Digital scans from this month’s issue of L’Officiel USA have been added into the photo gallery.
SLASH FILM – Adria Arjona is very much a star on the rise right now. The actress got her major break in HBO’s “True Detective” back in 2015, but in recent years, she’s been working with some of the biggest directors and in the biggest franchises around. Arjona starred in Michael Bay’s “6 Underground,” joined the fight against the Kaiju in “Pacific Rim Uprising,” and recently dipped her toe into the Marvel universe in “Morbius.” But now, she’s stepping into one of the biggest franchises the world has ever known; Arjona is starring in “Andor,” the latest live-action “Star Wars” show making its way to Disney+ in September.
Arjona will be starring as Bix Caleen, a character who has close ties to Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, the Rebel spy audiences first met in 2016’s “Rogue One.” While we won’t get into spoilers here, let’s just say she’s an ally of Cassian’s and doesn’t have much love for the Empire. I recently had the good fortune of speaking with Arjona during a press conference for the series to learn a bit more about Bix and the show itself. We discussed how she fits in the universe, the massive scale of filming a “Star Wars” show like this, and how it compared to working on a big Marvel movie.
‘Bix isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty’
“Star Wars” has been a part of my life for about as long as I have memories. So anytime I get to speak to someone who was actually involved with it, it means a lot to me.
Oh, that’s amazing. I’m so excited to talk to you.
So on that topic, everyone finds “Star Wars” in their own unique way. What was your relationship to it before becoming a part of it?
I was a fan, I loved the movies. I had never watched them chronologically, so I was a little bit lost with the known timelines. I didn’t quite understand a lot of what was going on, but I certainly loved the world and all I wanted to do was be a part of it. Then finally, I got this role and I just decided to do my homework and I watched it all chronologically. It felt important to me to sort of know where I lived in the time and in the space. But then the more I read the scripts, the more I realized you don’t really have to watch any of the movies to sort of understand and appreciate the show. I mean, it’s amazing if you do, but if you don’t, it still stands on its own. That was pretty cool to me, too. That sort of gave me a lot of relief. I was like, “Okay.”
I think that’s important, too, especially now because so much stuff, like with the Marvel stuff, it feels like you have to do so much homework to watch something. I know Tony [Gilroy] has talked a lot about how they want “Andor” to be able to stand alone and be able to be an entry point for “Star Wars” fans.
Yeah. I really do believe it is, and it hopefully will be. I think you can watch and you can sort of fall in love with “Star Wars” and maybe it brings in even people that have never watched “Star Wars” before, because they don’t want to do the homework. I think that’s pretty cool.
Getting a little bit more specific, you played Bix. How would you describe her? Since you kind of did your homework before this, are there any other “Star Wars” characters that we might know that you could maybe compare her to?
I’m not big on comparison. I think there’s so many strong female characters in “Star Wars” that really stand on their own. That’s what I love about this whole world so much. I think just Bix is almost like an add-on to that. I think Bix isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty, and she’s very practical and technical, and she’s a boss, and she’s fearless. Yet she’s incredibly caring and protective of the people around her, and a lot of the time that’s to her own detriment, right?
So what I really like about Bix is that she’s sort of this stable character, right? She has her sell yard and she owns this business and is trading and lives in this sort of trading world market city called Fariks. Then Cassian comes along and comes in, and like he always does, shifts things around every single time he comes in. He’s like, “I need you to lie. I need you to do something. I did this.” And you’re like, “Good God, here we go again.” I think Bix maybe has been saying for two years or a year, “I’m going to say no next time, I’m saying no next time, I’m saying no next time. No, no, no.” And he comes and she can’t help it.
‘I think Morbius was a very different experience’
A bit more broadly, I know you filmed it a while ago, but you did “Morbius” as well. But how does making “Andor” and playing in the “Star Wars” sandbox compare to working in another gigantic sandbox like Marvel while making “Morbius?”
I think they’re very different yet alike, because I filmed in the same city. So it almost feels like I was there forever. But I think “Morbius” was a very different experience. It was on a set, we did have some tangible and practical sets, but very little. I think “Morbius” within itself is really a three-hander piece. When this piece, it feels so much bigger than yourself. You feel it the second you step onto a set. This is not specific to Marvel — it’s very specific to the movie that I did in Marvel.
I think with “Andor,” I walked onto set and they had built an entire city. It was like four city blocks and I could get lost in it and I could open any drawer and there’s stuff inside of it.
I could sort of imagine where Bix would have breakfast and where she would go have dinner and where she would go have a drink. The bar was very much there and I would sort of hang out there sometimes in between takes. I could do the walk that she would do in the morning to get to her yard. So it was very much more immersive and I felt a lot bigger. But it was just very specific to the two projects that I was a part of. You’re working with so many different actors and so many different storylines within a single show. So that way of working, I think, was very different from my experience in Marvel.
The bit of the show that I have seen, I would say that it’s very gritty and grounded, but “gritty” is the word that I would use. Did you guys still manage to kind of keep things fun while filming, even though it was a very serious show?
Yeah, we did, we did. I mean, I think there’s a preparation and there’s this thing that you feel when you’re on a “Star Wars” set. You’re like, “I want to honor this, I want to do it for the fans, I want to do it for the storyline, I want to do it for Tony [Gilroy]. I want to do it for Bix.” So there is a sense that it is quite serious, but that only happens between action and cut. Then everything else, it’s a bunch of kids going, “We’re in Star Wars, we’re in Star Wars. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
Even the director geeks out. I don’t know how many takes I messed up because I saw something and I was like, “What?” I remember the first Stormtrooper that I saw or creature actor and I was running and I saw someone, and I was like, “Oh my God.” And the director’s like, “Do you want to not react? You’re part of this world, you’re supposed to be used to this.” I just found it to be the coolest thing. I think everyone turns into little kids the second that cameras are not rolling.
“Andor” arrives on Disney+ on September 21, 2022.
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?’ ”