Genesis Rodriguez on CENTIGRADE – Tara McNamara interviews

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Genesis Rodriguez stars in Centigrade, a chilling thriller that’s loosely based on a true story which occurred in 2002 in arctic Norway, in the dead of winter, when a young couple and their newborn child were trapped inside a rented vehicle that was buried in snow during a blizzard. With little to eat and only layers of clothing to keep them from freezing to death, the pair struggled for survival. Centigrade was shot in chronological order and has a convincingly claustrophobic ambiance and a gripping authenticity that makes you wonder just what the actors endured while making the film. Rodriguez talks to Tara McNamara about the what the process was like and what she learned from it. The video interview is on YouTube.

Tara Mcnamara: Hi, Genesis Rodriguez. Thank you so much for joining us about your new film Centigrade. First thing I just have to know – set the scene – you get the call that we want you to star in a film that all takes place in an unmoving car in the icy cold. Your first reaction was…?

Genesis Rodriguez: Excited. I was excited. I was nervous. I was up for the challenge. I think as actors we’re always looking for something to challenge us — so we desperately want to feel that fear. And if it doesn’t scare you, that’s not good. You don’t want to be comfortable as an actor because that’s where you grow and you really get to learn and explore more for your work. In this instance, with this movie, our scenes were pretty much written on the fly. So it’s not like we were married to any lines and that, for me as an actor, is quite possibly one of the scariest things. Because I love my lines. I like to over study my lines. I like to know my beats. Like to know my actions. So to not have that was frightening, and to have the freezing cold work on you, to be in that claustrophobic car, to be on a diet – all those things sort of happened and it worked on Genesis the person and me as the actor. So, it just flowed and it was instinctual, natural. And, no two fights were the same and the temperatures were different and the silences were really heavy and really palpable in there – because we were really suffering. We all collectively really suffered during this movie. So I feel like by the end of it, I was crossing a marathon and I didn’t know what my middle was and I was like, okay, I did that, I don’t know what turned out from it, but I did it.

McNamara: Yeah, there was extreme authenticity. Like you said that you were eating very little as well and that you shot events in order. Was that also helpful to you?

Rodriguez: So helpful. Because the way she starts in the beginning — she is so nervous and so high strung and has so much anxiety in the beginning. and the car– and the fights would work different things in her until she becomes her arc – is becoming this primal secure woman, strong woman, that needs to survive and needs to keep someone else alive…which is the child.

McNamara: Well I do think that Naomi experiences every human emotion during this story. Which was the most challenging for you to film? And, then, which scene was the most important for you to get right?

Rodriguez: The most challenging was the first scene in the movie because I found her to be so annoying and I was like, I would never – you know, be this annoying from the beginning but then it was like you don’t want to know she’s not annoying. So you have to defend your character from the beginning and there was another scene that was very difficult for me to wrap my head around: when she — I don’t want to give too much away – but she takes the certain pill and I had a hard time defending that you know – why would she do that to her child and stuff. But that — accomplishing that really helps where she gets to at the end and it kind of helps her go somewhere and deconstructs her character, the car starts deconstructing her. So it was challenging. But again, that’s what we hope for as actors. We take on different people because we want to try on different lives and different perspectives and bring them to life and defend these little characters that people can relate to. So it really is a beautiful thing that I was able to live. But the truth of the matter was that I was able to get out of the car, you know, when I needed to take a break. Naomi did not – she was not able to leave the car. So it was really really good for me and my perspectives of being grateful that I had a roof over my head and I had a bed to sleep in at night. It just was a really gratifying experience and believe you me when I took that bite of that cheeseburger at the end of that shoot, that was the most delicious burger I’ve ever tasted. It was wonderful.

McNamara: Well, let’s talk about Naomi a little bit. This is based on true events. There’s been a lot of focus on that. But is there an actual Naomi – is there a woman who experienced this exact story?

Rodriguez: I don’t think this exact story.

McNamara: No?

Rodriguez: But there was a woman trapped in a car, a pregnant woman. So we took pieces from a lot of survival stories and my goodness, I feel like right before we started shooting there was a girl, that we had just heard of – that her car fell off in Big Sur and her car fell in a place where thankfully nothing happened to the car, but she was trapped down there and she was a young girl and she was surviving on water and a couple of snacks. She just had to wait because there was nothing she could do. She was trying to get attention from the bottom of a rocky beach where she was in. But just the story of survival – the humans, what the human race can do like to be able to survive – it’s fascinating and this story in itself is so claustrophobic and it’s kind of the perfect time to watch a movie like this.

McNamara: Yes, it is. It is the perfect time. And, for people who haven’t seen it yet, the whole thing does take place in a car where you’re trapped the whole time…so it feels very familiar in a weird way to the audience.

Rodriguez: Well, we’re all going through something so terrible collectively and it’s just so hard. But if this movie could show anything it could show that it could be worse. It could be so much worse, and we have to be grateful for the little wins that we have and if we could just escape through our film or whatever film, then we did our job and I think it’s a really good movie to keep into perspective of why we’re doing what we’re doing collectively in this pandemic.

McNamara: Thank you. I appreciate you spending time with us today.

Rodriguez: Thank you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can view the video of this interview on AWFJ’s YouTube channel. And, please read Lana Wilson-Combs review of Centigrade.

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Tara McNamara

Tara McNamara has carved out a niche as a movie journalist with expertise in family films, including serving as the Fandango’s Film Mom and a Common Sense Media movie critic. She led the recurring "Reel Moms" segment on “Today," was Variety's news anchor on Sirius Radio and a regular contributor to "The Insider," "Entertainment Tonight," and "Inside Edition." She currently runs and co-hosts the '80s Movies: A Guide to What's Wrong with Your Parents podcast.