THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – The busy actor looks to where her character, Dr. Martine Bancroft, might go and teases her upcoming work in the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy.
[The following interview contains spoilers for Morbius.]
Adria Arjona was cast in Morbius all the way back in 2018, and since she was still relatively new to the business at the time, she never could’ve imagined that a major movie star would go to bat for her. When Arjona originally met with Morbius director Daniel Espinosa to discuss the role of Dr. Martine Bancroft, a close friend and colleague of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), she was immediately shot down by the Swedish filmmaker. However, she persisted anyway and landed the lead role. What she didn’t know was that her co-star in the then-unreleased 6 Underground had offered her his endorsement.
“I went for a coffee with [director] Daniel Espinosa, and he flat out told me I was too young for the role. So I really had to persuade him to give me a shot,” Arjona tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But I auditioned and he gave me the role two days later. Then I found out that he called [my 6 Underground co-star and his Life and Safe House star] Ryan Reynolds and asked him, ‘Is she nice? Is she good to work with?’ And Ryan sent a lovely message. So I have Ryan to thank, in a way, for this role and for putting the good word out there for me.”
If you’ve yet to see Morbius, it’s time to tread lightly as Arjona is opening up about her character’s fateful conclusion.
“They wouldn’t send me the script at the beginning, but I did my research. And I just remember calling my agent to be like, ‘Oh my god, I think she might turn [into a vampire] in this one or in the second one,’” Arjona shares. “And then I got the script, and when I got to that moment, I was so excited because it changes everything for her. It adds a bunch of question marks to her future, so I’m excited to see where Martine will go. Now that she has turned, I want to know if she goes more towards good or bad. Or does she have trouble finding the middle ground? I’m as curious as the fans will be.“
Since wrapping Morbius, Arjona has added a few more feathers in her cap including the titular bride role in HBO Max’s Father of the Bride reboot. She also landed a lead role alongside Diego Luna in Andor, Tony Gilroy’s upcoming Rogue One prequel series for Disney+. Even though Arjona has auditioned for several past Star Wars projects, the nerves never cease.
“Right before walking in [to the audition], I looked at Diego [Luna] and I was shaking,” Arjona recalls. “I was like, ‘I am so nervous.’ And he just put a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You got this.’ And I was like, ‘Oh god, I hope so.’ And then Tony gave me the role in the room. I only did the scene once and he said, ‘You got the job, my friend. Welcome to Star Wars.’”
In a recent conversation with THR, Arjona also looks forward to Father of the Bride and its Latin American take on the material. Then she explains how she “wiggled” her way into a True Detective audition, kick-starting her career.
So was there anything unusual about the casting process for Dr. Martine Bancroft?
Thank you for calling me doctor. I appreciate it. (Laughs.) Yes, [casting] was actually a little [unusual]. I’ll tell you the whole story. I went for a coffee with [director] Daniel Espinosa, and he flat out told me I was too young for the role. So I really had to persuade him to give me a shot, and he was like, “Okay, fine. I’ll read you. Of course.” And then he read me. There’s a maturity to Martine and an intelligence in the way that she carries herself. It’s very different than the way that I carry myself. Right now, I’m sitting down. My foot is on my stool, and I tend to slouch a little bit more. So I think that’s what he originally saw and was like, “This isn’t her.” But I auditioned and he gave me the role two days later. Then I found out that he called [my 6 Underground co-star and his Life and Safe House star] Ryan Reynolds and asked him, “Is she nice? Is she good to work with?” And Ryan sent a lovely message. So I have Ryan to thank, in a way, for this role and for putting the good word out there for me. And then I went to meet Jared [Leto] at his compound, and he almost made me read again. And I was like, “I’m not reading again. I already earned this role.” But it turned out to be just a silly joke. And then that was sort of the last time I saw Jared. I then met Dr. Morbius on set, and I didn’t meet Jared again until months after wrapping the movie.
Since you just mentioned it, what was it like to work with Jared’s brand of method acting?
