Tusk Star Genesis Rodriguez Talks Johnny Depp and Her Miami Swagger
Kevin Smith has made some unique, cult-embraced films in his day: Clerks, Dogma, and Chasing Amy to name a few. After a brief hiatus from the filmmaking world, the jersey-wearing mega-geek is back with a dark comedy about a walrus, Tusk.
The plotline is a tad more complicated than just a man who gets violently turned into a walrus in Canada and the dialogue is so rich it'll have you craving a nice, thick Mark Twain novel when you leave the theater.
"It's not like a normal creepy movie," says Miami native and star of Tusk, Genesis Rodriguez. "With all the delicious dialogue, it's more like an actors' movie."
Rodriguez says the best way to describe the film would be a simple phrase from the teaser poster: "a truly transformative tale."
"It's going to take you on a ride. It's a horror movie, yes, but it has so many layers. There's drama, there's comedy -- it just takes you into this weird place, but it's a movie that stays with you so it's kind of an experience."
Though the film centers on Wallace (Justin Long) and his relationship with the crazy old man who turns him into a walrus (Michael Parks), the audience gets the occasional flashback where we learn about his relationship with his girlfriend, Ally (Rodriguez).
"Ally wasn't originally written as Latina," says Rodriguez over the phone from Los Angeles. The character was eventually rewritten to better reflect Rodriguez's heritage (she's half Venezuelan and half Cuban) after Smith saw her and Long interact and improv scenes together. One such scene is when the two are lying in bed together reminiscing on the "old Wallace" and Long sweetly mimics Rodriguez's accent and she's all "I don't talk like that!"
Hollywood just doesn't understand our Miami dialect. "Coming out and living in L.A. now, I've realized that I don't have a Latina accent, I have a Miami accent, bro," laughs Rodriguez. "It's the way that we talk -- our swagger in the way that we talk is so different. 'Ay, bro,' or 'it's so heated, bro' -- it's so Miami, no one speaks like that except for us!"
Though Rodriguez kept her Miami swagger concealed in Tusk, she invested a lot of herself in the role, one that she says has changed her life and challenged her as an actor. "You would never expect once you hear 'human to walrus' movie, but this has been the most challenging, most wonderful role. After doing this movie, I feel like I could do anything that I set my mind to, for sure."
Her favorite scene to shoot was the moment when she's sitting on her bed and delivers a deep and heartbreaking monologue about her relationship with Wallace while looking directly at the camera. Smith wrote that scene for her the day of shooting.
"Having the opportunity to have a monologue like that that's delivered looking directly at the camera is probably the biggest gift you can give to an actor."
See also: How Kevin Smith Got Young Again
That, and complete trust. Before every scene, instead of calling "action," Rodriguez recalls that Smith would just tell them "OK, kids, have fun!" "He just completely relied on us and trusted us as actors -- it was awesome."
Another awesome experience for Rodriguez was getting the chance to work with veteran actors' actor, Johnny Depp. That's right, Depp makes a hilarious cameo in the film playing a French private investigator by the name of Guy Lapointe. Wearing a prosthetic nose, the handsome man is hardly recognizable, but his characteristic mannerisms are all there.
"It was just so surreal that I was in a scene -- in multiple scenes with him. All I could think about was 'Oh my god, you're acting with Johnny, you better bring it because he needs an actor to work with, it's not like he needs a wall to look at!'" gushes Rodriguez.
Rodriguez will get another chance to work with Depp in Smith's second installment of his Canadian trilogy, Yoga Hosers. The entire cast of Tusk is returning, except this time, only Guy Lapointe and the two Canadian clerk girls (played by Smith and Depp's daughters) will play the same characters. The movie will revolve around these two young clerks who love yoga and also fight crime.
"I'm a gym teacher, but a very angry Canadian teacher, which is probably very unlikely because there are no mean Canadians," she says. Adding, "She's very, very angry and screaming at these kids and it's just kind of great to see a Latina-Canadian out there with a Canadian accent. It's kind of a hoorah for us."
We know how Smith was initially inspired to write the movie after reading about a strange ad for a houseguest in Canada, which then went on to inspire the weird Canadian myth trilogy of his. But we also know that Miami can be a weird and strange place too (see: WTF Florida), so we had to ask Rodriguez how she thought a film like Tusk would fare with a Miami setting.
"Who knows, it would probably start with somebody taking bad bath-salts and then tracking down a homeless guy and turning him into a walrus," she jokes.
But wait, we might be on to something here...#MiamiZombieYes? "I don't know if Kevin knows about the Miami Zombie story," she says laughing, "but that would be a good podcast project. I'm going to give you credit for that if he makes it into a movie."
We'll be waiting.
Tusk hits theaters today and Yoga Hosers is slated for a June 2015 release. No word yet on #MiamiZombieYes.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.