Michelle Rodriguez might actually be the toughest actress in Hollywood.
The 37-year-old star, who broke into the acting scene nearly 15 years ago, doesn’t mind being typecast as the tomboy or the tough-girl. Instead, she embraces it and uses her platform to bring women to the forefront of the action genre. Now, Rodriguez, who most recently starred in Furious 7, will face a brand-new challenge when she joins another brand of action star in the latest episode of Running Wild With Bear Grylls.
Rodriguez and Grylls will venture into the Nevada desert in tonight’s episode after the pair parachute in from over 10,000 feet in the air. It would be a challenge for anyone but for Rodriguez, it’s a question of maintaining her reputation. Here’s what you need to know about the actress:
1. Rodriguez Was Expelled From Five Different Schools
To say that Rodriguez had a difficult childhood would be something of an understatement. The actress was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1978 to Carmen Milady Pared Espinal and Rafael Rodriguez, who spent the majority of her youth serving in the U.S. Army.
Rodriguez moved to the Dominican Republic with her mother when she was just eight years old then moved to Puerto Rico before, finally, settling in Jersey City when she was 17. Although Rodriguez eventually earned her GED, she dropped out of high school and was expelled from five different schools. She briefly attended business school before quitting to pursue a career in acting.
2. She Beat Out 350 Other Actresses For Her First Role in ‘Girlfight’
Rodriguez’s first big break came, a bit, by mistake. The actress happened across an ad for an open casting call and, with a fierce sense of determination and confidence, attended her first-ever audition, beating out 350 other actresses for the lead role in Girlfight.
The film premiered to critical acclaim and, seemingly overnight, Rodriguez went from a first-time actress to an award-winner. She won several major accolades, including honors from the Independent Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards while the film itself took home a top prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Since that role, Rodriguez has been somewhat typecast as the stereotypical tough, tomboy character. Although, she admits, she doesn’t really mind:
Oh man, I was typecast the minute I did a film called Girlfight years ago. You allow yourself to be typecast. If I decided I didn’t want to be typecast tomorrow, I’d just do an indie film where I play some poor girl who goes through some excruciating experience and win myself an award for crying or being raped. But at the end of the day, I’m not in it for the acting. I only wanna be someone I respect or someone that I consider interesting or fun. I’m here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength, and that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years.
Rodriguez is hoping to eventually turn that stereotype to her advantage though, hoping to evolve her career from acting to screenwriting in the near future.
3. Her Films Have Collectively Grossed Over $5 Billion
Since that very first role in 2000, Rodriguez has turned into one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, thanks in large part to her role in one of the world’s most prolific film series; The Fast and the Furious.
Rodriguez has been part of the franchise, playing Letty Ortiz, since the the first film in 2001 and recently rejoined the star-studded cast for the seventh film earlier this year. In addition to The Fast and the Furious, Rodriguez has also acted in the Resident Evil franchise as well as prominent roles in Blue Crush, S.W.A.T. and Avatar.
Entertainment Weekly called Rodriguez “the most iconic actress in the action genre, as well as one of the most visible Latinas in Hollywood” and her films, as of 2013, had cumulative global gross of $5.2 billion.
4. Rodriguez Has Performed as a Disc Jockey Since 2009
While Rodriguez’s acting career, both in film and on TV, has been the crux of her professional life, she’s also expanded her reach recently and has been working as a disc jockey since 2009. She described her style as:
For the most part I like playing for mature crowds so that I can go all the way back to the 1930s then through the 1960s, 1970 and 1980s – then kick it into house, hip-hop and R&B. I like to mix it up, it’s pretty eclectic
Since stepping up to the table, Rodriguez has performed internationally at both nightclubs and film premiere after-parties, focusing mainly on house music.
5. She Described Her Romantic Life as Experimenting ‘With Both Sexes’
Interest in Rodriguez’s romantic life began in 2000 when she broke off an engagement to her boyfriend after citing conflict over religious differences. She was then linked to her Fast and the Furious co-star Vin Diesel as well as her S.W.A.T. co-star Olivier Martinez.
Then, in July 2006, Rodriguez spoke to Cosmopolitan magazine, discussing her personal life and preferences, saying she had “experimented with both sexes.” That one sentence sparked a nearly decade-long examination of Rodriguez’s personal life, made all the more interesting when Curve ran a cover story that claimed the actress was bisexual. Rodriguez disputed the story saying the magazine had “put words” in her mouth.
After years of denying any interest in girls, Rodriguez seemed to confirm herself as bisexual with a 2013 Entertainment Weekly article, saying:
I play a butchy girl all the time, so they assume I’m a lesbo. Eh, they’re not too far off. I’ve gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks.
Over the past few years, Rodriguez has been linked to a handful of Hollywood’s brightest starts, both men and women, including model Cara Delvingne and Zac Efron.