With her saucer-sized eyes and her sunshiney laugh, it’s hard to imagine Eiza Gonzalez as one-half of a lesbian scammer duo with a business built around defrauding the elderly. But that’s exactly what makes her the perfect fit to play Fran in Netflix’s new thriller I Care A Lot. From her warm demeanor to her unbridled affection for the film’s loathsome Marla (played by Rosamund Pike), it’s not hard to imagine that Gonzalez could convince the most reticent among us to lower their guard.
Fortunately for all of us, Gonzalez isn’t actually a con artist—unless you consider that a synonym for “compulsively watchable actress.” Born and raised in Mexico City, Gonzalez can credit her breakout in the U.S. to a nearly unbroken string of hits over the last couple years, from Baby Driver to Hobbes & Shaw. Also unbroken: a more than 15-year working streak—that is, until the pandemic forced her to take some much-needed rest. “I discovered a full other version of me that I hadn't had the chance [to explore] since I literally turned 14,” Gonzalez says of her forced time out of commission. Now that she’s getting back into the swing of things—in addition to gearing up for the release of I Care A Lot on Friday, she’s also in production on the new Michael Bay movie Ambulance—she looks forward to taking this new version of herself along for the ride. Read on for Gonzalez’s thoughts on navigating Hollywood as a Latinx woman, preparing to play an EMT in the middle of a global pandemic, and drinking lots of water.
You’re back in production right now, correct?
Yeah, I am doing a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya [Abdul-Mateen II] called Ambulance, directed by Michael Bay, and it's been wild because it's a very intense script. It was definitely weird to go back to set and that amount of proximity with people; it’s like you're going from zero to 100. It just felt like first day of school all over again, but 10 times more terrifying because I felt like I hadn't been in school at all, so I didn't know anything—I feel like I forgot everything I knew. So it was really scary going back to set, but it's been it's been good. It's been necessary for my mental health, I think. It’s the perfect antidote for what I needed right now.
What’s it like to be shooting a movie called Ambulance in the middle of a global health crisis?
It’s been wild, because I play an EMT, so I've been learning a lot of medical preparation. As I'm sitting here talking to you, there's a fake arm there staring at me, because I’ve been training and doing IVs. When I do a role I really like to get immersed into it, so I would have loved to ride in an ambulance for a minute, but right now it's impossible. It was the first time in my life that I kind of had to work around it to prep for a role because everyone in the role I’m prepping for is busy in real life: there's no way to talk to doctors or EMTs because they're all busy. Even getting ambulances was really hard, so I rented an RV to kind of get used to the rhythm in the ambulance— you know, crazy things like that. But I've been able to connect with incredible people that are literally saving people’s lives every other minute, and it’s been so inspiring. It puts a lot of weight on me because I'm going to set thinking, “Wow, I really got to honor them. I gotta do this really good.”
How has it been readjusting to work after so much time off?
Well, you can tell my skin isn't liking it. [Laughs] Like, I was just sitting here, stressing over my skin. I think that my skin got so good over quarantine because I just got used to not wearing makeup, and when you go back to even having a little bit of it on and running and sweating, getting used to it again has been hard. It’s also—you know, I’m getting to that age where less is more. I don’t like makeup anymore, which was great for I Care A Lot because I had zero makeup in that movie, which was so fun.
How has your skincare changed in the past year?
At the beginning—like everyone—I was doing millions of face masks, and I broke out like crazy. And then I have hyper pigmentation because I'm Latin, so one breakout, even if I don't touch it, I’ll scar. But I have an incredible facialist—she’s Latina, her name is Vanessa Hernandez, and I Bible by her. She really saved my skin. I think that I was overusing things, and I realized that less is more. So I basically have three things on my counter now. I have this scrub that I use once in a while, and then I have a gentle one for daily use, and then I have a clearing acne like moisturizer. I also personally really like those Peace Out pimple stickers from Sephora. Those kinds of stickers, I feel like most of them don't work, and these really, really work. Now that I'm doing the movie, I double cleanse and everything, but I try to do natural stuff like witch hazel because my skin burns really easily. I'm trying to keep it as clean, clean, clean as possible, because then your skin is naturally happy, and you let your oils come back to your skin and naturally rebalance themselves. And then I do Bible by microneedling. I think it really helps people like me who have a tendency to break out.
What else are you doing to take care of yourself while you’re working?
Honestly, it’s the dumbest thing ever, but drinking a lot of water. Really, you'll see the difference. I bought one of those bottles where it’s like, “Keep going!” “Go for it!” “This is your goal!” And I’m like, “I hate it! Don’t tell me what to do!” But it's been really, really helping out. Honestly, I’ve just been single and staying home and doing meditation and doing yoga. I'm, like, working out and drinking tea—I feel like the beginning of that song from Ariana Grande: “I’ve been eating healthy.” I feel like just having moments for yourself is just the best that you can ever do, especially in quarantine. Also, new hobbies—I learned how to play guitar and piano, and then I’ve been brushing up on my languages. I also went through that banana bread phase, like, forced everyone to make cakes with me for a while.
