Knives Out was a smash hit with an amazing cast, but the most impressive in the film by far was Ana de Armas, who played the lead role of Marta. The actress had been building an impressive filmography over the last few years with movies like War Dogs and Blade Runner 2049 but Knives Out is clearly her breakout role. De Armas says the role of Marta was particularly special for her, because it was one of the few lead roles in Hollywood that was specifically written for somebody from her background.
Representation is an ongoing issue in Hollywood, and Ana de Armas certainly understands that first hand. She recently told American Way that most of her high profile roles prior to Knives Out, like Knock Knock and Blade Runner 2049, were specifically written for American actors, rather than for somebody from de Armas' Cuban background. By comparison, Rian Johnson specifically write Marta in Knives Out to be Latina. According to the actress...
When I was finally able to read the full script for Knives Out, I was blown away, and I fell in love with the character. Marta is something like I’ve never seen. For War Dogs or Knock Knock or Blade Runner … the parts were written for Americans. When I auditioned, they changed their minds and made the script work for me. Marta was a part written for a Latina, with so much to say and so much to bring to a story. These characters don’t exist. Period. These opportunities are so rare.
Knives Out presents itself as a classic whodunit mystery, and in many ways it is, but rather than following the detective in the story, the film is really about Marta, the dead man's nurse, who knows more than she is letting on about the events that led to her boss' death. Marta is viewed by the rest of the film as "the help" which in another movie would make her role a stereotype, but in Knives Out, it's so much more.
Ana de Armas isn't the first to point out that there's a serious lack of lead roles for minority actors out there, but it's still a point worth remembering. The fact that Knives Out was a role that was written to make a Latina the star is what de Armas appreciates the most simple because roles like that, in her words "don't exist" otherwise.
Of course, being an amazing actor also helps, and Ana de Armas is clearly that. Ana de Armas says that many of her other big screen roles weren't written for somebody from her background, but after seeing her, the filmmakers changed the role because they knew she was the best actress for the part.