What did you admire about David Ayer as a director?
I found with him that since this is his project – he wrote and directed it – that he was just very secure in what he wanted and knew at all times where it was going and how he wanted it to play. He had that vision so I found him to be my security blanket. I had no questions and if I did have one, he’d be able to answer anything on the spot. I found him to be very helpful and very open.
What did he tell you about your role?
He talked a lot about what had happened between me and Michael [Peña] and how, when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for so long and a tragedy happens or something bad happens, where your mind goes and how you are together. We also talked about the fact that my character is pregnant so I wouldn’t be working out and on a diet! We talked about what she was going to look like. He asks a lot of questions and gets your input; he’s very open to ideas.
Did you meet or hang out with any police wives or partners to get a sense of what their lives and concerns are like?
One of my best friends is a police sergeant and his wife also is one of my best friends. I’ve known them since I was six years old. I’ve also played detectives before so I’ve met actual detectives and their families and hung out in that environment. It’s pretty familiar to me and what you get from a cop’s wife is just that they’re pretty strong women. That’s the way that I went with my character. What I did to prepare for this role, though, was spend a lot of time with Michael. We wanted to show how connected we were and the bond we had because our characters have been together since they were 18 years old. Throughout the whole movie people talk about “Gabby and Mike”, so when you see us, we have to be this really comfortable, secure-in-our-own-skin relationship. Michael and I went out on a lot of what we called our mini-dates. I was even dating someone at the time and he’d drop me off at these mini-dates.
What happened on your mini-dates?
We’d go hang out. We just really tried to get to know each other. We talked about what we wanted out of relationships and how cool would it be to have a relationship like that. By the time we got on set, we were like best friends; we called each other “homey” – “That’s my homey right there”. It meant that in the middle of a scene he could put his arm around me or kiss my forehead and it looks organic. He felt that freedom because we’d talked about those little mannerisms that make the couple more comfortable with each other.
You and Anna have less screen-time. Does that bring added pressure to make your presence felt when the camera is on you?
I didn’t feel any pressure like that. I thought the role we played was strong enough simply because we brought that human quality. The only thing I felt was that I really wanted to make this seem real. That was the one thing in my mind all the time because the whole feeling of this was to be as natural and organic as possible.
There’s a lot of hand-held camerawork in the film. Did you enjoy that aspect of the shoot?
That was the most fun part. I found it interesting just because it takes you away from everything else and it just made it feel more in the moment. You had to be really into your characters because at any given time you could be recorded. Once the cameras were off, we’d pick up the video camera and start doing things on our own and Jake would start running around with it and asking us questions. We were all in character the whole time. I was Michael Peña’s wife from the moment I arrived on set until I signed out.
Did making End Of Watch influence or change your opinion about the job that law enforcement officers do?
It puts a perspective on what they go through on a day-to-day basis. It just makes them real people instead of just the badge. My friend who’s a sergeant, he came to a screening of the film inMiami. We did a 20-city screening tour for police stations around the country. I didSan Francisco,AustinandDallas. I couldn’t make it to theMiamione, which is where I’m from, but he calls me after and goes, “You had me crying; this movie is so true to life and one of the most bad-ass cop movies I’ve ever seen.” He went with his wife and he told me she doesn’t want him to be a cop anymore. InAustin, the chief of police told me and Michael, “Thank you so much for portraying us this way. You always see movies showing cops that are crooked or a little shady.” In this, you see cops with good intentions and good hearts.
When did you leave Miami to go live in LA?
I’ve been in LA for 10 years now. I’m almost a local.
Are your parents both Cuban?
Yes, I’m 100% Cuban. Both my parents were born inCuba. I was first generation, born here.
Have you spent any time in the neighbourhoods depicted in End Of Watch?
Oh yeah. I love food and one of my favourite BBQ places is Bludso’s inCompton, which is another rough neighbourhood. South Central isn’t all bad. It’s not like you go there and you’re going to get shot. It’s just like any normal neighbourhood. We have our share of rough neighbourhoods inMiami, too. Depending on what culture you are, we have one for the Cubans, one for the Haitians, one for the Dominicans – there are little barrios everywhere. So I’m familiar with that. I grew up in a rough neighbourhood. My father and mother worked very hard to put me into a private school. It was funny that I’d go to private school in the morning and get bused back to the ‘hood’ in the afternoon. I had a toe in both worlds. In private school, I’d get made fun of because I didn’t have the money they did, and then all my friends at home would say, “You talk funny” because I wasn’t talking all ghetto and street anymore.
It seems like Hollywood is opening up in terms of the variety of roles available for Latino actresses. Has that been your experience?
Oh, 100%. I don’t necessarily get typecast all the time for theLatinarole but sometimes I just play normal characters where it’s not emphasised in big billboard letters that this is a Hispanic girl. But I just happen to be Hispanic. It’s more accepted now. Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz really opened the doors up for us, and Jennifer Lopez as well, crossing over and doing everything. It’s been great because I just feel now that Latinos are coming up – our culture, our movies, it really is being embraced by everybody. Americans – people worldwide – are really accepting our culture and accepting us as people and how we look. Because we’re not necessarily all that skinny – we have curves, we have hips!