Avatar Role: Trudy Chacon
Mayte Michelle Rodriguez was born on July 12, 1978 in Bexar County, Texas. With a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father, Michelle had quite the diverse upbringing. Around the age of nine, she moved with her family to the Dominican Republic where she says she learned Spanish and consequently "forgot every word of English" she knew.
Her family also spent time in Puerto Rico until finally moving to New Jersey where Michelle would spend the majority of her young adulthood. During her adolescence, Michelle was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, a religious background which she eventually grew apart from.
While her mother enforced a strict and proper upbringing, her father challenged Michelle to learn from the "school of life", a dichotomy which she says "created what you see in front of you".
Michelle first developed her "tough girl" persona due to the often rough environments in which she grew up. Michelle refers to herself as "the joker" in school, something which likely contributed to the five schools she was kicked out of growing up. Feeling she "wasn't really being educated" she dropped out of High School and later obtained her G.E.D. before briefly attending business school. Realizing that she could not spend her life being "sun deprived and stuck in an office", she quit school and set her sights on becoming a writer and director, and decided acting could be the outlet to get her there.
After doing extra work for two years with little success and even less money, Michelle finally spotted an ad in Backstage Magazine for a 'young latina' boxing role. Young and inexperienced, she showed up to the audition on her own terms: on roller-blades, late, and unprepared. The Girlfight casting directors saw something unique in Michelle and her attitude (even perceiving her as a 'young female Marlon Brando'-type), resulting in Michelle beating out more than 350 others for the part. The 2000 role garnered Michelle numerous awards and nominations and much critical acclaim. This success launched Michelle as a young star quickly on the rise in Hollywood.
Still going strong off the success of her independent film debut, Michelle appeared opposite Danny Glover in Showtime's made-for-tv drama 3 A.M. followed in 2001 with the adrenaline-charged mega-hit The Fast and the Furious opposite Vin Diesel. An avid gamer who has since lent her voice to various popular games including True Crime: Streets of LA, Driver3, and Halo 2, Michelle then jumped at the opportunity to play a role in her next film, Resident Evil, an adaptation of the hit video game series.
With these films under her belt, Michelle began to seal herself as the go-to "tough girl" in Hollywood, combining her physically strong believability with a natural beauty and unforced sex-appeal. She then took to Hawaii for the first time to play in the summer surfing flick Blue Crush in 2002. In 2003, Michelle played a police officer opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell in the blockbuster S.W.A.T. In 2005, a new chapter of her career would begin when she took a starring role in ABC's hit television series Lost playing haunted and hardened ex-cop "Ana Lucia". Having since ended her run on the series, she is currently hard at work on many new projects.
Michelle recently starred in the dramatic indie Battle in Seattle with Charlize Theron and currently appears in Fast & Furious alongside Vin Diesel. She can next be seen in the historical biopic Tropico de Sangre which she also co-produces with her production company, Cheshire Kat Productions, and in James Cameron's highly anticipated $250 million sci-fi epic Avatar due for release in December. Having overcome many obstacles in both her career and person life, Michelle is now charging forward to set a new standard for women in Hollywood. Fed up with typecasting and stereotypes and what she calls the "cage of frightened sharks" in Hollywood, Michelle is taking her future into her own hands, and doing it once again on her own terms.
"I think empathy is a beautiful thing. I think that's the power of film though. We have one of the most powerful, one of the greatest communicative tools known to man. It's a form of communication and it's gonna reach you in a way of growth- most of the time."
"I don't want people thinking of me sexually. I don't want people to be like, 'She's hot-looking,' you know? I want them to listen to me for what I am saying. And I think the best way to do that is to sniff my armpits, and like, sit and burp every now and then. It just completely throws people off. I had a couple of offers to do some hot scenes in the shower with some guy and to make it real hot and sexy. The next thing you know, I'd be the next J.Lo or something. But that's easy. I want [success] the hard way."
"My favorite part of my body is my brain. I think no matter what my body looks like I wont be satisfied unless I know how to use it."
"I don't think it's narcissistic at all to love yourself and believe in yourself. I think some people are really scared to do that. I have to. If I don't, I would not succeed in what I do."
"No matter what, people are so narrow minded that it won't ever be Michelle Rodriguez the actress, it will always be Michelle Rodriguez the Latin actress. And it's just something that I have to live with, because of the fact that people need labels to understand things. I can't even get into this ignorance that I'm dealing with. So I just ignore it, you know? Ignore the ignorance."
[on why she always plays the "tough girl"]: "Well, could you really imagine me playing the girlfriend that needs rescuing? Or the girlfriend?"