Well, I studied method. I went to Lee Strasberg [Institute] in New York, so I’m very familiar with it and I feel very comfortable with it. Part of what I do and what actors do is adapt to other people’s methods. So it was easier for me because I studied it for so long and I just respect the method. I respected the commitment that Jared had during filming, and I just went with the flow. It almost felt like I went back to theater school in a way, and it reminded me of a lot of stuff that I was taught. So it was a nice experience, seeing someone commit physically, emotionally and spiritually through a role. It has an impact. Not only did it impact me, but it also impacted the tone of the set as well. Everyone understood that this guy is putting his body on the line. Every time he would walk with the crutches, I could see his back aching. And I think everyone wanted to do a better job so it went by faster and Jared could come back out and not break his back while doing it. So it was an interesting process for me.
In the comics, Martine was Michael’s secretary, so turning her into a fellow doctor seemed more interesting. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being a secretary, do you think you would’ve been less interested in the role if there wasn’t a level playing field between the two of them?
The whole point of Martine and who she is as a character is that she really is the right-hand woman to Dr. Morbius. It could’ve been the same with her as a secretary, but I do think giving Martine equal intelligence elevated it. There was an eye to eye, and they both respect each other as doctors. And she could be the one to help him go through this experimental process and actually be the one who injects him. So all of that made it a lot more intimate, and there’s a level of trust that comes with Martine being a doctor that I found incredibly interesting. So it was fun to play. Either you join Morbius or you’re against him, and Martine really does take a huge risk. She risks everything to help him in hopes that he’ll heal himself and she’ll get more time with him. So the stakes were higher just because she was a doctor, and I really enjoyed that. But I also don’t think there’d be anything wrong with Martine being a secretary. I just prefer the version that we chose.
When you first got the role, what were the initial steps that you took towards creating your take on the character?
The way she stands and walks … I always gravitate towards shoes. Shoes are a big one for me. I’ve done it with almost all of my roles. Picking shoes is always tricky because you’re walking in a character’s footsteps. And then I spoke a lot with my aunt, who is a doctor, and I just asked her a bunch of questions. My aunt is probably one of the kindest women in the world. She saves lives and sees medicine as very hopeful, so I wanted to bring that to Martine. She’s not a jaded doctor. She really believes that there’s a cure [for Morbius’ blood disease], and she loves her patients deeply, even though you don’t see it so much on screen. And visually, Sade was a big inspiration for me. The hair pulled back, the braid and the whole jean look was very inspired by Sade. And then, I [referenced] AOC [Alexandria Ocasio Cortez], the way that she speaks, not necessarily politically, because I didn’t go that route. I just enjoyed the way that she spoke to people that have been in that spot for way longer than she has. As a Latin American woman, she speaks to a room full of white men with so much conviction, power and without fear. So I wanted to bring that level of conviction to Martine any time she spoke to Dr. Morbius. He’s a very intelligent man, but sometimes, she has to put her foot down. So I had inspiration from everywhere, and Daniel Espinosa was also really helpful during our many conversations about it.
We have to talk about Martine’s ending, which is really cool.
[The following question/answer contains spoilers for Morbius.]
Since these big superhero movies are often in a state of flux until the last minute, did you know that she would turn into a vampire from day one?
Yes, I did. I mean, I read the comics, so I imagined there would be something. They wouldn’t send me the script at the beginning, but I did my research. I was like, “Oh, she turns. Martine Bancroft turns.” And I just remember calling my agent to be like, “Oh my god, I think she might turn in this one or in the second one,” which is even more exciting. And then I got the script, and when I got to that moment, I was so excited because it changes everything for her. It adds a bunch of question marks to her future, so I’m excited to see where Martine will go. Now that she has turned, I want to know if she goes more towards good or bad. Or does she have trouble finding the middle ground? What happens to her? I’m just curious. I’m as curious as the fans will be.
So you’ve got several exciting projects coming up, including a film franchise that was near and dear to my heart as a kid. Of course, I’m talking about Father of the Bride!
What can you tell me about HBO Max’s updated take on it? [Writer’s Note: Andy Garcia is the titular father, and Arjona is the bride.]
