Natalie Martinez on Death Race

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This August, vehicular mayhem ensues when Paul W.S. Anderson and Universal Pictures release Death Race. Newcomer Natalie Martinez plays the role of Case, the navigator for Jason Statham during the race. A rare mix of beauty and street smarts, Natalie comes off as a Michelle Rodriguez type actress who is ready for some intense, action-packed racing. While on-set visiting, Natalie stopped by and answered a few questions:

ComingSoon.net: How did you get the role?
Natalie Martinez: I auditioned a lot. My manager sent me out on the audition and then basically I just went out and I studied the part, did the audition, and then went back again for the call back, met with the VP of casting. And then I did the chemistry read and then I met Scott Burnstein. And had all these discussions and basically over the month where it took 4 or 5 auditions.

CS: Did you have to do some yelling and fun stuff?
Martinez: Well, Burnstein and I had my own vision of her and we agreed on a lot of things. She has hold of herself like that. She has to be strong because she was in jail but it doesn’t mean she is a bad person. It’s just due to circumstances, you know? He cheated on me so I had to kill my husband. What can I do? Things like that. I had to show I had the same point of view and go out to show that I could carry her. I had to learn my lines. I had to do a scene out of the movie with Jason as well that involves a lot of nerves and tension. Because I could die at any minute. It is kind of hard when you don’t have the environment. It worked out good. They know what they are looking for. But it worked out.

CS: Did you spend some time at a women’s correction facility?
Martinez: When I was a kid, yea (laughs) No, I am joking. I know what you are talking about. I didn’t have to from where I grew up. I grew up in Miami and having that hard knock life growing up as well in a not so great neighborhood and then having to go to great neighborhoods and having to battle that. And just basically knowing how to hold myself and just be strong so that I am not being taken advantage of. You have to be seen strong in certain situations I believe. And you can’t be seen weak. And you can’t show vulnerability. There are a lot of things in common with women in prison as well because you can’t let your guard down. You never know what is going to happen. And I think with life in general, I have the same views so I don’t think… I did not need to spend too much time… I am a lot more street smart than I am anything else. I think that helped me get the part as well.

CS: Can you talk about some of the language in the movie and how you speak?
Martinez: Yea, basically I mean we are in a race that its life or death. So you go around this crazy horse. There are booby traps, there are people shooting guns at you, there are missiles flying, there is a huge 18-wheeler. But so many things, I can’t tell you how many things that are in there. There is a lot of action so a lot of the words are quick and to the point. It is like “pay attention!” A lot of the car talk is napalm oil this and that. Short, to the point because we only have a short amount of time to talk because I am in the women’s prison, he is in the male facility. So we have that short amount of time to know each other. And also its like you don’t bond with people. You have to have that look and have those short words where someone can know where you’re coming from and you know they are coming from the same place and that’s where our bond kind of hits. We will never say I love you, you love me. But there is that little thing in the air, which I think means that romance… that hints at the romance or the hope. I think our relationship is more like hope.

CS: What is it like being inside one of those cars?
Martinez: Its fun, man. It’s all raw. I don’t have a seat half the time. So I am sitting on these metal beams with a little cushion. And it’s all greased up. You’re dirty all the time. Which is fine because you don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to worry about your nails being clean. Like oh my god my nails are going to be seen on TV or anything like that. Or in the car, you can really feel it. Just the fact that everything is visible. There is no dashboard. You see everything, all these cords and stuff, so it just makes you feel that any little wrong thing you can set off this or you can set off that. It’s a lot of fun working in there.

CS: Did they let you drive at all?
Martinez: No, I don’t know how to drive stick. (Laughs) I learned when I was about 13, I learned how to drive stick and I just can’t… I know 13. And I just can’t remember how. So no I don’t. We haven’t gotten to the part when Jason is driving. I know he has obviously driven a lot so I trust him with the driving. And if I don’t it still makes it more fun so…

CS: So what is the back-story of your character?
Martinez: My back-story is that he cheated. That is what I made up. But yea, I killed my husband. You know she was just normal average woman who just so happened her husband was a cop so that kind of made her 10 times worse in trouble. I think she was just normal you know? Kind of a hard knock, her husband was a cop so she dealt with those nights of him not coming home and things like that. I believe that he cheated and what not or just straight away and I killed him. I think I just blacked out and did it. I didn’t really mean to. I just got mad. So it is not that I am an evil person I don’t believe… Sh*t happens. (Laughs) and he is buried all over Florida. And now she is in prison. She is a young girl, just got carried away in what she did and she has to live with that. And due to circumstances, now she is here. So what are you going to do? B*tch and complain? You cant. You just have to deal with it. So now you have this race to go through and I am young so the warden is very easy to manipulate me because you can just throw freedom around me and I am only 25 in the movie so it’s basically I will do what ever it takes for me to get back out there because I don’t necessarily think I belong here, but this is where I am so I am basically… this is me now. I am in prison. Racing cars. Doing what the warden tells me.

