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Edmonton Journal

Don't Call Her Michelle From The Block: S.W.A.T. Star Rodriguez Adds To Gallery Of Tough Girls

Rebecca Louie, New York Daily News

August 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Edmonton Journal. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK - Don't let the dress fool you. Michelle Rodriguez is not J.Lo, thanks. First of all, her block is in Jersey City. Second, she'll never swoon over a square-jawed hunk on-screen.

She doesn't do that.

In her movies, Rodriguez shoots guns and punches people. She was a boxer in her first starring role, Girlfight, and is a kick-ass cop in S.W.A.T., opening today.

In real life, she says what she thinks -- loudly.

So to any Hollywood honchos who want Michelle Rodriguez on the casting couch, she has this message:

"That's where I get ghetto," says the 25-year-old actress by phone from L.A. "I'll (bleeping) kill you if you try to disrespect my body against my will. You must get hurt. I'll get someone to hurt you. Or I'll do it myself."

As for those J.Lo comparisons, she complains, "It's so shallow and narrow-minded of people. "I am so butchy compared to her. It's that whole Spanish thing, like if Rosie Perez was still around making movies, they would compare me to her, too. Like, hello?"

After battling her way to the top of 350 actresses who auditioned for Girlfight, the Puerto Rican and Dominican knockout perfected her punches during 41/2 months of training in the ring.

Rodriguez's gallery of sexy, snarling tough girls also includes characters in the action film The Fast and the Furious, the horror film Resident Evil and the surf saga Blue Crush.

In S.W.A.T., she joins Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J as the lone female officer on a special operations team.

"The guys got used to me due to a couple of burps and passings of gas," says Rodriguez about earning her stripes with the men on the set.

Jackson told Katie Couric on Today that Rodriguez had so much energy that when the director yelled "cut," she'd be climbing the set or running a 100-yard dash.

After bouncing from Texas to Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez was raised in Jersey City by her mother and grandmother, both strict Jehovah's Witnesses.

By 14, though, she was drag-racing with her boyfriend. She was kicked out of six schools before dropping out of high school, but later earned her GED (General Educational Development).

In conversation, it's almost impossible for Rodriguez to slow the thoughts and emotions that go right into her speech.

When asked about a 2002 arrest in which she got into fisticuffs with a roommate, Louise Ann Ward, she first declares, "Next question."

But in the next breath, without prompting, she riffs: "It's just me defending myself.

"I am a person who stands tall and respects all, and when I am disrespected and somebody disrespects my space by touching me in the wrong way, I fight back.

"I am not going to stand back and take it just because I am an actress. And that's it. There is your answer to that."

Rodriguez was released on $2,500 US bail, and Ward declined to press assault and harassment charges.

Asked why she split with Fast and the Furious co-star Vin Diesel, she laughs and says, "No comment."

But she is quick to add, "When you are with some powerful person and you are just 'the girlfriend,' I am too self-centred right now. I have too many dreams of my own. Having a guy who wants me to follow him around right now is not the deal."

One thing Rodriguez will not touch are the rumours that she is bisexual. What she does sexually "should stay at home. It should be my business," she says.

She'd rather take on the movie business.

"I sit in the freaking movie theatres these days and want to cry about how bored I am," she says.

"Producers these days have the mentality of followers. Only a leader will get up and do something different.

"I have only done six movies and it's not like I am well-respected in this town," she says.

"If anything, I am well on my way to being blacklisted in this town for how much honesty comes out of my mouth."

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