You’re going to love it. I watched it last week, and I was so scared before it. I always get scared right before I watch a movie that I’m in, especially since I’m in so much of this movie. (Laughs.) I can’t quite close my eyes every time I’m on screen because I would have them closed the whole movie. (Laughs.) It’s so heartwarming, and I really do think this might be Andy Garcia’s best performance. He’s so incredible in the film. He has so much heart. And it really is a father-daughter story with two cultures coming together. There’s Mexican culture and Cuban culture that come together and clash, so I think it’ll be interesting for the world to see two Latin American cultures in a film. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen that done, really. I feel we’re always pigeonholed to be one thing, and it’ll be interesting for the world to see that we are so incredibly different. I’m half Guatemalan and half Puerto Rican, and I was raised in Mexico. And the three of them — Mexico, Guatemala and Puerto Rico — are so incredibly different. Different accents, different cultures, different food. Everything is different. So that’s an element of the movie that I’m really excited about, and I just think people really need this movie. We’re living in crazy times, and I think people are really going to love it. It’s definitely a movie that you watch more than once, and when I realized that after watching it, it really warmed my heart.
Did you enjoy reuniting with your Sweet Girl daughter Isabela Merced?
Yes, I did! It was really nice. It was interesting to go from playing her mother to playing her sister, and I think we’re so much better as sisters. Obviously, they had to age me up and stuff for Sweet Girl, but I love her. She’s so talented and so sweet, and she does an incredible job in the movie. And she really has become like my sister. She was over at my house the other day; I gave her a TV. She’s my little sister, and I love her dearly.
And then you shot this little chamber piece at Pinewood Studios. I believe it’s called Andor.
(Laughs.) Oh, you’re talking about the super tiny, low-budget thing I did in London?
Sounds about right.
Yeah, the Star Wars thing. (Laughs.) That was incredible. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. All I can tell you is that as an actor, it was really moving to be on a Star Wars set. And during preparation, I kept telling myself, “I’m just not going to think that this is Star Wars because the more I think it’s Star Wars, the more nervous I get.” And when I showed up on set, I was like, “There’s no way I can get away with not thinking about the fact that this is Star Wars.” Every gadget, every prop, everywhere you’d look, you’re like, “Oh my god, I’m in Star Wars.” (Laughs.) So I had to embrace it and be like, “Okay, I’m in Star Wars.” (Laughs.) They’d build an entire city, and everything was sort of 360. The camera can sort of shoot everywhere, and it was really mind blowing. And I also love my character. I wish I could tell you more about her, but I don’t even think I can give you her name. I was actually going to tattoo her name on my arm. And then I was like, “What if I take a picture or something and people are like, ‘Wait, What is that thing?’” So I was like, “Ah shit, I have to wait for it to come out.” (Laughs.)
Can you spare an adjective regarding your character?
I’ll go with practical. She’s a very practical woman.
You’ve auditioned for Star Wars projects several times in the past. Were you more nonchalant during this go-round, which ultimately changed your luck?
Unfortunately, no. I wish, but no. I was terrified. I was very scared. I did an audition, and it was at the beginning of Covid. And I was so scared to go in the room for this just because it’s Star Wars and I knew that Tony Gilroy was going to be there and direct the audition. So I was freaking out, and I called my mom, who is a very hard woman to hang up on. I think most mothers are. You’re like, “OK Mom, I’ve got to go. I love you, bye,” and they’re like, “Oh, by the way.” They just keep talking. So my mom is one of those, and I just told her, “I’m so nervous. I don’t know if I should go. There’s Covid. There’s this.” And she just told me, “Let the force be with you, my daughter,” and for the first time in my life, she hung up the phone on me.
Yeah, that gave me the strength to get on a train and to forget about it. But right before walking in, I looked at Diego [Luna] and I was shaking. I was like, “I am so nervous.” And he just put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You got this.” And I was like, “Oh god, I hope so.” And then Tony gave me the role in the room. I only did the scene once and he said, “You got the job, my friend. Welcome to Star Wars.”
I often hear stories about actors seldom getting the roles they really want, but when they’re less concerned with the outcome, that’s when it tends to go their way.
