In Battle: Los Angeles Michelle Rodriguez plays Elena Santos, a technical sergeant trained to monitor signals and computer networks for the military. But you might not necessarily get any of that, since her character is immediately thrust in with a group of Marines, and there's not that much talking going on as the bunch fights tooth and nail against the horde of invading aliens that have rendered the entire city of Los Angeles a pile of rubble.
But just because her character wasn't using her tech sergeant skills in battle didn't mean Rodriguez didn't do her homework. When I talked to her yesterday about the film she revealed not only the specific research she did for the character, but also just how much knowledge she's collected from all her roles and life experiences over the years-- talking about alien frequencies, advancing robot technology, video game design, you name it. It's not just that Rodriguez has self-described "years and years of geek-ism" to back her up, but that she's fascinating to talk to, period. Check out my interview with her below, and see her running away from and shooting at aliens in Battle: Los Angeles this weekend.
You were down on the set and surrounded by all of these boys in the cast, they're all 22. You seemed to have no challenge in fitting right in.
Yeah, yeah. I love the boys.
But you're also significantly older than them.
Not in my mind. Physically I'm 32, but in my mind I'm like, 12. We totally get each other for sure.
And you guys were all playing video games while making this movie that kind of looks like a video game.
Yeah, it's Neil Brown Jr.'s fault. He brought his Xbox and like four controllers, and forget about it. We were in his trailer, his apartment until 4 in the morning, playing video games.
The movie looks so much like those video games. Do you feel like Battle: LA gets what a video game is better than lot of video game movies?
Definitely,l it's like playing a first-man shooter, only you don't have control over what the characters do or say. It's more about a visceral, auditory experience of being in the invasion. That's the real attraction to anybody who likes rides like that. That's what action films are supposed to do, take you on a ride. And he did that. He easily could have blown up the Hollywood sign, anything that represents Los Angeles and do the macrocosmic perspective. But he chose to go microcosmic with it and follow the platoon, get you into the actual experience of being there. That camera guy was gnarly. I called him Superman, I don't even remember his real name. He'd be in these weird positions with the camera. I think they should do the sequel, if they do one, in 3D. The perspectives are amazing.
Everyone I know who's interviewed you is impressed with your greek cred. This has always been there, right? It isn't just for this movie?
Years, years of geek-ism.
Is there anything you're a particular geek expert in?
You know what? Jack of all trades, master of none. I quit high school really young, and I always loved information. I'm a self-taught kind of chick. I don't have any tactics on studying, memorizing things. It's selective memory. If I feel like it's going to be a prominent factor in the future, then I will remember that.
You learn so much as an actor. Every time you play a part you do different research.
It is crazy, for sure. When you train with a Navy SEAL guy you'll remember what he taught you, when someone points a gun at you what you need to do. Then working with Jim [Cameron, for Avatar], his perspective on time and space. You do learn a lot of really great stuff because you're surrounded by experts. But it's more a crash course in symbols of things that you'll dive into later.
Did you learn anything about aliens for this one, or was it all military training?
Mostly military truing.
And you were learning about being a radar technician?
Yeah, yeah. What a tech sergeant does is they monitor the algorithms and the computer networking systems for the military. They monitor what's going in and going out of the Pentagon, detecting hackers like they have in the past for China. Also you have the atmospheric interference, so that's air space. They monitor that as well. They share satellites with Canada and the EU. They have so much access to information, and that's not even counting the NASA telescopes.
There's so many elements that are going to be introduced in our generation, and a lot of us don't even know how privileged we are to be alive at this moment. We're peaking. Technologically, the saturation of information but now the consolidation of it and actual use of it will be implemented by the time we're in our 50s and 60s. I'm talking about new mathematics being introduced, the ideas that computers can reach a level of intelligence beyond what we can even fathom, but an emotional intelligence because of what we put out into the Internet. We have a stream of thoughts, of human perception, on the Internet. That's what the Internet is. All of those things can be translated into computer language and used in a robot. We're going to see that, so for me I'm really excited.
But it can go badly so quickly. None of that is scary?
That's human though. That whole idea of violence and murder, I think it comes from a primal place. It's a very human kind of tendency, and it's that quest for survival or domination. Ego is a human thing, and that's what I think creates this level of excessive violence and destruction. If there were alien sentient beings that could blink in and out of existence, they would resonate at a higher frequency than us. You'd probably only see them when you popped mushrooms.