CS: What is the job of the navigator?
Martinez: Basically, we have to keep an eye out. He (Jason Statham) is so focused. There are so many tricks and nooks and booby traps and things he has to keep focused on things. There are so many buttons; got the napalm, got the oil, we got the NOS we have all these other things as well. And if something happens to the gun or someone has to talk to Coach. There are just so many things that go on. And we are lightweight that is why we are women. And also for the ratings because it is all televised on the web. With that, I think our job is just basically ratings because we are all boobs and short tops. This is all for the movie and for the webs (laughs) I think we are just lightweight so that we do not compromise their racing skills or just how slow you can go. But it is just that, you know. We go through the switches, we fix anything that is wrong and we look out… instead of two eyes four is better. I can look all around while he is focused on the driving. I can tell if someone is coming from the back. I know the road just as much as he does. But just it might be “hey take this short cut.” And he is also new so it helps out with him because he is just thrown in to being Frankenstein now.

CS: In the original, the navigators were forced to disrobe. Do you have to do anything like that?
Martinez: (Laughs) No. No. No disrobing. I do at one point, but I have a shirt underneath so you never see anything. There is no nudity.

CS: Do you have a fight with the other navigators?
Martinez: No, I mean there is so much. You get off that bus and you have no idea if you are even going to get out of here. So I don’t think there is enough time to fight with these girls. I mean… we are not best friends either. We don’t talk we just do what we have to do. I think its kill or be killed. Do what you got to do. So not on screen we have not fought… not off screen either. (Laughs)

CS: So outside of Jason and Joan Allen, who else do you have the most scenes with?
Martinez: I didn’t have many with Joan. I did have a lot with the Monster crew. So Ian McShane, Fred Koehler and Jacob Vargas and Jason Statham and me that’s the whole the Monster crew. I have some with Pachinko that is Max Ryan. But that is just looks and stuff. Same with Tyrese it is just while I am in the car. Most of the work and talking are just me just being around the Monster pit crew.

CS: What is McShane like to work with?
Martinez: Amazing. I mean he is so cool you know. So many stories which is a lot of fun. And he knows his sh*t. He knows what to do. So we will be doing stuff and he will be giving little advice by saying you would look really good here. So I am like “alright McShane says this” so I go over here so I can showcase the camera. It’s is true and it makes a lot of sense sometimes where it kind of puts it all together. I think he shared that a lot with us. He was really, really welcoming, we had hung out; we had gone to dinner with me, him and basically the whole crew. We all hung out and he was just a real pleasure to work with. A lot of fun. He is like a kid, he is great. All but good things to say about him, I really liked him a lot.

CS: What is it like working with Paul Anderson?
Martinez: Paul is awesome. Paul knows what he wants which is really cool because you feel assured that I can always go up to him and ask him anything. The fact that you can do that is really easy. It makes your job a lot easier because you can communicate if you have any views about the character or anything about what you think or if you don’t understand something you can always ask. And that is what is really great about him. And also I just love watching him work sometimes. He will walk and he is like off somewhere in “Death Race” land. You can just so tell and I think that is awesome, I mean it’s his baby and it shows just how much he cares about it. And if anyone has anything to say or anything to contribute he kind of gets it and I like that. He is great to work with.

CS: Did Paul put you into any scary situations?
Martinez: No, he definitely says he is going to scare me and I am waiting for it. I like the speed and I like that I have the ejector seat coming up and I am like “can you go faster? And he is like “yes!” it is fun and he definitely says he is going to scare me so I am looking forward to it. I think I’m getting into a car today or tomorrow coming out of the window while it is racing. I like that though.

CS: Have you ever been into cars before?
Martinez: Yes, not too crazy but I like muscle cars a lot. My favorite car is a ’69 Barracuda. But that is what I want when I was 15 so I like big trucks and stuff. I like cars. I know something’s. I can change my own car and battery and change my own oil.

CS: What sort of training or prep work did you have to do?
Martinez: Well I spent a lot of time Googling… when I needed to know what napalm and all these other words are. But other than that, I spent some time with everyone showing me… like basically inside the Monster, just to know where everything was so I knew what I was doing. Practicing the belts, witch race belts. There are all these buckles so there are all these ways to do it and tricks and stuff and there was also training safe. But in having to do with the movie, just basically looking up a lot of stuff and trying to understand what it was. Understanding the race as well as the car. What was the function of certain things. That is pretty much it.

CS: Do we see you killing your husband on screen?
Martinez: No no that was just a story.

CS: So you didn’t act it out in your apartment?
Martinez: No my boyfriend is still alive. He hasn’t cheated.

CS: Are there any graphic death scenes in the film?
Martinez: Yea, there is a lot. Some really cool ones too. I don’t want to say too much about them but let me just tell you do see a lot of blood. The scars are amazing. I was touching this one guy’s scars today, they feel real, it’s just… its pretty gnarly. I can’t believe I just said that. Oh God.

CS: Do you see yourself doing more action stuff?
Martinez: I love action stuff so yea. And just anything that gets the adrenaline going that makes you more hands-on with it. I like the fact that I get dirty in drive scenes and race and the wind. And you don’t have to worry about anything. And it’s in the moment I like that a lot. It is fun.

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