That is true, sometimes! That does happen. But for my whole Star Wars trajectory, I wish I wouldn’t have been so nervous. But that definitely does happen when you’re not thinking about it too much and you just do your job and you don’t really want it too bad. Sometimes, wanting it too bad gets entangled in the work, and it shouldn’t. You should only play the character, so there’s an energy that maybe gets in our way.
I thought you made a strong impression on True Detective season two. Do you consider that job a turning point in your career? Did you feel momentum after that?
I think you might be right. True Detective really pushed me forward and also gave me the confidence that I needed. True Detective also opened a lot of doors for me, and it’s been a crazy ride. But imposter syndrome still gets a hold of me. Every time I wrap a movie, I look around and say to myself, “Shit, do you think you’ll ever be on a set again?” (Laughs.) And crazy enough, I was on I don’t even know how many sets last year. I think I might’ve spent three weeks at my house the whole entire year, and I forgot where everything was in my house. I was like, “Wait, where are my t-shirts? Where are the plates? Where are the mugs?” I was lost in my home. (Laughs.) But it’s been a really interesting ride for me, and I’m just really grateful that I’ve been able to play different characters. As a Latin American woman, I haven’t quite been pigeonholed, and I think it’s because I’ve jumped from genre to genre so much. I don’t know if I want to attribute it to that or just my wonderful team, but it’s been fun to be able to bounce around. And True Detective was probably my second job ever, so it was a big one. [True Detective creator] Nic Pizzolatto told me I should move to L.A., and I did, so I think that made a shift.
Narcos was before that, right?
Yeah, Narcos was before. I told everyone on Narcos, “I’m going to do season two of True Detective.” And everyone was like, “Have you auditioned?” I was like, “No, I haven’t, but I’m going to get it.” And I pretended to be my own manager. (Laughs.) Shit, the casting office is going to know now once they read this. (Laughs.)
You called your own shot.
I called my own shot, yeah. My manager back then, we both sort of wiggled our way in there, and they were auditioning really famous girls. I was no one at the time. I had no credits on IMDb. I was like, “If I have no credits, Nic Pizzolatto would take me more seriously than if I had two bad credits.” So I said no to a lot of jobs because I knew I wanted to be on True Detective. (Laughs.) I was young and wild! I think I’m smarter now, but it worked.
Is there anything else you’re excited about coming up?
Los Frikis is a very special movie, and I produced that as well. It’s with the guys from The Peanut Butter Falcon, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz.
I didn’t realize they were off and running on another project. I loved Peanut Butter Falcon.
It was incredible, yeah, and I think this one is full of magic, too. I’m really excited for the world to see it. It’s our baby, and we had so much fun doing it.
Morbius is now in theaters.
Category: Adria Arjona
HARPER’S BAZAAR MEXICO – After a firm step in television and film, the actress debuted as a Marvel heroine by playing Martine Bancroft in the movie Morbius . But this is only the preamble of what we can expect from her.
Adria Arjona ‘s journey continues to promise surprises and success, making her a Latin pride.
The first time I saw Adria Arjona in a magazine I was struck by her air of naturalness. In an age where exaggerated faces with digital manipulations rule, her genuine beauty was like a breath of fresh air.
I began to follow her career and it was immediately high on my wish list to photograph her for Harper’s Bazaar.
It took a few years for this wish to come true, but today, Adria Arjona , at a key moment in her career, finally stars on the cover of this magazine.
The timing is now perfect, since this month the Latin star becomes a supernova by playing Martine Bancroft in the film Morbius , along with Jared Leto and Michael Keaton.
In a telephone interview, Adria tells me about this great challenge.
“BEING A PART OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, WORKING WITH JARED AND WITH DIRECTOR DANIEL ESPINOSA WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE. WE DEVELOPED MARTINE WITH THE WRITERS AND WITH DANIEL, BRINGING A VERY INTERESTING TAKE ON THE CHARACTER,” SHE STATES.
