Natalie Martinez has a lot going on. During our Zoom video interview to talk about her role on the Quibi series The Fugitive, she spontaneously brought up Kingdom, which is now on Netflix, and on her advice, I watched it and it was pretty intense. She also has a featured role in the highly anticipated Stephen King adaptation The Stand, produced and starred in the series The I-Land, and genuinely felt like a wonderful Zoom companion, speaking to Brief Take exclusively in front of her auditioning wall (as she called it), as she clearly has many more projects to display very soon.
The following is a condensed and edited transcription of an in-depth Zoom video conversation with the incredible Natalie Martinez.
Brief Take: What do you think of the setup of The Fugitive?
Natalie Martinez: It’s a lot of fun! Because you’re watching it and all of a sudden, it’s like: “Boom!” You’re cooking and you want to go more, you could binge it in one sitting.
BT: Quibi is a great service, they make good stuff.
NM: Yeah, after seeing that, my girlfriend and me, we’ve had this idea on which we’re working that we’re creating this show which will be perfect for Quibi. We want to make a short little content comedy and that format would be perfect.
BT: I watched your The Twilight Zone episode.
NM: That was a lot of fun shooting, everyone was so cool.
BT: You’re in hot projects, producing and doing great stuff. What does it mean to you?
NM: Thank you. It means a lot! I think the whole producing side of it, The I-Land, we were able to work that out and put me on as a producer and that’s exciting because that’s where I see myself heading. I just produced a tv show that we’re going to start shopping around once the world gets back to a somewhat normal pace, and I have a couple of ideas in the works and I’m really enjoying that. The ultimate goal is to produce more projects and then, ultimately, to direct. I would love to get my hands in some directing projects, that’s definitely next up after I get this whole producer world down. It’s been fun with The Stand, Reminiscence and The Twilight Zone, those came in for me last year and when we were doing The I-Land. We were unsure whether or not we were going to do a second season, so it wasn’t much that I was available to do, but when The Stand and The Twilight Zone came, I was like: “Oh man, those are such iconic stories!”. Stephen King, which I’ve done before with Under The Dome, I definitely was like: “Okay, cool, I’d love to be a part of the Stephen King family again”, I think that he has such quality stuff and it’s such a cool genre of which to be a part. And then you have The Twilight Zone, I mean…come on! It’s The Twilight Zone. Being in the business for so long has granted me the freedom to be a part of different projects and I can shadow writers and directors and producers and get my hands into a lot of opportunities.
BT: I remember when The I-Land came out and at the time, I was like to heck with TIFF, I would rather be watching The I-Land.
NM: Oh, that’s awesome!
BT: I believe your film End of Watch was at TIFF as well.
NM: Yeah, it was. End of Watch was actually my first time that I had ever gone to TIFF. That movie to me is so special. We rehearsed so much and we became such a unit in that movie. Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal rehearsed that movie for four months and then we shot for 25 days. There was a lot of time spent behind the scenes to create those relationships, those bonds, that chemistry that you see, which is why I think that it did so well. I think that it’s because of the chemistry we had, how much time we put in behind-the-scenes due to David Ayer. He makes you get into it. And it shows. That movie was very, very special to me.
BT: This is the kind of stuff that I want to be watching.
NM: Have you seen Kingdom yet on Netflix?
BT: I did just a little bit to prepare for speaking with you.
NM: Kingdom, I’m on the second season. And it was also one of my favourite projects to do. I remember it coming out, and we shot Kingdom I think like six years ago. I feel like that project allowed me to really open up my wings and I was a lot more free on Kingdom, in which I show up to work and it will be like: “Do whatever you want”, because normally, you rehearse, you do these things, you have your mark and are limited to a little set. Whereas this one, they’re like: “Just move! Go, we’ll follow you, the camera will get you.”
That really opened me up for a lot of stuff, and I think that the actors on that show are so extremely talented, I was lucky to be able to share the screen with them. Byron Balasco, who is the creator of that show, did such a great job writing for that genre and for that sport (MMA) alone, he really got what it was to be those people.
BT: You’re finding the streamers that work for you, although Reminiscence is a studio film.
NM: But even then I’m working with Lisa Joy from Westworld. And I mean, come on, Hugh Jackman and such great actors. I love working with quality people and I think that’s kind of my goal nowadays. I like to do different things. I’ve played the cop, I’ve played the detective, I’ve played the Mom who’s lost her husband, I’ve done cop’s wife, I’ve played so many different roles. I’m a lawyer in Reminiscence, there’s definitely a lot of different characters that I try to play and that’s why in The Fugitive, I really gravitated to the wife role. Because I feel like I gave such a great tone for the film, in which you gotta love Mike Ferro (Boyd Holbrook) and you want to root for him to be back with his family and that sets a really good tone for the character that I played on The Fugitive.
BT: As you said on your press tour, this show has three women of colour and women who aren’t competing on it.
