Why Top Gun: Maverick’s Monica Barbaro ‘Impressed Everybody’ In The Aerial Department Of The Tom Cruise Movie

Tom Cruise may have been the leading man on Top Gun: Maverick, but he certainly wasn’t the only actor who stood out in the 2022 movie release. Maverick saw Cruise’s title character training a group of younger TOPGUN graduates for a dangerous missions, and among these pilots was Monica Barbaro’s LT Natasha “Phoenix” Trace. Along with Babaro delivering a solid performance with the rest of her costars, CinemaBlend learned how the Chicago Justice actress “impressed everybody” in Maverick’s aerial department.

As part of the junket held to commemorate Top Gun: Maverick’s digital release, I spoke with Kevin LaRosa, the movie’s aerial coordinator and camera pilot, who previously worked with Tom Cruise on Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Of the actors who played the young pilots in Maverick, I was curious who especially impressed LaRosa, whether it be how they handled the actual flying, dealt with being in the cockpit, etc. He wasted no time naming Monica Barbaro, explaining:

Monica during initial pilot training I think impressed everybody. Her g-tolerance was really good, her g-fatigue levels were very good, her inner ear was very good, she just really powered through it. Everybody that goes through that type of training and does that type of flying, which is very different than anything that they’ve ever done before, is gonna feel different. [They] could get sick or not used to it, but Monica excelled and she did a really good job. I was very proud of her.

Kevin LaRosa’s praise for Monica Barbaro follows several weeks after it was revealed that she managed to avoid vomiting while flying during Top Gun: Maverick, although that ended up being a problem in one instance because her face looked too calm, which made it seem like the clouds behind her were created through green screens. Because of that, she had to go back into the air to shoot another take… but I digress. As LaRosa laid out, Barbaro stood out with how she handled the insane flight training for Maverick, excelling across the board when it came to physical endurance. From someone like LaRosa, who’s been operating aircraft for a long time, this is high praise indeed.

Other folks who joined Tom Cruise and Monica Barbaro in the sky for Top Gun: Maverick included Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg “Tarzan” Davis and Manny Jacinto. Along with coordinating Maverick’s aerial sequences, Kevin LaRosa ran the training program that used aircraft like the Cessna 172, Extra EA-300 and L-39, ensuring that when the time came, Cruise, Barbaro and the others were “seasoned pros” able to “deliver epic performances.” The Maverick production also shelled out $11,374 an hour to borrow fighter planes from the U.S. Navy, though the actors weren’t allowed to touch the controls due to Pentagon regulations. 

While Top Gun: Maverick is now available to buy on digital platforms, you’re still welcome to check out the Paramount Pictures flick on the big screen. Maverick will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on November 1, and it’ll also eventually become available to stream with a Paramount+ subscription.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.