“For Dr. Morbius, Martine is his anchor, what keeps him grounded. She is confident and smart. When we designed the wardrobe, Daniel asked me for a more conservative and, at the same time, masculine Martine: more pants and more blazers , without sexualizing her. Her intellect stands out more than her image”, he assures.
In this film, transformation is a very important element. A physical, mental and spiritual metamorphosis.
In real life, Adria has evolved since she began her path to becoming an actress almost a decade ago.
“THERE HAS BEEN A HUGE TRANSFORMATION OVER THE YEARS, ONCE I DECIDED TO MOVE TO NEW YORK TO STUDY AND START ACTING, TO TODAY. I CONSIDER THAT THIS CHANGE IS EVIDENT IN THAT I AM MORE SURE OF MYSELF, I AM NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK AND EXPRESS MYSELF. I HAVE LEARNED A LOT AND AM VERY FORTUNATE TO WORK WITH AMAZING ACTORS, DIRECTORS, PRODUCERS AND WRITERS,” SHE COMMENTS.
“I ALSO HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE IN LONDON – MORBIUS WAS PRODUCED IN THAT CITY – EXPOSED TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND CULTURES. TRAVELING AND EXPLORING EXPANDS YOUR MIND. THE MORE YOU KNOW AND COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL, THE MORE RECEPTIVE YOU BECOME. THAT HAS HELPED ME AS AN ACTRESS AND A WOMAN. YES, THERE HAVE BEEN MANY CHANGES AND NOW I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE THINGS I WANT, AND AS A WOMAN IT HAS BEEN A BIG STEP FORWARD.”
Not only at a professional level has he experienced this cultural diversity. From the cradle, her life has been marked by the Latin influence of different places.
He was born in Puerto Rico, but comes from a Guatemalan family and grew up in Mexico. She later moved to Miami and later to New York to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. And yes, the last name Arjona has everything to do with the Latin American icon: the musician Ricardo Arjona, her father.
“I admire him for his talent and for being so good both as a father and at his job. He is a man who loves to sing, write and perform in front of his audience” , he comments.
“HE WAS ALWAYS THERE, HE WAS AN EXCELLENT FATHER, A GREAT FRIEND AND A GREAT ACCOMPLICE. NOW THAT I SEE IT IN PERSPECTIVE I SAY: ‘WOW! HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO BALANCE YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE AND YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WHEN YOU HAVE SO MUCH WORK, TRAVEL AND GO FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER’. AND I AM SO GRATEFUL TO HIM. HE IS AMAZING AND I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.”
“The more you know and come out of your shell, the more receptive you become. That has helped me as an actress and a woman. Yes, there have been many changes and now I feel good about the things I want.
Being the daughter of one of the most successful singer-songwriters in Latin America did not mean that Adria had an easy path to fulfill her own dreams.
His father always instilled in him to work and prepare to achieve his goals. Everything that Adria has achieved so far is her own merit and the product of hard work.
Today, in addition to consolidating her acting career, Adria is the global ambassador for Armani Beauty and the image of the My Way and My Way Intense fragrances. Both perfumes stand out for their sustainability stamp, through actions such as their refillable and recyclable bottle, their carbon neutrality and the use of natural ingredients obtained responsibly through local programs based on fair trade principles.
“I LOVE NATURE, I ENJOY THIS PLANET AND I WANT MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO BE ABLE TO ENJOY IT. I LOVE BEING ABLE TO BE THE FACE OF MY WAY AND HAVE AN INTELLIGENT CONVERSATION ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, DEFORESTATION, WATER STEWARDSHIP AND HOW WE CAN HELP DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES TO HAVE CLEAN WATER. SOMETIMES WE BLIND OURSELVES AND DO NOT SEE HOW PRIVILEGED WE ARE. THERE ARE MANY PLACES THAT DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO DRINKING WATER. AND TO BE A PART OF THESE TALKS AND THIS LEARNING MAKES ME FEEL VERY LUCKY,” SHE SAYS.
The future promises a lot for Adria Arjona. It will continue to be a very important year in this journey that she has decided to make in her career as an actress. The horizon is full of exciting new adventures.
