The Emotional Reason Top Gun: Maverick’s Monica Barbaro Put Extra Pressure On Herself During Filming

Responsibility is a heavy word when it comes to legacy-quels like 2022’s new movie release Top Gun: Maverick. Following up a story like that of Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell isn’t exactly an easy feat, which means that the people behind such an enterprise feel responsible for living up to its storied predecessor. However, in terms of actors like Monica Barbaro, there are other responsibilities that lead to some added pressures.

In the case of the woman behind the character of Lt. Natasha “Phoenix” Trace, that pressure came from her status as the lone female aviator seen engaging in the more strenuous parts of the film's mission. I learned as much when I was invited to participate in the press day to promote the home entertainment release of Top Gun: Maverick, courtesy of Paramount

While she did acknowledge the other female cast member shown as part of the crew eligible for Maverick’s super secret mission, Barbaro admitted to CinemaBlend that Phoenix’s role in the plot pushed her to go a bit harder, which led to this very personal motivation:

I think that I put, probably more than I needed to, but a ton of pressure on myself to just be as good as possible. I think I’ve never been more competitive than I was in making this film, and we would see what each other pulled in the plan, and I’d be like, ‘Ok. I’m gonna pull more G’s.’ There was just a competitiveness in me that felt like I was responsible for showing women everywhere that they’re like not only just as capable as men of doing these things, but if anything sometimes moreso. And I met incredible women who are that, day in and day out. So I feel like I needed to represent them well too. I think it was more out of responsibility that I took on for myself, maybe unnecessarily.

The dedication that Monica Barbaro brought to Top Gun: Maverick ended up making her a rather mythic figure in the eyes of her co-stars and advisors. Aerial coordinator Kevin La Rosa was especially impressed, citing a lot of the aspects Barbaro mentioned above as feats that made an impression. Yet if you were to talk to the actress herself about this subject, she’d write off some portions as merely luck.

Monica Barbaro admitted as much in another point of this interview, conducted with her Top Gun sequel wingman Lewis Pullman present. He too praised her abilities, showcasing just how and why the chemistry between these stars rewrote their initial plot. Maintaining her humble attitude throughout the conversation, Barbaro further explained her thought process in the following context:

I think I just lucked into the stomach thing. If I’m being perfectly honest, I did feel..not to make it about this, but I’ve spoken with female pilots who’ve shared sort of similar sentiments. So I think it’s valid to talk about being the only woman who was going to go through that part of the training. There’s another female aviator played by Kara Wang, who’s incredible. But as far as the aerobatic training and things like that, realizing that I was the only woman in that group, and that the proportion of male to female pilots is so heavily leaning towards male pilots … the fact that I am a woman made me feel a little bit of extra pressure … I didn’t wanna be the weakest link.

The training Top Gun: Maverick’s cast endured was no walk in the park for anyone involved. However, the consensus seems to point to the fact that Monica Barbaro was more than likely the MVP according to many who were there to witness it firsthand. That kind of perseverance makes for great stories and fantastic film moments that could propel director Joseph Kosinski’s legacy-quel into the realm of the best action movies to have ever existed. 

You can judge for yourself if Top Gun: Maverick fits that bill, as the film is now available for purchase and rental in physical and digital formats. While those of you with a Paramount+ subscription are still waiting for an exact date as to when the movie will be available for streaming, it will indeed be that platform you’ll want to access when the time comes. Though you can currently watch the original Top Gun, should you want a refresher before Captain Mitchell’s next big adventure. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.