Eiza González: From Tragedy to Triumph

The versatile Mexican actress shines in two big productions.

WORDS Verónica Villafañe
Febrero / Marzo 2020
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It is a lovely, warm day and the glow of the afternoon sun reflects in a golden tinge over the beaches of Santa Monica, California. “I love the sea. I love the water. Water is something that totally defines me as a person... perhaps because I’m an Aquarius,” says Mexican actress Eiza González with a sigh as she looks out the window of the lush hotel Casa del Mar. “This is one of the things I really enjoy when in Los Angeles.”

González has spent the afternoon posing for a photoshoot with Nexos and, after several changes of costumes, she finally gets a break. She is now donning jeans and a T-shirt that has a picture of singer Jim Morrison of the band The Doors; nothing to do with the designer clothes she had modeled minutes before. 

Judging from her films, this young Mexican woman, 30, can play many roles. In Baby Driver (2017), she is a car thief — the only woman in a men's gang — a character that marked a before and after in her career. In the independent production Paradise Hills (2019), she plays Amarna, a pop singer trapped on a futuristic island of women. And she starts off 2020 in two major productions: Bloodshot, opposite Vin Diesel, and Godzilla vs. Kong in the role of a businesswoman with a touch of comedy.

“It is a year of perfect balance: great movies and also three independent films that bring out a completely different part of me,” she says. “It is important that they see me as an actress who can do everything. I am focused on doing characters that rescue me out of the stereotype of a sexy bombshell which I am given most of the time.”

Up close González is just as impressive as on the silver screen. Tall and athletic, she is the kind of woman that turns heads. When she speaks, she often peppers her Spanish with English words. When she landed in Los Angeles in 2013, she already was fully bilingual and, in a few months, she was given her first English-speaking part as Santanico Pandemonium in Robert Rodriguez's TV series From Dusk till Dawn. But it was her film debut in the surprisingly successful action movie Baby Driver that gave her greater visibility and opened up the doors to greater opportunities.

Last year, again she worked with Rodriguez in Alita: Battle Angel in the role of a killer cyborg and performed opposite Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham as Madam M in the Fast and Furious spin-off series Hobbs & Shaw. “I am very proud, because I twice scored a success: first in my native country and now, for the second time around, in the United States,” she said.

A Tragedy Changed Her Life

González's childhood was marked by tragedy with the death of her father in an accident when she was 12 years old. She and her brother were raised by her mother, Glenda Reyna, whom the actress looks upon as her guide in all aspects of her life. Reyna worked as a model to support the family while studying dentistry at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) wherefrom she graduated with a doctorate degree. “My mother was always an extremely hardworking woman and she set an example for me to follow all my life,” says González.

The loss of her father plunged Gonzalez into a deep depression and led her to eat compulsively. But, the suffering of that moment took a turn in her life and prompted her to find whereon to focus her energies. She enrolled in an acting school.

“My life changed overnight. It changed completely. When you’re at the bottom you should always look on the positive side of things. That’s the way out to survival in this life,” she says.

Gonzalez began her career as an actress and singer at age 17 with the starring role of the soap opera Lola, Once Upon a Time. She also made herself known in Latin America for her character Clara Molina in Dream With Me, a teen musical comedy-drama TV series by Nickelodeon, which was performed in Argentina during the course of 2010, a decisive year in her life. “The growth and independence of living alone for the first time in a foreign country was what prepared me to acquire temperance and feel safe. It was an incredible process for me both mentally and emotionally.”

In Love With Los Angeles

After her return to Mexico, the next stop was Los Angeles, a city with which González had fallen in love. "I wake up and go surfing," she says, pointing out the window to the sea. “Things I could never do in Mexico City. This changes my mood from one day to the next. I love being able to go up to the mountains, to go hiking. I love outdoor living and I really enjoy camping. Living in Los Angeles has given me a lot of freedom, although I do miss my country very much.”

Gonzalez arrived in the competitive global mecca for filmmaking at a time when the industry was just beginning to become aware of the role of women in general and of Latin actors and actresses in particular. “It was not easy, but I have been fortunate to work consistently since the day I set foot in the United States. It is something for which I am infinitely thankful and I feel completely humbled and honored to have had that opportunity.”

However, the lack of access to substantial roles for Latinos in Hollywood bothers her. “In the last two to three years there have been more opportunities, but I don't feel that there is quality in the projects. One may come up where you act as the protagonist, and then five years will go by without another one coming your way.”

The actress reveals that she has just founded her production company, called Oh, Darling, which is already in search of her first projects. “I want to create opportunities, not only for myself but also for other Latin actresses, and develop projects that reflect what it means to be a Latino woman free from stereotypes. As Robert [Rodriguez] told me, we have to come up with our own projects to create the path to move forward toward our desired aim.

The sun sets and Gonzalez picks up her things. She has to walk her dogs, call her mom and get ready for the next audition. "I am always in a constant battle," she says with a smile. “Failures are scars. They’re not lethal wounds. This is the way to look at life.”

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