“AFTER THE PREMIERE OF MORBIUS , THE CLOSEST PROJECT I HAVE IS THE FILM THE FATHER OF THE BRIDE , A REMAKE OF THE 1991 FILM. IN THIS NEW VERSION, DIRECTED BY GARY ALAZRAKI, MY FATHER IS ANDY GARCÍA, MY MOTHER IS GLORIA ESTEFAN, DIEGO BONETA IS MY HUSBAND AND I PLAY THE BRIDE”, SHE REVEALS.
“THE FILM IS ABOUT DIFFERENT LATINO CULTURES. MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT ALL OF LATIN AMERICA IS THE SAME, BUT WE ARE DIFFERENT, ALTHOUGH OUR LANGUAGE IS SPANISH, WE SPEAK IT TOTALLY DIFFERENTLY AND THIS FILM BRINGS THOSE DIFFERENCES TO LIGHT”.
Additionally, Adria will executive produce a beautiful and endearing piece about the AIDS pandemic, inspired by a true story.
And as if that were not enough to be part of the Marvel universe, the actress will also join the Star Wars saga later this year.
“I WILL SHARE CREDITS WITH DIEGO LUNA. IT IS A PLEASURE TO DO PROJECTS WITH THE “MEXICAN DIEGOS” –BONETA AND LUNA–. GETTING THE CHANCE TO BE IN BOTH STAR WARS AND MARVEL IS CRAZY, I’M PRETTY EXCITED. IT IS TO BE PART OF THE HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY. I CAN’T SAY MUCH YET, BUT I ASSURE YOU THE SERIES WILL BE FANTASTIC.”
The last question I ask her is a reflection of the genuine and conscious essence that encompasses this wonderful actress: if you had a wonderful lamp with a genie that granted you a wish, what would you wish for?
“DEFINITELY, THAT ACTIONS BE TAKEN TO CURB GLOBAL WARMING. I COULD BE SELFISH AND ASK FOR SOMETHING FOR MYSELF, BUT I THINK WE NEED TO SOLVE THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS GLOBALLY FIRST.”
Tonight, Adria attended a special fan screening of Morbius in Los Angeles and I’ve added photos from the red carpet into the photo gallery. Enjoy!
The photo session has also been updated with replacing previous versions with higher quality as well as adding a couple new images.
ELLE MAGAZINE – It’s just one of several high-profile projects the Tiffany & Co. ambassador has coming up.
Adria Arjona hopes I won’t mind meeting her family. She’s just returned to Los Angeles after filming Los Frikis in Santo Domingo, and her mom and brother have surprised her with a visit. We’d made plans to meet up at an outdoor café, but when we arrived to find it unexpectedly closed, Arjona was quick to invite me to her place, just a few minutes up the road.
It’s starting to get dark when we pull up to her serene, airy ranch house, where her family has settled in. Outside the café, I’d barely recognized the 29-year-old actress, who was masked and bundled up against an unusual L.A. cold snap in a cozy, chunky gray sweater; cropped, wide-leg Celine pants; and lug-soled Chelsea boots, her dark brown hair (often blown out in photos) curly and wild.
+ Beauty Tip: For a neutral lip that stays put, try Armani Beauty Lip Power Longwear Satin Lipstick in Romanza ($38). Dab it on with a fingertip for a stain-like finish.
Once we’re inside, introductions are made, red wine is poured, and Arjona and I step out to the patio to sit by the pool and talk. She loves this house, which she shares with her husband. She’s been away for a year and feels like she is finally back in her sanctuary. “When I’m home, I tend to just stay home. I go shopping in my closet, my drawers, like, ‘I [forgot] I had this!’ ”
I ask Arjona where she feels most at home, and she nods toward the sliding glass doors, behind which her mother is puttering around the glowing kitchen. “Wherever [she] is.” Arjona is the daughter of platinum-selling Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona and Leslie Torres, a former model originally from Puerto Rico. Arjona grew up in Mexico, but would occasionally travel to see her father on tour. “There was definitely a certain circus energy, a circus style of living,” she says of her early years.
