[Interview] Actress Genesis Rodriguez for CENTIGRADE

[Interview] Actress Genesis Rodriguez for CENTIGRADE
Courtesy of IFC Midnight
Genesis Rodriguez has been steadily making a name for herself and you all should really be keeping your eye on her. Starting out initially in telenovelas, she has carved out a path in television and film over the past decade or so. Most of us genre fans will mostly know her from her work in ABC’s Time After Time or Kevin Smith’s memorable film, Tusk. And, for Disney aficionados, you may actually know her as the voice of Honey Lemon in Big Hero 6 and its TV series. Now audiences can see Genesis battling to survive whilst pregnant in Brendan Walsh‘s upcoming survival thriller, CENTIGRADE.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Genesis Rodriguez prior to the release of CENTIGRADE. During the interview, we discussed everything from the heightened fight scenes in the film to the difficulties of navigating tight quarters with a belly prosthesis, and – ultimately – what audiences can take away from the film during the COVID era.

To start things off, can you tell me a little bit about the character and what drew you initially to take on the role?

Genesis Rodriguez: I guess, the thing about this character was that it scared the bejesus out of me. To think of a character where you have to do so much physical, it’s a physical challenge to be able to diet while acting like that. I lost fourteen pounds in a span of 20 days and, to be shooting in that condition of the freezer, it was torture. It was real tortuous. And the scariest thing about this movie is shooting. The fact that there [are] only two of us, so there’s not like a whole cast to hide behind or special effects or like different scenery. It was just one car and two actors. That’s scary.

And the second scary thing was that the script wasn’t written in film, so all of our dialogue and all of our scenes would change on the daily. So, I had no idea really how it was going to be, how it was going to turn out, what we were going to say until the day of. To me, as an actor, that’s very terrifying because I love my lines. I love to memorize my lines. I love to overstudy because that gives me a safety and it gives me freedom and I didn’t have that luxury with this, so it really was a challenge to really trust yourself as an actor and what you already know and to just go with your instinct. And it’s terrifying because I see the film now and I go, wait a minute. I would have done this now differently and I would have done this. But, at the end of the day, it’s liberating. It’s liberating to just throw it all out there and to see what it happens.

Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza in CENTIGRADE l Courtesy of IFC Midnight

It’s ironic that things changed daily because it almost reflects what happens to your characters in the film where, even though you guys have a routine, things are changing daily.

Genesis Rodriguez: Daily! Totally! And it’s a good point because when you fight, it’s not like they could get out of the car and let go of the fight. They would live in that fight. So, the temperature of the fight has to change along with the way it was shot. The fights are different and it only happened because we were able to shoot it chronically. I think that was the brilliance of shooting it that way and Brendan had the idea of doing it that way. And, thankfully, we did because we were able to at least stage that.

I don’t think people realize how much weight people lose in cold temperatures until they live it. On top of the weight loss, what other challenges did having the belly prosthesis and just working in that narrow space present to you?

Genesis Rodriguez: The back pain.

[laughs] The back pain? Vincent had mentioned the back pain too.

Genesis Rodriguez: Oh my god. The back pain I had. So much back pain. I think of that car and I immediately get a pain in my lower back. It’s so bad. [laughs] It was just so hard to move with all those layers and the heavy belly and being in that car! There’s no place to stretch. There’s no place to completely be standing up. It was hard to shake off that movie for a while. It took me a couple of months to be able to shake off the character and what I went through.

So, by the time you guys went to film in Norway to film that last sequence, I’m sure you felt elated to just move.

Genesis Rodriguez: Oh my gosh. Absolutely! And to be able to see the amount of snow they were under. I couldn’t really wrap my head around how much snow until I went to Norway. I had never seen that amount of snow. There were walls and walls of ice, of solid, frozen ice and it was in March, I would say? It wasn’t even the coldest that it would get in Norway and it was fascinating to me. Me, Genesis, if I were in the car, I probably would have tried to get out of the car within the first ten minutes of the movie. I don’t think I could have been able to be stuck under the snow in a car, pregnant, fighting with my husband. There’s no way. I would have broken whatever window I see and I would have been ten miles out. So, for me to wrap my head around that whole experience afterward was really shocking the amount of snow they were under.

