Getting on a call with Daniela Melchior is like chatting with a friend. And much like on the silver screen, the actress's down-to-earth, relatable, and positive attitude immediately radiates through my Zoom screen.
Melchior just made her U.S. acting debut in The Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s latest directorial project which premiered on August 6. She plays Cleo Cazo, or Ratcatcher 2, a member of the Suicide Squad, alongside fellow castmates Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, and John Cena. Cleo Cazo has the ability to control and communicate with rats, which makes her a central character to this new installment of the franchise.
The 24-year-old is already a star in Portugal where she was nominated for a Portuguese Film Academy Sophia Award for her role in Parque Mayer. She also graced the cover of GQ Portugal and acted in The Black Book, a French film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival the same year.
So what's next for this star on the rise? Ahead, Daniela Melchior shares behind-the-scenes details from the set of Suicide Squad —including the rat she worked with that was not CGI—as well as her self-care rituals and what has been inspiring her lately.
How are you, and where are you right now?
"I can't really say where I am, but I can say that I'm in a hotel room. You'll find out why I am in a hotel room [laughs], but I'm good! And you?"
I’m doing great! Tell me about your character. Who do you play in The Suicide Squad, and what were a few of your favorite moments on set?
"I play Ratcatcher 2, Ratcatcher's daughter. I'm part of the Suicide Squad. I loved the experience. Ratcatcher is really different from everybody else [on the team]. This is her first mission. She doesn't know how to do many things besides taking care of Sebastian [her rat], controlling rats, and taking naps.
"It was my first experience acting in English. I still don't think in English yet, but I'm trying to... It was my first experience in the United States. I feel really lucky to be [acting] next to so many huge stars that I've always admired... and to work with James Gunn and the beautiful Margot Robbie. I'm super excited to see everyone's reactions to this new version of the Suicide Squad."
I saw on Instagram that the rat you have with you during the movie is real and that he was part of your audition process. Can you tell me a little more about that?
"I self-taped from Portugal some time ago. I received a phone call saying that the production wanted me to fly to Atlanta to do a screen test. It is basically the audition but in person with cameras and everything.
"They sent me an email saying, ‘We can't wait to have you on set. By the way, we're having rats on set too.' And I was thinking, ‘Great way to meet them!’ And that was the first and the last time that I thought about it. And then I flew to Atlanta. I did the audition. I asked for the rats because they weren't there right away. I had an open mind, and I got along with them."
Are you afraid of rats at all?
"No, when I was younger, I had two hamsters, and I was fine. I love animals. I posted a video when we were shooting—it was my birthday, and I had a huge surprise. Everyone [on Instagram] was so excited to see me with the rat—not the big surprise on set [laughs]—but me with the rat!"
What was it like working in the States as compared to Portugal?
"I find it to be really different, starting with the budget. The budget [of a movie] really changes everything, in every department. For example, in Portugal, we have one or two makeup artists who prepare every actor. On The Suicide Squad, I had my own makeup artist, my own hairdresser... I got to be really spoiled [laughs]. They were really lovely, and I had the full attention on me."
How have you been taking care of yourself? Do you have a wellness routine?
"I found out that sometimes when I was a little bit more stressed, it would consume me. So, I downloaded a meditation app on my phone [Insight Timer]. When I was in the United States, I would meditate in the morning—like guided meditations, to be present and positive—and to sleep because my mind would be running and overthinking about everything, even if my life was amazing.
"When the pandemic started, I thought ‘this is the perfect time to take care of myself,' because once it ends, it will be better for me—as an actor even—to get to know me a little bit more. It helped me a lot. I really notice a difference when I don't meditate. If something bad happened, I would be overthinking, and I don't need that."
Did your beauty and makeup routine change in the past year? How so?
"My skincare routine changed from moisturizer and eye cream to a multi-step routine. And I love it. It's really good because it makes sense. I was trying to pay more attention to my skin type.
"I always clean [my face], and I always take my makeup off. In the morning, I do toner, Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid—but only when my skin needs it because sometimes it [makes me] break out. After hyaluronic acid, I put on moisturizer, eye cream. And sunscreen all the time—even if I stay home—because it's so important."
What are your favorite skincare products?
How have you been spending your time? What have you been listening to, reading, or watching?
"I love Peggy Gou. She’s a DJ. She's really, really cool. I love all her skincare routines when she shares them. I love following her on Instagram.
"I've been loving streaming [shows], like The Handmaid's Tale. I'm loving Schitt’s Creek. I love a good comedy. I want to do something like that in the future. I love to see other people's work because I feel it's really important for us to run from the obvious as an actor."
Is comedy something you would like to pursue in the States?
"I actually love one series from France that I wish they would make an American version of, and I wish I could be a part of, called Dix pour Cent [Call My Agent!]. I love it! I didn't have it in Portugal. I saw one or two episodes on a Portuguese channel, but then they lost the rights to it. So, when I flew to Thailand, I was like, ‘oh, my IP is different, so now I can watch it.' And I watched the whole series, and I love it."
"I love French comedy. I love their humor. It's about the [entertainment] industry, and I could really relate to that. And I loved the fact that the agents—before the actors—hear about everything, which speaks so much about us. I love to see behind the scenes. It's so cool."
From your Instagram, it looks like you have a love for fashion: do you have any favorite designers or brands? Is there a particular look, piece, or trend you're looking forward to wearing?
"That's a difficult one because I love [getting inspired by] everyone and everything. But I would say that I love Vivienne Westwood. I love Versace because it's like a ‘girls night out and feeling sexy.’ It's really cool. I love one brand that my stylist from Portugal told me about. It's from the same time as Chanel, but now they're coming back, so I'm really excited. It's called Patou. At the same time, I love unisex styles like streetwear. I love to play with everything [and every style]."