INT: Natalie Martinez

If you have never heard of Natalie Martinez, you're not alone - DEATH RACE is her first major motion picture. Her only real exposure to the public was via prominent roles in two different (now defunct) "telenovelas" on MyNetworkTV: FASHION HOUSE and SAINTS IN SINNERS (yeah, I've never heard of those either).

But this is almost certain to change after audiences get a look at Ms. Martinez, who the producers of DEATH RACE compare favorably to Michelle Rodriguez (personally, I envision even greater mainstream exposure for Natalie). As "Case", an incarcerated murderer and navigator for Jason Statham's Jensen Ames, Martinez balances out her soft, beautiful features with a take-no-shit toughness that rivals any of the film's intimidating male characters. When my fellow journalists and myself gathered around to interview Martinez, the pleasant actress seemingly wasn't in an ass-kicking mood. (Damn... I mean, Whew!)

Natalie: Hey, we can do this Indian-style next to the pond with the ducks. We’ll have beautiful Montreal behind us. Hi, I’m Natalie.

So, how did you get this role?

Natalie: I auditioned a lot. My manager’s agency sent me out on the audition. Basically, I just went out, studied for the part, did the audition, then went back for the callback. Then, I met the VP of casting. Then I did the chemistry read. Then I met Scott Bernstein. Over the course of a month, it took four or five auditions.

Did you have to do some yelling?

Natalie: Well, I had my own vision of her. So when I talked to Scott, one of the producers up there at Universal, we talked about my vision and we agreed on certain things. She is a certain type of character. She has to be able to hold herself up because she is in peril. That doesn’t mean she’s a bad person. She killed her husband, he cheated…What could she do? You know? On things like that, we had to have the same point of view. I had to show that I could carry her. I had to learn my lines and I had to do a scene out of the movie with Jason as well. It was a scene that involved a lot of nerves and tension because I could die at any minute. It was kind of hard at times, because I didn’t have the environment around me. It worked out good. They knew what they were looking for. That’s the craziest thing about auditioning. They know what they want and we don’t have any idea what we are doing. But, it worked out.

Did you spend time at a woman’s correctional facility to maybe get a feel for your character?

Natalie: When I was a kid, yeah. Wait, no, I’m joking. I know what you are talking about, though. No, I didn’t have to. Just having the experience of where I grew up was enough. I grew up in Miami. Having that kind of hard knock life, growing up in not-so-great neighborhoods, having to battle that, knowing how to handle myself and be strong so that I wasn’t taken advantage of was enough. You have to be strong in certain types of situations I believe. You can’t be seen as weak, and you can’t show vulnerability. That is common amongst women in prison because you can’t let your guard down. You never know what is going to happen. And that happens in life too. So I didn’t have to spend too much time studying it. I’m a lot more street smart than I am anything else. I think that’s what helped me get the part as well. I wasn’t weak.

Can you talk a little bit about the language in the movie and how you speak? Do you talk really tough?

Natalie: Basically, I do. We are in a race that is life or death so you go around this crazy course. There are booby traps, people are firing guns at you, missiles flying at your head and there is this huge eighteen-wheeler with machine guns. There are so many things, I can’t even tell you about all of them. Basically, there is a lot of action. So all of the words are quick and to the point. Its like, “Pay attention!” There are a lot of discussions about the cars, like, “This is napalm oil.” Things like that. Its short and to the point. I only have a limited amount of time to talk because I am in a women’s prison and he’s in a male facility. We only have a limited amount of time to get to know each other. Also, there is no bond with these people. You don’t bond. You have to have that look and those short words where the other person knows where you are coming from. You have to understand that they are coming from the same place. That’s where our bond kind of hits. You’ll never say, “I love you, you love me.” But there is that sort of bond in the air. There is a hint of romance or at least the hope. I think our relationship is based more on hope.

What is it like to be filming inside that car?

Natalie: It’s fun. It’s all raw and I don’t have a seat half the time. I’m sitting on these metal beams, with just a little cushion. Its all greased up and you are dirty all of the time. Its fun because you don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to worry about your nails being clean. There's no, “Oh, my God! My nails are going to be seen on TV!”, or anything like that. And when you are inside the car, you really feel it. Just the fact that everything is visible. There is no dashboard, so you see all of these cords and stuff. You could hit the wrong thing. You could set off this or you could set off that. It’s a lot of fun working in there.

Do they let you drive at all?

Natalie: No. I don’t know how to drive stick. I learned when I was about thirteen. I learned how to drive stick. But now, I don’t remember how. I don’t. The car is towed sometimes and I’m in it while it’s moving. We haven’t really gotten into the stuff where Jason is driving. He has obviously driven a lot so I trust him with his driving. If I don’t, it still makes it more fun. You know?

What is the back story on your character? She went to jail for killing her husband?

Natalie: Yeah. My story is that he was cheating so I killed my husband. She was just your normal average woman, married, and it just so happened that her husband was a cop. That made her ten times worse in trouble. I think she was just normal, you know? She was a hard knock. Since he was a cop, she had to deal with him not coming home at night. And things like that. I believe that he cheated, or whatnot. And, not straight away, but I killed him. I think I just blacked out and did it. I didn’t mean to but I was just mad. You know? So its not like I’m an evil person, I don’t believe. Shit happens.

How did it happen? Is he chopped up into little pieces?

Natalie: Yeah and he’s buried all over Florida. No…but I do feel that way about her. And now she’s in prison. She is a young girl and she got carried away with what she did. She has to live with that. Due to circumstances, she is here. What is she going to do? Bitch and complain? No, she is just going to deal with it. Now, we have this race to go through. I am young, and the Warden finds it very easy to manipulate me. She can just throw freedom around me. I’m only twenty-five in the movie so it’s basically the idea that I will do whatever it takes for me to get back out there. I don’t necessarily think I belong here. But this is me now. I’m in prison, racing cars, and doing what the Warden tells me to do.

