Courtesy of Lionsgate
Rosario Dawson shed some tears over her latest project.
The Clerks III actress, 43, spoke with PEOPLE about reprising her role as Becky Scott for the "heartbreaking and special" latest installment in Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse, after she says the first film "changed filmmaking."
"I cried when I read the script and was super upset, but I got it. It really made sense. It works. There's just no other way to tell the story," Dawson says, adding: "And I was ugly crying at the premiere, and I was okay with it because it felt well-earned. It took us decades to get here."
She previously joined the franchise with 2006's Clerks II, which ended with Becky marrying and starting a family with Brian O'Halloran's Dante Hicks. But the character's return in the third film is shrouded in tragedy.
"I keep just giving kudos to Brian, because he's the one who really had to kind of shoulder the emotional toll of it all," Dawson notes.
Courtesy of Lionsgate
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Dawson raves about getting the chance to work with Smith, 52, again, following his near-fatal heart attack in 2018, which inspired Clerks III.
"We survived because he almost died, and we would not have had a chance to explore this. No one else could have made this film," she says. "It is Kevin and all of us together, and I'm glad that we prioritized, finally after all of these years, making it happen."
"It's just been really cool, and how special and meta it is that he could reflect in that particular way. Kevin, with this project, I think it works. Not everyone can do such a self-referential film, and it be this heartbreaking and special and not feel weird. There was just something so important about it actually, poignant," Dawson explains.
The Ahsoka star reveres Smith's "really iconic" work on the first Clerks, praising his critically-acclaimed 1994 directorial debut as being "so special."
The black-and-white film launched the View Askewniverse (named after his banner with co-producer Scott Mosier), also consisting of Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Dogma (1999) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001).
"He changed filmmaking with it, and I'm really glad he's still with us and able to keep showing us what a great filmmaker he is and remind us to care about the little things," Dawson muses.
Dawson, whose onscreen debut came at age 15 in writer Harmony Korine and director Larry Clark's controversial 1995 film Kids, has since made it a point to work with her laundry list of that era's great filmmakers.
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"I was very calculated in my beginning years as an actor, of being hyper-focused on working with a lot of the directors that were the big directors of my time," Dawson says, counting Smith among the likes of her other collaborators Danny Boyle, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
Lionsgate in partnership with Fathom Events will be releasing Clerks III exclusively in theaters from September 13-18.