NM: Oh, a hundred per cent. You know, Genesis Rodriguez and I are very good friends outside of this world, we hang out socially and we’ve known each other for quite some time now, we’re both from Miami and we go out for the same roles usually. It sucks, because we’re such good friends, and it’s not that we compete with each other. We support each other and push each other, we go over each other’s lines and help each other out, but we want to work together and it’s unlikely for that to happen sometimes. Because you’re either filling a quota for the one Spanish girl, or “Oh, she looks too similar to her, we can’t have ’em both, because people will think they’re the same person”. And we look very different. But sometimes they make you feel like you can’t have two of the same kind and (series developer) Nick Santora in this one, he just didn’t care. It was more about the quality of the actor and how they performed and what they did with their role and I thought that was so amazing, because…it works. It works.
BT: You’re the law firm of Rodriguez, Sircar, and Martinez.
NM: [laughs] I know, I love it!
BT: Do you choose projects about your heritage or is it not a consideration?
NM: I’ve been very fortunate in my career in which I don’t think that I’ve been typecast as the Latina girl, I think that you can see with all my characters that she just so happens to be Latin, it’s never been emphasized a lot. I’ve never really had to have an accent the majority of my stuff. But that I kind of like, because I am a Cuban woman, first generation born here, I am American. My parents both Cuban, my grandparents are both Cuban, my great-grandparents are from Spain, so I come from a very Latin, but I’m American as well and I don’t have an accent and this is me. And I speak Spanish fluently and I do cook a lot of Cuban food and dance to Cuban music, so I have that culture, but do I have an accent? No, so I love the fact of when stories incorporate people like me, Cuban-Americans that were raised here and sort of have this voice and there’s a lot of us that kind of are like that. Just because we’re Latin doesn’t mean I have to have on a sexy outfit, hip-flowy hair and an accent. [laughs]
BT: What do you feel like is your kick as an actor?
NM: Action, man. Action is like my love. [chuckles] I would love to be some sort of superhero or some sort of like Scarlett Johansson in Lucy, that kind of vibe. I love fighting, I love Muay Thai, I’ve been doing it for many years, even before Kingdom, that’s one of the reasons I think that I got Kingdom as well, because I’ve trained with Frank Grillo before, we’ve worked out of the same gym, so he knew who I was, I’d worked with Byron Balasco before, he knew who I was. Action, to me, I just kind of love, I love the physicality of the job, I love that with action, you can get drama and you can get comedy. So you get both, I love that. I would love to be the female Deadpool meets Lucy. That is like a dream job.
BT: How deep do you go in terms of stunt training and preparation for action roles?
NM: Well, with Kingdom, I have a photo on my Instagram, somewhere, in which you can see I usually weigh 135, I know girls don’t usually like to talk about that, but I really don’t care. [laughs] In Kingdom, I was up to 148, and it was pure muscle, but you see that’s how these girls are, and I trained a lot because you’ve got to be really strong and obviously, when there’s a lot of training, there’s a lot of eating, [laughs] but I got up to that weight of pure muscle. There’s a photo out of me, in which I’m high kicking the air for Kingdom. That was barely retouched, those were my muscles. I transformed into that. As for training-wise, I’ve done gun training, I’ve done ride-alongs with cops and I would say that the deepest I’ve gone is my martial arts training, in the sense that I’m practicing Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. But I would go even further, I would love to learn new skill sets. I would love to know how to do knife work. I’d like to get more in-depth in my gun training. For safety, I think that everyone should know how to safely operate a gun. I mean I would do anything for preparation.
BT: Have you really fought for roles in the past?
NM: Yeah, definitely, there’s times for sure, like even when I watch things in this quarantine, like I’d never seen all the Star Wars. I’d never seen them. And this quarantine, the beginning, I was like: “We’re going to watch everything, in a specific order”, and I watched every single movie, and then finished The Mandalorian, and then I called my agents and I said: “Get me on The Mandalorian now“. [laughs] So if there’s definitely something that’s brought up to me that I want, I call them, that would be amazing to do. Again, it’s the kind of stuff that I like, it’s funny, it’s a little bit of drama, it’s action, it’s sci-fi. I’ll watch something and go “Oh, I really like that” and I’ll write an email to my people and let them know: “Yo, I’m interested in this”, whether it be with the director or the writers, that’s the other thing that I’ve done, to which we keep coming back, is that I’m looking at the people with whom I’m working. Some of the people with whom I’ve worked have done things that I’ve liked. And I feel like every time I’m on set, I pick up something new. It’s really important to surround yourself with people you admire, that you respect their work because, you never know, you might leave with something.
BT: And your creative team is a very good one.
NM: I’m a very loyal person, I’ve been with my team for a very long time, we like dealing with each other, we hang up the phone saying: “I love you!”, we’re very, very close and we’ve seen our ups and our downs. I’ve evolved as an actress, I started acting when I was 21, I’m 36 now. I’ve definitely gone through my changes and it’s going to keep on changing.
BT: How does it feel to produce and have control of doing your own stuff?
NM: That, definitely when I saw that, to bring it back to the questions you asked, like “How do you feel when you were making it?”, and things like that. Once I get the producer credit on that, it really made me feel like I was getting to another level in my career. Then now, producing a show that we have in the works right now, the script’s completely done and we’re shopping it around. That makes me feel like: “Oh, wow. We’re at a whole new level of work here!”. It feels good. It feels great! It feels good to just create. I’ve noticed that in quarantine doing little videos and that’s one of the things that I miss so much: work. I miss creating, I miss collaborating, I kind of miss just being out there and performing.
All episodes of The Fugitive are now available on Quibi