For a while, her parents thought she might be deaf, “just because I was in my own world, creating different characters and stuff,” she says. “The doctor was like, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, but your daughter is ignoring you.’ ” As a kid, Arjona wanted to be an ice skater, then a lawyer, then a teacher. “My dad was like, ‘You have a personality disorder. Or you’re an actress.’ ” When she was 12, her parents divorced, and she moved with her mom to Miami, where she lived until enrolling at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York at 18.
Genre-wise, Arjona’s short career has been incredibly diverse; she’s taken on action, comedy, and fantasy, which feels remarkable in itself, but especially so for a Latin American actress. Did she set out to defy expectations, or did it just happen? “I’ve been told, ‘You’re not Latina.’ Or ‘You’re too Latina.’ Or ‘You look a little Italian.’ Or I get compared to my colleagues. Or I’m being called by their names.” Eventually, she says, “I think there was an acceptance. ‘You need to tick a box? Okay, I’ll tick a box for you.’ I’ll make my career out of ticking boxes, and then at some point I’ll break free from that.”
It would seem she has. She’s played Dorothy Gale in the Emerald City series and Anathema Device in the Amazon adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neal Gaiman’s book, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. She’s appeared in season two of HBO’s True Detective and opposite Jason Momoa in Netflix’s Sweet Girl.
She’s also shot campaigns for Tiffany & Co. and Armani. “The last five years, I’ve sort of been building up this momentum,” Arjona tells me. “But this year, specifically, has been really busy.” In April, Arjona stars as Martine Bancroft, fiancée to Jared Leto’s Dr. Michael Morbius, in Morbius, a Spider-Man spin-off. It’s her biggest role to date. Ahead of meeting Arjona, Morbius director Daniel Espinosa recalls a conversation with Ryan Reynolds, who had worked with the actress on 6 Underground. “He told me, ‘Daniel, she’s a movie star.’ He never says that about anyone,” Espinosa says. “Adria took the part from us. Nobody gave it to her. It was clear—the part was hers.”
Morbius was shot three years ago, but the timing of the release could not be better. “It feels like there’s been a progression,” she says, adding that working with Leto was an education in itself. “I almost felt like I was in acting school, watching him perform and prepare. His determination is definitely contagious.” Leto never broke character while filming; Arjona almost forgot it was him. “I met Jared in L.A., and then I worked with Dr. Morbius for three months, and then I came back to L.A. and saw Jared. I was like, ‘Hey man, how have you been? I heard you shot a movie!’ ”
Later this year, Arjona will appear in the Cuban American remake of Father of the Bride, with Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan, and the Disney+ Star Wars series Andor, a prequel to Rogue One, starring Stellan Skarsgård and Diego Luna.
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Arjona was in Paris for Fashion Week when people started coming in from Milan and testing positive for COVID-19. That’s when she got a call about traveling to London to do a screen test with Diego Luna for Andor. “I was freaking out,” she says, both about traveling and the opportunity. “Should I wear a mask? Should I not wear a mask? I was so scared that I wasn’t going to be let back into the country.” So she called her mom. “She just said, ‘Let the force be with you, my daughter,’ and hung up the phone. So I went straight to London.” She auditioned for showrunner Tony Gilroy and was cast on the spot.
Knowing she had a job lined up post- quarantine provided Arjona with some peace of mind during the first work pause she’d had in a long time. Mostly she read and wrote, but she also helped launch a fragrance—Armani’s My Way. The Zoom press conferences somehow felt more genuine to her than the usual junkets. “You could just be like, ‘I’m kind of having a shitty day,’ and it was just more real,” she says.
+ Beauty Tip: A chic accompaniment to any outfit: bold, floral Giorgio Armani My Way Eau de Parfum ($128).
