In the new action flick “Brick Mansions,” Colombian actress Catalina Denis plays Lola, the girlfriend of an ex-con (David Belle) who is the target of Tremaine Alexander (RZA), a Detroit drug kingpin set on destroying the city. When Lola is kidnapped by Tremaine, her boyfriend and a vengeful cop (Paul Walker) set out to save her and stop Tremaine’s ruthless plans.
During an interview with me this week, Denis talked about the physical nature of her role, why she identified with her character so much, and shared her experience working with late actor Paul Walker, who passed away last November.
What attracted you to the role of Lola in “Brick Mansions?”
What I loved about this character was her complexity. I just felt like I was her, or maybe she was me. I really identified with her. She did the same thing I did and left her country to follow her dreams. She wanted to do something good for herself and maybe one day come back and do something good for her community. There are so many colors inside of her. At the beginning, you see her as a very gentle and cool and normal person, but then you also see the physical and mental strength she has. I really liked the fact I was given the opportunity to play a real woman, a real person.
This film features some high-energy Parkour stunts. Were you amazed at the things some of your fellow cast members were able to do on a physical level and were you able to try some of the stunts yourself?
What they told me was not to think and just do it. Your body knows how to do it. I never used a [stunt] double for my fight scenes. I did everything myself. Of course, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But it was worth it even though I had to stay in bed for two days. (Laughs) I didn’t know it was going to be so hard. I knew about the choreography, but I didn’t think anyone was really going to get hurt. It was very, very painful! But I was in very good hands.
Is it empowering to have scenes where you’re able to wave a gun around? You looked like a natural.
Oh, absolutely. It felt good. I love that the film shows women being strong and powerful. Why should men have all the fun?
What part of your Latina background do you identify with the most?
Oh, everything about me is Latina. If you were in front of me, you would see how Latina I am. (Laughs) It’s the way we move and think and see things. I think Latinas have a very special way of seeing the world. We see it with much more light. We see it brighter than many people. That is a great thing to have. I think it’s a strength we have. I’m very grateful I am Latina.
In your short film career, you’ve been able to do some French and French-Canadian films. Is breaking into the American film industry something you would consider a goal for yourself in the future?
I think it’s every actor’s dream. Anyone who says the opposite is lying. (Laughs) Yes, it is a dream. But I am also living a dream right now. Being in a movie like “Brick Mansions” is beyond amazing. I hope this is just the beginning of my career.
What are you going to remember the most about Paul Walker?
Many, many, many things. Professionally, Paul had an amazing gift. I expected Paul to come in and just want to do his lines and get out as quick as possible. But he was the exact opposite. He was so involved day to day in this project. Personally, what I will always remember are those eyes. They were like a child’s eyes. They just made you feel comfortable. They made you feel like you could talk to him about anything without being judged or criticized. He had a beautiful heart. He was a beautiful human being.