experienced. Salazar of Peruvian decent credits her hard work ethic to Latin roots as stated, “we have that work ethic, that’s what Latinos carry inside of them”. Rosa understands that she comes from a long history of hard workers, it is in her blood and in her spirit. You can see the passion she has as it oozes out on screen in the performance as Alita.
Salazar speaks about trying to find herself and who she wanted to be “I didn’t know where I fit in, in the world, fit in Hollywood, I didn’t know where I fit in LA, I didn’t even know where I fit in myself.”. Although she felt lost she was passionate about acting and telling stories through her art. In following her passion Rosa did not go without trials and tribulations “I’m not white enough for the white people, not Latin enough for Latin people”, Rosa expresses she found it difficult to find roles, in between culture. It was at that point the Peruvian native became determined to carve out a role for herself, similar to Alita from the film trying to find herself through out her journey. Salazar’s drive and unwillingness to give up is what makes her the person she is today and the perfect person to play the leading role in creator James Cameron’s passion project, continuously telling herself “if you just keep pushing it will happen.” It was then, Salazar was mirroring her character in her upcoming role. She realized she and Alita had more in common than she thought. She repeated those words to herself and they became her mantra as she educated herself on her character and the protocols of Hollywood. Rosa Salazar was born for this! She felt it in every fiber of her being. She knew from the very start that her experiences were all pushing her towards her dreams. She gleamed as she gushed over her love for cinema as she reminisced:
“I remember being a young film goer…there was that first wave of Latinos in film and we were super-hot in the 90’s, there was “Selena”, “Mi Famila”, “Blood in Blood out”, and “Desperado”.
Salazar recalls a time in film were Latinos played prominent roles in film and suddenly saw a stop for some reason. There seemed to be a dry spell it was as if in movies Latinos weren’t getting roles they once did. Salazar used this as motivation to fight for roles. Rosa found herself carrying the weight of being Latina on her shoulders causing herself to work twice as hard to break into the seemingly impenetrable walls of Hollywood.
The film is an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro manga “Gunnm”. Salazar wanted to stay as true to the original as possible, doing so did come with some difficulties. The actress had to track down copies of the books from EBay because they were from 1990, she read all the books twice and that was before she even auditioned. It was joked that every actress auditioned for this role so Salazar went prepared but also with a let’s see what happens kind of attitude. She made the Alita audition into her own and director of the film Robert Rodriguez took notice stating, “that she embodied the spirit of Alita the moment she walked in the room” Salazar expressed the feelings when she found out that she had got the part of Alita “relief, excitement and readiness.” It took her five months of martial arts training and reading the material to help bring Alita to life. Salazar understood how dedicated the fans are and wanted to be as true to the manga as possible. There is an earnest feel to the film and Salazar’s portrayal of the character. Alita is trying to find who she is, something Rosa Salazar is more than familiar with as she as battled that with herself. In the film, Alita awakes in Iron city, it is a city of survivors that are reminded they are not a part of the upper class. The elite live Zalem the last of the great sky cities. It is similar to today’s world as the one percent control a vast majority of the country’s wealth. Although the film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world it draws great similarities to today’s real-world problems. Salazar did not have to search far to draw inspiration to play the heroine in the film, all she had to do was turn on a TV. As she saw her people being detained at the border, talks of a wall and constant slander of Latinos. Salazar stated she “wants Latinos in film to be a beacon of hope. A positive thing in a sea of grim things” Salazar understand her platform and the responsibility she has a Latina in Hollywood.
Rosa Salazar doesn’t just play Alita she is Alita. A real-life heroine trying to fight and be a role model for all Latinos. As she states “We’re here! We’re here to stay in film this time. We’re not going back!” Just like Alita, Rosa Salazar is fighting for who she is and what is right. Using her platform to raise awareness and inspire Latinos everywhere.
Check out Rosa Salazar in “Alita: Battle Angel” in theaters on February 14th!