Meet Adria Arjona. We spoke with Adria on the occasion of MORBIUS (and more) about what makes her proud, what makes her tick, and what really moves her. And, you know staying aligned in the process, with gratitude and joy. Read on below…
BY ERIN WALSH
PHOTO CHRISTIAN HOGSTEDT
FASHION THROUGHOUT Dolce & Gabbana JEWLERY THROUGHOUT Tiffany & Co
Erin Walsh Hello Adria! Thank you so much for taking the time to have some fun with us- we are so excited to feature you and all you have been up to. I would love to start at the beginning- Tell me a bit about your upbringing and how you ended up in this biz?
Adria Arjona My father is a musician, and I grew up just watching him perform. He really introduced me to this world, but on the music side. I had a really creative upbringing. He would always have books around for us to read. Maybe some of them were a little too advanced for my age. He would always play classical music and make us feel the music. When I first went to acting school, that was one of the first exercises that I did. I was in a very creative environment. I went to Miami. I lived in Miami for a little and I always felt lost in that city. My dad suggested I get into photography. To bring back what I was feeling as a child, and that creative environment, so I did. I took all sorts of classes. I was a very shy girl, and I think going to acting school opened me up. Then I became obsessed. It was like a bug that got in me, and I couldn’t take it out of my head. That’s how I got into it. Just by really loving what I do, and that I really enjoy acting. How I got into the actual business? I saw the first episode of True Detective. The fifth episode of season one of True Detective, and I just said, “That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I need to be on this show. I want to work with people that create magic, like I saw on that episode.” Ever since then, I’ve been working and finding different characters to play.
EW What moment career-wise thus far has really made you feel extremely proud- like, “wow, I have made it”…
AA Funny enough, it was Halloween and I saw someone dressed up as one of my characters. My mind exploded. I was right in front of them, and they didn’t even recognize me because I was in full on costume as well, but it was just… It was just one of those moments of, “Oh, shit. I think I might have made it.” Maybe there’s other ones, but I think seeing a fan wearing a costume that you picked out. That I embodied this character, and now another person wants to embody it too. It was full circle for me, and it was really special.
EW I would love to know more about Morbius-tell me everything. What drew you to the project, the role, what can we expect?
AA Morbius was a project that came to me, and I went through the whole process, a whole audition process. I met with Daniel Espinosa to go have coffee. He thought I was too young for the role, and I really had to fight for this one. I had to really prove myself, that I had what it takes to be in front of Jared and that I could feel more mature. I had to go, and I auditioned. I remember getting the call a couple days later, it wasn’t that long. It was literally a couple days. I just remember thinking to myself, “Oh, shit. It’s either a yes or a no.” It’s not, “You’re in the top three. You’re in the top four.” It was either yes or no, and I got it. Then playing this role has been really incredible. I had so much fun creating her visually. Sade was a big inspiration for me, aesthetic wise. Then really getting to bounce around ideas with Jared and with Daniel in building this woman. It was really a collaboration, and I enjoyed every second of it, to be honest.
EW Any lessons from filming you found you take with you into your life?
AA I think adaptability in this film was a big one for me. Jared is a full on method actor, and I had never worked with someone that went so deep and was so committed to a role. I’ve worked with incredible actors, but his style of working is very different, and very particular to him. I learned that not only in life, but also in your creative process, you have to be adaptable. You have to be open and respectful to other people’s processes. I’ve always been that, but it was a challenge to have someone that was so different and worked so different from me. Even though I studied Lee Strasberg and I went to method acting school, I hadn’t encountered it at that level. So yeah, adaptability would be a good one.
EW How do you go about deciding what projects to take on?
AA I don’t want to be too vague, but I think it’s energetic, right? There’s scripts that I read that are absolutely amazing, and there’s characters that I read that are amazing, but for some reason, I’m not gravitated to it. It’s instinctual for me. There’s characters that I really enjoy to read, and then all of a sudden, I start having all of these ideas. There’s other ones that I really have to work hard on, and those tend to be the ones that usually don’t go my way, or if they do come my way, I have a really hard time with it on set. But, I haven’t had many of those. I’ve been really lucky to play characters that I really am in love with. I think the director is super important, the writers are important, and who am I going to spend three months out of my life for it? Even if the movie is successful or not, those three months I can never get back. It’s always important to know who the collaborative team is. That’s always very important to me, and at the top of my list. Then, who this woman is. I just want to spend time with a character that I like, and I think I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to play different styles of women. I’ve jumped around a lot in genres, so I don’t know. I think keeping it fresh, and keeping it interesting for me and challenging for me. If it doesn’t feel like a challenge, usually I think I’ll pass.
