Catalina Sandino Moreno is spoiled. Her first film, Joshua Marston’s “Maria Full of Grace,” proved such an intense, fulfilling experience that it’ll be hard to duplicate.
Indeed, it may have ruined everything else for the young thesp.
“I’m very passionate about the film. I trusted Josh. He gave us the freedom to explore the characters and that life he was trying to portray onscreen,” says the 21-year-old Colombia native.
That life is one far removed from her own middle-class background. The film follows Maria, a young woman bored with her tedious, dead-end job at a flower plantation who yearns to do more with her life. She takes the only out offered her, and becomes a drug mule, smuggling cocaine into the U.S.
“As an actress, it was important to know everything about the character,” says Moreno, who worked a flower plantation for two weeks and stayed with a local family in preparation.
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“My first week was amazing and I realized the work was pretty hard,” she says in accented but almost fluent English. “They said that I could be a fly on the wall but during the second week, I realized I needed to talk to these people and began to ask questions.”
She encountered their reluctance to talk, not because the workers weren’t friendly, but because even a short conversation would slow down production.
After two weeks, she says, they “fired” her “because I was making people uncomfortable.”
After the experience, Moreno grew a greater appreciation of what her character endures.
“I could understand Maria,” she says. “I could understand these people. I respect Maria and her decision, although I don’t like it. It’s her only way of getting out of that town.
“Josh made Maria more real. I didn’t know anything and she didn’t know anything.”
“Grace” has earned Moreno praise from festivals around the world, and an IFP/Independent Spirit Award nom for best actress. But more importantly, she’s learning about the business and making choices.
“Right now I’m not working,” says the newly minted New Yorker. “I’m waiting for (the perfect) role. I’m not jumping into just any Latina role. I have to be picky; I don’t want to be stereotyped. I need to find another movie that I can believe in.”
“I’ve been to places that I never thought I’d be,” she says of global journeys promoting the film. “There are so many cool movies and cool people struggling to make their movies. I’m learning a lot.”