It sounds like you’ve been through all the different phases of the pandemic.
Yeah, I went through different stages. There's something beautiful about all of us as a society collectively being in a chaos. Even though society has a tendency to put people in different places, we were all sort of sitting there trying to figure out how to be safe and survive a pandemic and push through the day and stay hopeful, from you to me to probably Barack Obama. You know, I've been working since I was 14—more than half the time I’ve been alive at this point—and I had never stopped for that amount of time in my entire life. Like, I’m so glad that I was able to cross over from Mexico and work, but at the same time, I just needed that well-deserved stop to be like, “Who am I, and how have I changed?” That was just really healthy for me, having some time to sort of sit down and ponder in silence. I'm a huge advocate for therapy, so I've been very consistent with therapy, and I’ve reconnected with who I think I am in this 2.0 version of myself. I connected with arts again: drawing, painting, sketching, oil, acrylic. I’m reconnecting with my love of music. I sort of feel like I was living in a soldier mentality, like pushing through with half an arm and half a leg and limping through it.
Fifteen years is a long time to just keep pushing through it, honestly. How do you think things have changed for you in that time?
I moved to the US around 2013 or 2012, and I actually underestimated how much fear I have around being on set and disappointing people. I always felt like a disparity, with English being my second language, but not necessarily sounding Latin and then people forgetting that so then a lot of pressure being put on me. I always felt like I had to fill in this expectation of this bombshell idea they make of you when you’re Latin. You come into this industry that is inherently discriminatory and inherently racist, and there’s a lot of ignorance and not knowing better. I don't point it directly to the industry, like, “This is your fault,” but it's just sort of like, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” So for me walking in, I felt like, Where’s my spot? Where’s my box? Where do I fit? There was always this underlying feeling for me that I was never going to be able to even look at people like Cate Blanchett or Natalie Portman, because that would be like, “You’re delusional. Who do you think you are?” So I was like, Oh, I gotta settle with being this idea of a bombshell. Especially when you're coming from a different world, there are all these stereotypes being put on you, and then you try to run away from them, but getting the opportunity becomes really hard. It's really hard to get massive directors to cast Latinas unless you're playing in the world of, like, Narcos or the help. And then you’re like, “I guess I have to settle. Dreaming big is not for me.” There’s very few opportunities for Latinas, and you can't get leading roles that easily, so having that consistency with the career becomes really complicated. So then you start going, Okay, I will do a small role as long as it lets me prove something different for me. That was why I was so grateful for I Care A Lot—like, Oh, there are directors out there that want to get you out of that box, they're willing to take those risks. It made me feel like I can dream big and push outside my own box. Even though I always had that inherently in my attitude, for the first time, I kind of believed it. I was like, “I can be doing other stuff, and I’m not going to settle, and I’m going to push for what I want.” So I've been reading a lot, and I've found a bunch of stuff that I'm producing.
What are you interested in producing?
When it comes to the producing side, I want to divide myself between creating different types of stories—you can't shy away from stories that are the more typical Latinx stories that get told, because that’s a real thing, and those stories need to be told. But also, how do we counteract that? So my intention was to look for stories of female icons that have changed history for Latin women, as well as actual contemporary women that are messy and complicated and antiheroes and not necessarily in the guidelines of what a female should “be.” It's really exciting, because I never believed that I could be a producer. I was always at the mercy of the industry. But now I'm reading so much and learning so much about newer directors, international female directors, directors from Chile and Peru. I feel like sometimes if you’re more seasoned or you’ve been industry for the whole, you can open a vessel for other people, and I want to be able to do that for my friends: I have other actress friends of mine that are Latin and don't get the amount of opportunities that I get. I was sitting with one of my best friends yesterday, and I was like, “Babe, the day that I have power in the industry, I will make a movie for you, because you deserve it.” That's sort of where I've been, mentally, and I'm excited because then opportunities like I Care A Lot or Godzilla don’t just become incredible experiences but also open a market for us to be seen in a different light. You know, they’re the type of roles that Latin women should be seen in and I also don't want to play a [stereotypical] Latina in movies anymore. I don't feel like it's necessary. I want to be whoever I want to be. That's why I want to be an actress, you know, because I'd watch Disney movies, and I was like, “I'm never going to be the Little Mermaid, because she's a redhead. I'm never going to be Cinderella. I'm never going to be any of them.” And slowly but surely that's changing, and I've been very lucky to find people that are excited to do that as well.
And now there’s going to be a new version of The Little Mermaid starring Halle Bailey.
Which is so exciting! Those things inspire you. People don't understand that being inclusive and diverse inspires people who never thought that they could do something like that. And that's important. That is so important.