EW You have several projects lined up that we can be looking forward to- Father of the Bride, Los Frikis… what should we be expecting from you in the coming years in terms of roles? Can you give us any sneak peeks?
AA Yeah, Father of the Bride. Father of the Bride is a remake to the original. It’s a Latin American version of it, but it’s so very much a Hollywood movie. It has so much heart. I watched it last week. It has so much heart, so much soul, and I really can’t wait for people to watch this. I think it’s a movie that we all need right now. It’s beautiful. I think Andy is absolutely incredible in it. Then, Los Frikis. I have Los Frikis coming out, too. I also have Star Wars Andor coming out. Irma Vep coming out with Alicia Vikander. Los Frikis is actually… The directors are coming over to have dinner in a couple minutes actually, to my house. It just felt like such a close knit family. We got actors from Cuba that had never left Cuba, and it was a really eye-opening experience for me. I think Los Frikis really changed my life forever. It’s probably been one of the best experiences of my life. I love it, and I can’t wait for people to watch that either. It talks about the AIDS epidemic in Cuba. I don’t want to give you too much, because I really want to save the fan experience and the audience experience. Going forward, I think I’m really focused on strong female leads that can tell a story and can hold their own space in a film. Like I said before, I think the script will come and I will gravitate to that. I don’t really plan my career out strategically. If it comes and I feel it and I love it, then I do it. Let’s see. Let’s see what comes next. I’ll be excited to talk about it a little bit later.
EW What is most helpful in the process of finding a character? And how do you go about shedding one?
AA I think shoes are the most important to me, and the way someone walks is very important. I think finding the shoes is always probably the first step. Once I get the steps in, then I’ll go into the speech pattern. Trying to find her speech pattern. Then everything evolves from there for me, and then my imagination takes over. I have a lot of talks with the director of backstory. Sometimes, I don’t talk to the director about backstory. Maybe, sometimes, I’ll just make it up on my own. I’ll just start discovering as I go. I always have this book that I travel with, this notepad and I just jot down ideas. The third step will probably be a playlist, and then I’ll start thinking like the character and start changing my train of thought sometimes. I think the last step for me is the lines. I think there’s so much work. Everyone’s always like, “How can you memorize lines?” I’m like, “That’s the easiest part.” The hard part is the other stuff. Is creating this person, and then finding and discovering and making the lines work. Then just leaning onto your fellow actor and having each other’s backs. Then, to shedding it. Sometimes, I’ll stay with the little mannerisms that I do, and it’s funny. I draw from experience. I’m always playing a different version of myself, so it’s not too hard to shed it. You’d be surprised. I also like to take breaks from it too. I take it very seriously, but I also enjoy the process and I make sure that I have fun while doing it. I make sure that I connect with the crew and the whole team, because we really can’t do that without them. I don’t like to stay in character, so maybe that’s why it’s easier to shed it for me. I’m not sure.
I don’t take for granted where I am. I’m very grateful, and I take it very to heart.
EW What helps you stay sane and tethered these days?
AA A lot of stuff. Boxing, sleeping. I just discovered this spa here in LA called Pause, and I go. It’s an infrared sauna, and then a cold plunge. I just give myself an hour to sweat all the toxins, everything out, and then go into this cold plunge that resets your body. Taking time to read things that aren’t a script and watching movies. Hanging out with my friends sometimes. Because of press days or because of filming, sometimes you’re so away from the people you love. All I want is to be with the people I love once I have a second off, or I’ll just FaceTime my mother or my brothers or my dad. That’s how I keep sane, thanks to them.
EW Any dream role you hope to come your way?
AA I have one, and I’m in the middle of producing one, but I’m not going to say what it is yet.
EW Do you often get “pinch yourself” moments when huge opportunities come through?
AA Oh, my God. Yes. All the time. All the time, I have pinch myself moments. Too many times. I still am so humbled by the fact that I get to do what I do, and that I get to be in rooms with such incredible and talented and kind people. Yeah, I pinch myself all the time. Every time I walk on a set. Every time a movie wraps, I get so scared that it’ll be the last time I’m ever on a set. That’s the imposter syndrome right there. Every time I have the opportunity to step back on a set, I always pinch myself. Every time I see a poster, anything. I don’t take for granted where I am. A lot of my friends are actors. Some of them are working and some of them are not, and they’re all incredibly talented. I know how lucky I am, and I know I’m part of a 0.5% of actors that are working. I’m very grateful, and I take it very to heart.
