‘Hollywood is finally accurate in its representation of the real world’
In this interview, cast members Gabriel Luna, Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes discuss Terminator: Dark Fate that hit screens last Friday
A Terminator film, at its core, is built around three main characters: hunter, protector and prey. The T-800 played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, was the hunter in The Terminator (1984) while Sarah Connor played by Linda Hamilton was the prey. In 1991, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, both played the protector of John Connor. Fast forward to Dark Fate now, the veterans reprise their role from the 1991 film. The latest players in this hide and seek game are characters played by Gabriel Luna, Mackenzie Davis, and Natalia Reyes. Gabriel plays Rev-9 (Hunter), an advanced Terminator prototype, Mackenzie is Grace (Protector), a soldier from the year 2042 converted into a cyborg, and Natalia is Dani (Prey), a young woman targetted by Rev-9. The actors open up about their characters and their love for the franchise in this conversation:
Let's start with you, Gabriel. What was it like to play a villain for the first time?
As a good guy, I get to dish out the punishment. Here, I take a lot of it—knocks, punches, gunfire and a few shots from a sledgehammer too (smiles). It's different to be on the receiving end but it is fun. Arnold established one of the greatest villains of all-time in the first film and turned a great hero in the second. The villain is always mysterious and interesting—like the ones played by Gary Oldman and Christopher Lee. I am just happy to be following in that rich tradition.
Natalia, playing a role like Dani must have felt like a huge jump from what the character you played in Birds of Passage (2018)
Yeah, these are two radically different films. I love films and this is all I have wanted to do. I loved Birds of Passage because it was about my country. Terminator is a huge opportunity as I am now a part of a famous franchise and I got to rub shoulders with legends such as Arnold and Linda, and this amazing cast. There was a lot of learning. I learned how to be disciplined and stable, both physically and emotionally. A film like this is amazing but also demands a lot of hard work, so I had to be prepared.
Gabriel, for you too, this role of a Terminator is poles apart from playing Ghost Rider in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
Interestingly, similar skills were required for both roles. Both involved a lot of motion capture, wire-works and combat. So when I was asked if I could do it here in the beginning, I just nodded for everything. For Dark Fate, of course, everything is exponentially bigger.
Robert Patrick, who played the shape-shifting Terminator in Terminator 2, famously said that he was inspired by the movements of insects for his role. Any such inspirations?
I took inspiration from Bruce Lee who, apart from being a martial arts expert is also an action hero. His philosophy around efficiency with combat can be applied to machines that just want to fight and kill. Then, of course, there's Arnold and Robert's line of work in this franchise for references.
How challenging was it to play characters that aren’t exactly completely human?
Mackenzie: Natalia has the biggest journey. She had to go through the loss of every member of her family (laughs).
Natalia: It was a journey—not just for my character but for me as well, to jump into this world. Apart from the cast, there were 600 people working on this film and the scale is just massive. The emotional journey to keep up with that was a challenge. We were exhausted from all the intense shoots.
Mackenzie: What I loved about playing my character was how she was a human with heart and memories. But now, she has the agility and enhanced ability of a machine as well. I loved it as I got the best of both worlds.
Any skepticism about being a part of such a huge franchise?
Mackenzie: We knew there had to be a great story and characters, and with Linda coming back to the franchise, we really wanted to honour that leap of faith which made her leave a lovely private life and reenter this world. We made sure we gave it our best.
Dark Fate crosses borders into Mexico and has strong female characters. It feels like it represents the Hollywood of today.
Natalia: Just like you said, Hollywood is changing because our reflection of the world is changing. We, Latinos, have been underrepresented and misrepresented in Hollywood in general. When I read the script, I was surprised to see that there were no stereotypes. I am not dying in the end, I am not a prostitute or a drug dealer and that's amazing. Hollywood is finally being accurate about the real world.
Director Tim Miller called the film ‘a woman's story’.
Mackenzie: It has always been about the evolution of Sarah's life. Right from the first part till Dark Fate, that's what the franchise has been about. We get to come along that journey and we are happy to play such good roles. More than the strength and muscle for a female character, having just roles for us to fight over is the best part of it all.
Truth be told though, I am not really into the 'strong female characters' thing as it sounds like a buzz word and a trend. If it sounds like a trend, it means it is only going to be here temporarily. No one asks Gabriel on what it's like to be a male Terminator, but we have been getting questions about our roles. I don't see it as an insult as it's cool in its own ways but I don't want to play into the idea of 'this great time in history'. I want to have many great roles that aren't generically described as a ‘female doctor’ or a ‘female patient’.
Do you have any connections to India and our films?
Gabriel: When I met my wife (Romanian actress Smaranda Luna) for the first time, we did a show called Black Snow. She played a character who had just returned from India. Since then, she has always wanted to go there. When we were in New Zealand, we met this gorgeous Indian couple who had just been married and they told us about the elaborate process of their marriage. It felt so incredible. We want to come there soon.