A cross between beauty and brawn, Texas-born Michelle Rodriguez has come a long way from humble beginnings shaped by time spent growing up in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Jersey City. It was from such sometimes rough yet diverse surroundings that Michelle began to build a personal persona as a street-smart “tough girl”, which when combined with raw talent and unmatched screen presence, helped her beat out 350 other girls to land her first speaking role as the lead in 2000’s critically-acclaimed independent film Girlfight. The award-winning performance quickly helped Michelle garner the attention of Hollywood, leading to major roles in blockbusters such as The Fast and the Furious (2001) and S.W.A.T. (2003) as well as a role in ABC’s hit television series Lost.
Michelle later appeared in the dramatic indie Battle in Seattle with Charlize Theron followed by Fast & Furious with Vin Diesel. She can currently be seen in James Cameron’s Golden Globe-nominated epic Avatar, as well as the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film Machete, and Battle: Los Angeles with Aaron Eckhart. Always seeking opportunities to branch out and reveal her multifaceted layers, Michelle is currently developing her own projects as a writer and producer.
Mayte Michelle Rodriguez was born on July 12, 1978 in Bexar County, Texas. With a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father, Michelle had quite the diverse upbringing. Around the age of nine, she moved with her family to the Dominican Republic where she says she learned Spanish and consequently “forgot every word of English” she knew. Her family also spent time in Puerto Rico until finally moving to New Jersey where Michelle would spend the majority of her young adulthood. During her adolescence, Michelle was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, a religious background which she eventually grew apart from. While her mother enforced a strict and proper upbringing, her father challenged Michelle to learn from the “school of life”, a dichotomy which she says “created what you see in front of you”.
Michelle first developed her “tough girl” persona due to the often rough environments in which she grew up. Michelle refers to herself as “the joker” in school, something which likely contributed to the five schools she was kicked out of growing up. Feeling she “wasn’t really being educated” she dropped out of High School and later obtained her G.E.D. before briefly attending business school. Realizing that she could not spend her life being “sun deprived and stuck in an office”, she quit school and set her sights on becoming a writer and director, and decided acting could be the outlet to get her there. After doing extra work for two years with little success and even less money, Michelle finally spotted an ad in Backstage Magazine for a ‘young latina’ boxing role. Young and inexperienced, she showed up to the audition on her own terms: on roller-blades, late, and unprepared. The Girlfight casting directors saw something unique in Michelle and her attitude (even perceiving her as a ‘young female Marlon Brando’-type), resulting in Michelle beating out more than 350 others for the part. The 2000 role garnered Michelle numerous awards and nominations and much critical acclaim. This success launched Michelle as a young star quickly on the rise in Hollywood.
Still going strong off the success of her independent film debut, Michelle appeared opposite Danny Glover in Showtime’s made-for-tv drama 3 A.M. followed in 2001 with the adrenaline-charged mega-hit The Fast and the Furious opposite Vin Diesel. An avid gamer who has since lent her voice to various popular games including True Crime: Streets of LA, Driver3, and Halo 2, Michelle then jumped at the opportunity to play a role in her next film, Resident Evil, an adaptation of the hit video game series. With these films under her belt, Michelle began to seal herself as the go-to “tough girl” in Hollywood, combining her physically strong believability with a natural beauty and unforced sex-appeal. She then took to Hawaii for the first time to play in the summer surfing flick Blue Crush in 2002. In 2003, Michelle played a police officer opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell in the blockbuster S.W.A.T. In 2005, a new chapter of her career would begin when she took a starring role in ABC’s hit television series Lost playing haunted and hardened ex-cop “Ana Lucia”. Having since ended her run on the series, she is currently hard at work on many new projects.
Michelle later appeared in the dramatic indie Battle in Seattle (2008) with Charlize Theron followed by Fast & Furious (2009) with Vin Diesel. She can currently be seen in James Cameron’s Golden Globe-nominated epic Avatar, as well as the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film Machete, and Battle: Los Angeles with Aaron Eckhart. Always seeking opportunities to branch out and reveal her multifaceted layers, Michelle is currently developing her own projects as a writer and producer, charging forward to set a new standard for women in Hollywood. Fed up with typecasting and stereotypes and what she calls the “cage of frightened sharks” in Hollywood, Michelle is taking her future into her own hands, and doing it once again on her own terms.