EW Do you consider acting or the arts as a vocation or something you were called to do?
AA I think it’s something I would be called to do. Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, but I would really do it for free. My lawyer’s going to kill me, but I really would. I love what I do so much. I don’t look at it as a job. I think I mentioned earlier, I don’t really look at it as a career. I look at it as, it’s just self expression for me. I just really enjoy getting to do it, and getting to spend time with incredible people, and getting to know so many different people. I get to travel the world and bring life to a one-dimensional thing that’s on a piece of paper. Then, us actors give those characters a heartbeat, and that’s incredible. That’s me. I don’t see it as a job. A press day for me is a job. That is I clock in and I clock out, but on set, I don’t see it as a job. I really think I was called to do this. I don’t imagine doing anything else.
EW What are your thoughts on purpose- like do you see a greater meaning in your work and what you are called to do? And what else do you feel particularly called to do?
AA Everything important and significance has purpose behind it. Look, I think that the purpose, or at least my purpose, is to touch someone in any way. Whether it’s make someone laugh or feel something for a specific moment, or maybe make them feel nothing. Remove them from the moment or the negative moment that they’re in their life. How special is that? I don’t get to meet everyone, but I feel like I get to have a little space in people’s homes and people’s minds. That, to me, is really special, and it’s the reason I do what I do. If it’s a movie theater full of, I don’t know, 500 people, and I get to touch one person. That, to me, is the reason. Is my purpose. It’s what I do. It’s why I do what I do, and it’s why I enjoy it so much. I really feel, like I said before, I’m called to do this. Philanthropy is another thing that I also really enjoy doing, and I know I have a calling for it. I do it a lot. I do it on the side, and I don’t really tell anybody about it. I just do it for the people and no one really needs to find out, but I think philanthropy is incredible. There’s so many people that need our help. I get to do it now more than ever, because I have the means and I know people that could help. But thanks to acting, I feel like I could be more successful in helping other people. It aligns, right? That calling, right? That calling of moving someone or helping someone. That I think is the bigger picture.
EW What or who inspires you?
AA A lot of things inspire me. Nature inspires me. People. People inspire me so much. I love observing people. I’m a big people observer. I’ll just sit down and have a coffee, and I’ll just be inspired by a conversation that two people are having. That I can’t really hear, but I’ll just imagine what they’re talking about. Books inspire me, music inspires me. I think people. People would be my biggest and greatest inspiration, and I’m also constantly stealing from them. I’ll steal from someone. I think the New York subway is probably… Every time I’m in New York, I just want to ride the subway for hours, because I just get to see so many different characters and I get to steal from them.
EW How do you connect your spirit with your work and your day to day?
AA That’s a good question. I think I do everything because I actually enjoy it, and I think it just goes hand-in-hand. I don’t really know how to answer that. I think it’s one. I don’t think, for me, there’s actually a separation. I think my soul and my spirit is constantly wanting to tell a story or to imagine. I live in my bubble a lot, in my imagination. Actually, when I was a kid, they thought I was deaf. It turns out that I was just ignoring everybody, because I live so much in my little bubble. Yeah. I’m constantly creating in a way, and I’m always daydreaming and creating little things. I think it comes hand-in-hand for me.
EW How do you like to spend your days when you aren’t working?
AA I love to do nothing. I really enjoy doing nothing. It’s hard for me to do that, but I really enjoy doing nothing. I enjoy watching movies I didn’t have time to watch. I love being in nature, being in the ocean. Boxing and just staying home. Whenever I’m in LA, I barely leave my house. Yeah. I just like to stay home and be cozy, and do what I usually never get to do, which is just be home.
EW What are some of your favorite ways to pay it forward? Any charities or causes we should know about?