What is the job of a navigator?

Natalie: Basically, we keep the driver focused. He has so much to concentrate on. There are so many tricks, booby traps and things he has to stay be aware of. There are so many things to look out for. We’ve got the napalm, we’ve got the oil, we’ve got the Nitrous. Something might happen to the gun or somebody needs to talk to Coach. There are so many things that are going on. We are light weight because we are all women. It’s also for the ratings. This race is being televised on the web. So, with that, our job is basically ratings. Because our outfit is all boobs and short tops. This is for the movie and for the web. Its that and the fact that we are light weight. We don’t compromise their racing skills or how slow they can go. It’s basically about that. You know? We go through the switches, fix things and look out. Four eyes are better than two. I can look all around while he is focusing on driving. I can tell him that someone is coming up on his back. I know the road just as much as he does. It’s just another mind to tell him to take this short cut or to go through here. He is also new, so it helps out with him. He is just thrown into this race.

In the original, the navigators disrobed. Do you have to do that as well?

Natalie: No. I do at one point get undressed, but I have another shirt on underneath my clothes. So I never show anything. Yeah, there’s no nudity.

Do you get in a fight with any of the other navigators?

Natalie: No, there is so much going on. You get off that bus, you walk to these cars and you don’t know if you are ever going to get out again. I don’t think there’s enough time to fight with these girls later. We’re not friends. We don’t talk. We just do what we have to do. That is the theme. Do what you gotta do. Kill or be killed. Because that’s how it goes. On-screen, we haven’t fought. Nor off-screen either.

Outside of Joan Allen and Jason, who did you have the most scenes with?

Natalie: I didn’t have many scenes with Joan, actually. But I had a lot of scenes with the Monster Crew. Ian McShane, Jacob Vargas, and Fred Koehler. That was the whole crew. And me and Jason Statham. I had a lot of scenes with them. I had some with Pachenko, which is Max Ryan. We just exchanged looks. The same thing with Tyrese, just while I was in the car. But I did most of my talking scenes amongst the Monster Crew.

What is Ian McShane like to work with?

Natalie: Amazing. I mean, he is so cool. He tells so many stories, which is a lot of fun. And he knows his shit. He knows what to do. We’ll be doing stuff, and he’ll give little hints. He’ll say, “You look really good over here.” So, of course, I’m going to go over there. Its true, it makes a lot of sense sometimes. That kind of stuff just puts it all together. He shared his ideas with us, and he was really, really welcoming. We hung out and we went to dinner. Me, him, and the whole crew. We hung out. He was a real joy to work with. He’s a kid. He’s great. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I liked him a lot.

What is it like working with Paul Anderson?

Natalie: Paul is awesome. Paul knows what he wants, which is really cool. Because you feel sure of it. I can go up to him and ask him anything. The fact that you can do that makes your job a lot easier. If you have any views about your characters, or anything you think, you can always ask him. That’s the really great thing about working with Paul. Also, I just love watching him work. He’ll walk but he’s not walking. He is off somewhere in race land and you can just tell. I think that is awesome because this is his baby and he cares about it. Anything anybody has to say or contribute, he listens to it and he understands. He gets it. I like that. I think he is great to work with.

Does he put you in a lot of scary situations?

Natalie: No. He definitely says that he is going to scare me and I am waiting for it. But I like the speed. And I like the ejector seat. I did that, and I came back to him and asked if it could go faster. He told me, “Yes!” So, it’s fun. There aren’t too many things that scare me. I’m looking forward to being scared, though. I think I’m getting in a car today or tomorrow and I will be coming out of the window. I’ll be holstered by these things and it will be while I’m racing. I like that though.

Have you ever been into cars?

Natalie: Yes. I never got too crazy about them but I like muscle cars a lot. My dream car is a ’69 Barracuda but that was when I was fifteen. That was something me and my dad had in common. I like big trucks and stuff. I know some things. I can change my own tire and battery and I can change my oil. I like cars.

What sort of training or prep work did you have to do?

Natalie: I did a lot of Google-ing. I needed to know what napalm was and what all of these other words were. I spent some time with everybody showing me the cars. Like sitting in the Monster. That was going to be my home for awhile. I needed to know where everything was. I had to practice with the belts because they were race belts. There are all of these buckles, and all of these trick ways to do it. Then there was also training to stay fit. As far as anything having to do with the movie, I was just basically looking things up to understand what they were. Things about the race and especially about the car. I needed to know the function of certain things. That’s pretty much it.

Do we get to see you kill your husband on screen?

Natalie: No, but that would have been fun, though. No, we didn’t shoot anything. That’s just a back story to get a feel for it.

You didn’t act it out in your bedroom, alone, at night?

Natalie: No, my boyfriend is still alive. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He is still alive and well. He hasn’t cheated.

Are there going to be some graphic death scenes in the film?

Natalie: Oh yeah, there is a lot! There are some pretty cool ones, too. I don’t want to say too much about them but you do see a lot of blood. The scars are amazing. I was touching this one guy’s scars and they felt real. It’s really gnarly. It’s very graphic. You’ll have some good stuff to watch.

Do you see yourself doing more action movies in the future?

Natalie: I love action stuff. Oh yeah. Anything that gets the adrenaline going and makes you more hands on with it. I like that. I like the fact that I get dirty and get to touch things. And race and the wind. You don’t have to worry about anything. It’s just in the moment. I like that aspect. I like the action. Its fun.


Source: AITH

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