Hopping off the set of season two of DirecTV’s original series, Kingdom, Natalie Martinez takes a break from filming in Los Angeles. The Miami native refers to the boxing series as a passion project and her voice gets noticeably giddier when she speaks about her work as Alicia Mendez.
“It’s definitely something that I’m so happy to be a part of because I’m actually a Muay Thai girl, I do MMA,” she says with an audible smile. “I’ve been doing MMA and Muay Thai for about five years now, so it’s just amazing to be able to go to work and be able to do something that’s been my hobby for so long… I get to go to work and play doing something that I love.
“The show really shines a light on the people with boxing and MMA careers — it shows you what they go through, where they come from — it’s a really cool drama and it’s very creatively done.”
Season one of the series introduced the world of boxing and MMA fighting with the struggles of a former fighter, Frank Grillo, and his sons played by Nick Jonas and Jonathan Tucker. In season two, they introduce the first female fighter: Mendez.
“I can’t remember her initial name, but I think she was going to be an African American women fighter,” comments Martinez. “And when I came onto the script, [they changed her name to] Alicia Mendez [for me].” It was a minor script change, but it made all the difference for the personality Martinez was bringing to the role.
Martinez, a Cutler Ridge resident and St. Brendan High School grad, moved to Los Angeles when she was 18 years old and has been living in the West Coast ever since, but she has never forgotten where she came from. “I am very humbled by my experience of where I grew up and where I went to school…[and because of that] I probably come off as a strong person when I go to these auditions and casting directions see that. I’m cool with it, though, because it’s a lot of fun getting these action roles and playing tough.”
Being a Latina in the industry, Martinez says that she has never felt discriminated against for her heritage. In her experience — and in her opinion — she has never been typecasted for a role.
“I’m very lucky to have been able to play many different roles and I haven’t been typecast,” says the actor as she proceeds to name a few of her more notable characters. “The sheriff in Under the Dome didn’t have a very attractive outfit, so it’s not like they were making me seem like the ‘hot Latina,’” she says with a laugh, adding, “But in Self/Less, with Ryan Reynolds, I played a mother struggling to keep her family together. In Secrets and Lies, I lost my son. In End of Watch, I played a pregnant cop’s wife. I’ve done many different roles, and right now, I’m on Kingdom where I play an MMA fighter.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to not be typecasted or have to put on an accent or have to put on a tight dress and pull out my boobs.”
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Although Martinez’s experience has been unique, since most Latinas that go out to Hollywood struggle with typecasting issues, she seems to be unaware of those struggles her fellow actors face. Adding to the diversity in the roles she’s played, she says, “That’s one of the things I’m very proud of: That Hollywood sees passed all that, that being an ethnic person gives you an extra tick but it doesn’t define who you are or what roles you can play.”
Commenting on the state of Latinas in the industry today, Martinez proudly responds, “I think we’re at a high point right now and it’s only going to get better. We’re leading shows, we’re leading movies, we’re leading Billboard charts — there are a lot of amazing Latinas doing amazing things right now. What more can you ask for?”
There’s plenty more we can think of to ask for, but hoping that all Latinas could have
Season two of Kingdom begins tonight, Wednesday, October 14, on DirecTV. Visit kingdom.directv.com for more details.