AA I said I wasn’t going to talk about it, but I’ll talk about it. Actually, I didn’t do it last year because of COVID, but I’m doing it this year. Before COVID, I would go every birthday to Skid Row, and I would give goody bags to women with tampons, hand sanitizer, shampoo, conditioner, underwear, socks. Everything a woman may need. If I turned 25, I would give 25 goody bags, and I would find 25 women and make sure that I connect with them and have a conversation with them. I’ll give them their gift, and I would usually do that the morning of my birthday. Because of COVID, we couldn’t really do that, but I’m doing it this year. Then for Christmas, I am Santa Claus for a little town in Guatemala. I bring all the little kids Christmas presents on Christmas day. I’ve been doing that for over nine years, I think. Those are the two things. If I see a piece of garbage on the street, I’ll pick it up and I’ll throw it away. I’ll smile at someone, or I’ll make eye contact with someone, or I’ll thank someone for what they’re doing. I make sure that I’m present with everyone that I encounter throughout my day. I really try to make sure I do that. Some days are harder than others, but I really make sure that I go out of my way. Oh, I love cleaning a beach. I’ll find little things. I think there’s no such thing as a small deed.
I never shy away from the fact that I’m Hispanic. I hold my flag up really high. I make sure, and I let them know, that you could do this too. I think that’s being a good role model.
EW Tell us how you use your platform to pay it forward?
AA I think trying to be the best role model that I can. It’s hard. That’s a hard one, because I think social media sometimes goes both ways, but I try to make sure that I connect with people on DMs, or I’ll like their comment. I’ll make sure that they feel seen and that I’m looking at their comments. I try to keep my content really positive. I just really try to be a good role model. I think with Armani, and Acqua For life, and with the My Way campaign, Armani does a really good job of educating me, so then I can really educate people on how to conserve our planet. I’ve done a couple lives talking about that, with them. I try to find little ways. I think there’s so many opinions out there, and there’s so much content out there, that it’s always hard. It’s a little tricky. I just want to be a positive role model. I don’t want to shove my opinions on anybody, and I guess maybe by shutting my mouth, sometimes, it’s better than allowing people to make their own opinion of things. Yeah. I guess just being a good role model, especially for Latin American girls that want to be actresses. Or, any Latin American. That it’s possible, that it’s doable. I never shy away from the fact that I’m Hispanic. I hold my flag up really high. I make sure, and I let them know, that you could do this too. I think that’s being a good role model.
EW What do you wish people would stop asking you in interviews?
AA How is it working with Jared Leto? I wonder if people are asking him how it’s working with me. Then, I think a lot of people ask me about my father. I’ve gotten used to that over the years, because he is such an intriguing and such an interesting man. He’s my best friend, and I love him more than anyone. I think this year people stopped a lot, but it came to the point where I was like, “Okay. I spent six months working on this movie, and all the questions are about my dad and his personal life.” I try to protect that. For him and for me.
EW What do you wish you were asked more often?
AA What do I wish you were asked more often? How are you? I feel like everyone just bombards you with other question, and it’s like, “Hi, good morning. How are you today?” I don’t hear that often.
EW What makes you excited about the coming year?
AA Well, just that all these projects that I’ve been working so hard on are coming out, and then I get to meet so many wonderful fans. That COVID is over, and I can actually see people face-to-face. With Marvel, I’ve gotten to meet so many fans, and it’s really exciting to be invited into this universe. With Star Wars, I just can’t wait to start meeting everyone and hearing their thoughts about it. I’m excited about them.
EW Book we should be reading?
AA Klara and the Sun. It’s Kazuo Ishiguro. It won the noble prize in literature. It’s pretty amazing.
EW Film we should be watching?
AA That’s probably one of the hardest questions for me. Current? Oh, man. That one is always so hard. I feel like I need to think about that one. There’s just so many great films. You know what? I’m going to go with an old one, Cinema Paradiso. It’s my favorite movie of all time. Oh, it just puts a smile on my face every time. It’s such a beautiful movie. Ennio Morricone does the score. I think it might be one of the best scores of all time, so watch that.
EW Where should we be traveling?
AA Kauai. I loved Kauai. I just went to Kauai, and it’s so magical. It’s very far away. I think it’s the furthest place from a land mass in the entire world, but it’s beautiful. It’s on a female volcano. A female, energetic field or something like that. Don’t quote me. It’s just such a wonderful, wonderful island. There’s great surfing there. People are so nice and welcoming. Love the food. I love the culture. I was just there in February, and I can’t wait to go back.
EW What should we be eating?
AA Aguachiles from Mexico. Oh, they’re so good. It’s like a ceviche. I don’t know if you’ll find it here in the states, but if you do, please let me know. I’m obsessed with Aguachiles. If not, Arroz Mamposteao. It’s a Puerto Rican dish. If you haven’t tried it, go find it.