Action Hero Gina Rodriguez Talks Dangerous 'Deepwater Horizon' Stunts and Boxing Her Director Peter Berg

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·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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Gina Rodriguez in ‘Deepwater Horizon’ (Lionsgate)

Because she’s best known for the CW soap opera satire Jane the Virgin, you might not realize that Gina Rodriguez is a bona fide badass.

But don’t expect her secret to last long, thanks to the new disaster thriller Deepwater Horizon. The 32-year-old Chicago native plays Andrea Fleytas, the crew member aboard the titular oil rig who first sent out a mayday call following the 2010 on-board explosion that killed 11 men and lead to a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the film follows the harrowing escape of survivors Fleytas, Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), and others as the rig bursts into flames.

Rodriguez did all of her own stunts in the movie except for one: the climactic nine-story leap Williams and Fleytas would make to safety.

“Insurance wouldn’t clear me,” a disappointed Rodriguez lamented to Yahoo Movies at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Deepwater premiered. “I fought for that so long. Because I’ve bungee-jumped, I’ve sky-dived, I was like, ‘I could do this.’ The jump was 90 feet. I could’ve done that. But insurance wouldn’t clear me.”

She was cleared to withstand a few explosions, though. Director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) utilized practical effects wherever possible aboard a life-size rig constructed at an abandoned Six Flags amusement park that closed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Related: Peter Berg Defends Portrayal of Oil Works as Heroes in ‘Deepwater Horizon’

“Peter doesn’t fake the funk,” Rodriguez explained. “You had blowtorch men in different corners. We had explosions rigged. You’re getting debris shot at you.

“The explosions would shoot [Mark Wahlberg and me] one way or the other. They’d pick me up by my collar. And I’m not a little girl. I’m not a tiny woman.”

Jane is a type-A perfectionist, but Gina Rodriguez chopped her hair and dropped the part of her identity that resembled Jane's. (Photo: Scott Everett White/The CW Network)
Gina Rodriguez in ‘Jane the Virgin’ (The CW)

It was all an adrenaline rush for the actress, but it also reminded her of the actual tragedy. “You get so excited,” she said. “Explosions are happening, and [before] every take they’re covering you in fire retardant all over your body, all over your hair. And then you stop and go, ‘Oh s–t, this actually happened to somebody.’ They didn’t have the gel, and they were terrified. And this was somebody’s reality. So it becomes so much greater than yourself.”

Rodriguez got banged up both on and off the set. She’s a self-professed boxing fanatic, as is Wahlberg (who played “Irish” Micky Ward in The Fighter) and Berg (who co-owns a boxing gym in Santa Monica).

“So we boxed at the New Orleans Boxing Institute almost every single day. And then me and Peter fought each other a bunch,” she said. “He punched me a few times in the face.

“I remember him rocking me in the face, and I was like, ‘Peter what the f–k?! I’m in your f–king movie, man!’ And he was like, ‘Oh, we’ll cover that up with makeup.’ But I’d get real bruised up, and then I’d hit him really good in the sternum where he couldn’t breathe. Like, ‘That’s what you get.‘”

Related: Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson Remember the Sets They Shared Before Costarring in ‘Deepwater Horizon’

Rodriguez learned a couple valuable lessons on Deepwater, like watch out for Peter Berg in the boxing ring. But also that if you want to do all your own stunts, you have to fight for them from the beginning.

So that’s what she did heading into production this past summer on Annihilation, Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller that follows up his 2015 sleeper hit Ex Machina.

“I did all my own stunts. I fought from the beginning. I said, ‘I’m doing everything myself.’ And it was crazy stuntwork,” said Rodriguez, who describes her character as a “crazy lesbian paramedic psychopath” who provides the film (which also stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson) with some comic relief.

“Those stunts were outrageous. I get attacked by a bear that comes barreling into my body, slams me against the wall, pulls me down. I run upstairs, get kicked down 10 stairs on my back, ripping the bannister out. I got banged up. It was great.”

Deepwater Horizon is now in theaters.