[Interview] Actress Genesis Rodriguez for CENTIGRADE
Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza in CENTIGRADE l Courtesy of IFC Midnight
I also yelled at the screen because I thought you guys should have gotten out within those first few minutes too. [laughs]

Genesis Rodriguez: Right? [laughs]

I think that will be very cathartic for viewers to have a new couple to yell at onscreen. Like, “Why haven’t you gotten out sooner?”

Genesis Rodriguez: [laughs]

So, one of the things that really stood out to me was how complex the relationship was that you and Vincent had onscreen. How did you guys go about developing the relationship between Matt and Naomi separately from your own relationship?

Genesis Rodriguez: It was very difficult. It was very very difficult. You just have to have a partner you can trust to be able to be vulnerable to go into that kind of thing together. You are taking on that silence together. The diet. The uncertainty of how the scene goes. It’s like the biggest trust exercise you could possibly do and, even if you hate that person in the moment because of all the fights and the irritability, you could look at them and say thank God I have you to be able to do this with.

It was very very difficult. It’s not like you can turn it off, turn off the characters. You have to go home and continue the diet. What I would do was watch reality TV shows to try to get out of my head because I was so frightened and so scared of my job that I would just try not to think about anything. So, that’s what I would do. It was hard. You had to have a partner, of someone you’d trust to be able to do that.

It’s fascinating to me that you mentioned being terrified of your job because it’s a heightened situation. It’s a stressful situation and I don’t think many would understand how revved up you would be in that scenario. Speaking of things that viewers can relate to, the film touches upon themes like isolation, perseverance, and – ultimately – hope. How do you think those themes will be immensely relevant considering the state of things?

Genesis Rodriguez: I think this movie is coming out in a really good time. I think we are all collectively suffering together. And if this movie can bring a little bit of light, a little bit of perspective that it could even be worse and that we should be grateful that we have a roof over our heads and we’re healthy, and we can eat the foods we want to eat and sleep in a bed at night. Just those little things. Just that little perspective of that can really help us get through this pandemic together because this is a very hard time. So, I hope it brings a little message of hope, and I pray that we get out of this quickly, but I also pray that we have learned from this as well.

Genesis Rodriguez in CENTIGRADE l Courtesy of IFC Midnight

Going back to what you mentioned about trusting your partner, how was it working with director Brendan Walsh?

Genesis Rodriguez: He’s awesome. I mean, really, he set it up for us to succeed in the sense that we shot it all chronically. He really paid attention to not being monotonous with the shots in the car, so he helped us out with that. Because we have one set. We only have two actors and it could go south really quickly, but he really helped us find the variables in it. It was a collaborative effort I felt between the three of us just finding the right moments in the car. Definitely.

Since you are auditioning and figuring things out, with all of us in sort of a stasis and figuring out things especially in the industry, what would you like to see more of in terms of roles for women? What kind of stories we could tell, etc?

Genesis Rodriguez: Well, I have got to say being a Latino woman, a Latinx woman, it’s very difficult for me to even land a lead role in a movie. Let alone being considered a Naomi so, this to me was a feat because I was able to be a lead of a movie. But also, I wanted and I feel like I deserved the opportunity. And I hope that changes. I do still feel it’s not there. Hollywood is not there yet. They have to be more inclusive and they have to consider us as being a part of the American population. I should have no problems in getting a Naomi role, but I did. It was a challenge. It is a challenge for me to get there. So, I pray that it changes. That there [are] more opportunities for someone like me and the door is completely open and it is all about just your talent. Not because you are filling a quota.

CENTIGRADE is now available in select drive-in theaters and be available on Video On Demand and all Digital Platforms. To learn more about the film, check out our interview with Vincent Piazza and our review.

*This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Sarah Musnicky
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