Gearing up to shoot Andor after the time at home was one of the scariest experiences of her life. “I prepared so much. I kept reading and rereading the script to the point where I was like, ‘I need to stop.’ ” The UK was in total lockdown and it was the middle of winter, but she found the five-month shoot incredibly cozy. “I worked with really nice people—800 of the most talented people. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Los Frikis, the indie film she just wrapped in Santo Domingo, is about a Cuban punk subculture in which kids intentionally infect themselves with HIV in order to live in an AIDS sanitarium. Arjona starred in and executive produced the film. Also coming up is HBO’s Irma Vep, a limited series adaptation of the 1996 film by Olivier Assayas starring Alicia Vikander. “It was a movie within a movie; now it’s a movie within a movie within a TV show,” Arjona says. One of the things that stood out to her on set was how much she got to interact with Vikander. After one five-page scene, she says, “Alicia and I sort of looked at each other, and we were like, ‘That was so much fun! Why don’t we get to do this more often?’ ”
W MAGAZINE – The rising actress discusses working with method actor Leto, her slate of upcoming projects, and making space for young Latinas in Hollywood.
Adria Arjona, star of Sony’s latest entry into the Marvel canon, Morbius, says she only met her co-star Jared Leto once before filming. During the entire duration of filming the action-packed flick, she never saw the method actor, who plays the titular biochemist who accidentally becomes infected with a form of vampirism during an experiment gone wrong, again.
“We met before going to London, and we had a really lovely conversation. And then I show up in London [to film] and I never see Jared again, it was all Dr. Morbius,” the actress tells W over the phone from Los Angeles. “He was so in character and he was so committed to the role, which set the tone for all of us. After we wrapped, I saw him again and I was like, Oh, what’s up, Jared, we’ve been a movie together, but I haven’t seen you in months.
“I never worked with someone that completely transformed themselves. I called him Doctor on set, I never called him Jared. He always called me Dr. Martine,” Arjona goes on. “I still have him saved on my phone as ‘Doctor.’ I should probably change that.”
There was also a point when Arjona, who plays Dr. Martine Bancroft, Dr. Morbius’s scientist girlfriend and confidante, almost didn’t end up in the movie at all. At first, director Daniel Espinosa thought Arjona might be too young for the role, but the 29-year-old performer won him over in the audition room. Soon, she found herself working with Espinosa and the writers to make sure Martine would be a “fully rounded character” in the film. “You look at Martine, and you give her importance based on her intellect, and not based on the way that she looks,” Arjona says. “In Marvel movies, sometimes that’s different. In this case, she’s just a brilliant doctor. Morbius would not be where he is without Martine—she is his anchor.”
Arjona will soon have her work cut out for her with another massive franchise: Andor, a spin-off of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with Diego Luna. Of course, the actress can’t reveal any details about the Disney+ series, not even her character’s name. “I was about to tattoo her name on me because I think it’s such a cool name. And as I’m on my way, I’m like, wait, I can’t do that, what if someone asks me what it is before the series premieres?,” the actress reveals. “But I will get it at some point.” The only Star Wars tidbit she’s at liberty to share right now? “They built an entire city for us to film the series,” Arjona says.
And this summer, the actress will star in a Latinx remake of The Father of the Bride, opposite Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan, on HBO Max. Arjona will play the bride, with Garcia—to whom she became quite close during filming—playing her father. “Andy is the best advice-giver,” she says. “I know I can call Andy at any moment, and be like, should I do this?”
While many viewers have reboot fatigue, Arjona promises that this revival of the 1990s classic film, originally starring Steve Martin and Kimberly Williams Paisley, will give a fresh take on the original. “A lot of times, as Latin Americans traveling the world, we often get [described as being] all the same. And that’s so wrong—we cannot be more different,” the actress says. “I was raised in Mexico, my mother’s from Puerto Rico, and my father’s Guatemalan, and I spend so much time in all three places, but I cannot tell you how different my Guatemalan and my Puerto Rican family are, culturally. It’s unfair to us and to our culture and to our history to pinpoint us all as the same, so I think this movie will definitely show the differences. I hope that shifts people’s perspectives so they can really see the differences between cultures.”
As for the rest of her upcoming, yet-to-be-determined roles, Arjona just wants “to make sure that I’m opening doors for young Latin American actresses, so they don’t have to go through what I went through at the beginning of my career—I try to make choices so that the audience and the industry can see us in different lights.”