Catching up with ‘Act of Valor’ star Roselyn Sanchez
Roselyn Sanchez at the Hollywood premiere of Act of Valor on February 13. (Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Relativity Media)
It’s not your traditional action movie, that’s for sure. Act of Valor, out today, is a fictionalized account of real-life U.S. Navy SEAL operations, starring actual active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs and a few Hollywood actors, among them, Roselyn Sanchez.
“The world only hears about their missions when they’re over,” reads the movie’s poster.
It’s the first movie to begin as a Naval Special Warfare (which includes the SEALs and the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen, or SWCC) project. The Wall Street Journal wrote extensively about the making of the movie last year, in an article that discussed “Hollywood’s new battle plan.”
“Now that deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq are tapering down, filmmakers are honing in on the more clear-cut job of battling terrorists,” the article states. “And they’re finding heroes in the elite — and now famous — special-operations forces leading the hunt. Projects in the pipeline focus on the armed heroics, high-tech tactics and teamwork involved in getting the bad guys.”
In Act of Valor, that bad guy is a Chechen terrorist dead-set on smuggling suicide bombers into the U.S. through the Mexican border to cause mass destruction in major U.S. cities. Not a new threat, of course. Ten years after 9/11, it’s still as real as ever. And Act of Valor certainly plays on that.
The movie is the result of a proposal submitted by Los Angeles-based production company Bandito Brothers and handpicked by Naval Special Warfare among several other feature film proposals. Apparently, the Navy had been looking to make a feature film for a while.
Prior to Act of Valor, Bandito Brothers had shot a seven-minute documentary about the SWCC. In the production notes, Max Leitman, a partner in Bandito and Act of Valor’s executive producer, states: “As we got to know these men, we were extremely inspired by them and I think it showed in the work. We viewed it as a gift to them, something they’d be able to go home and show to family and friends to help them understand a little better. And the Navy recognized the passion we put into it.”
Captain Duncan Smith, an active U.S. Navy SEAL who was one of the key players in developing Act of Valor, notes: “The idea had to be approved at a very high level. The goal was to allow outsiders to come in and view us for who we are, with an emphasis on understanding the men themselves, and the sacrifices they and their families make every day.” And bolster recruiting efforts, no doubt.
According to Smith, aside from the SEALs, all of the pilots and aviators, the people in submarines — they’re all real military members.
“No other movie has every really captured the heart, the teamwork, the modern technology, and the training that go into making a U.S. Navy SEAL,” he adds.
In what is the most challenging role Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez has ever signed onto, she plays Agent Morales, an undercover CIA agent kidnapped and tortured by men in Costa Rica who work for a high-profile Eastern European smuggler connected to the Chechen terrorist. She’s only in the first 20 minutes of the movie, but they’re intense, and crucial to setting up the plot. Expect plenty of explosions, bullets, stunts, battlefield technology and tactics, and overall adrenaline-fueled action sequences.
Reviews of the movie have been mixed. At a recent screening in Los Angeles, Act of Valor moved some to tears, while others walked out feeling uncomfortable with what they described as the propaganda-like feel of it. Salon today posted an article that stated: “the military … wants to make Americans forget about our imperialist misadventures.”
Either way, people will be talking about Act of Valor. And it gave us a chance to catch up with Sanchez, who took time out of being a new mom to chat with us.
This is very different for you. You’ve played cops before, but usually wearing a fabulous pencil skirt and flawless make-up and hair. What drew you to the project?
At first it seemed strange that some of the people in the movie wouldn’t be real actors but actual Navy SEALs, because I’m used to working with actors, but the concept of it being the real deal, no make-believe, was attractive to me. I liked the team that was behind it, the directors are young, ex-stunt guys, well-recognized in the industry. So the whole concept appealed to me. And the character, too. I’ve done drama but never with torture, to the point where my physical appearance was almost unrecognizable.
You definitely aren’t relying on your looks for this one…
A lot of people in the industry that have seen it have called me and said, ‘I didn’t even know it was you until the end and I saw your name!’ Which is a good thing—means I did my job.
How did you get into that state of mind for the torture scenes? It’s almost hard to watch, and I can stomach a lot!
It’s interesting because they actually had to edit out a lot of the more graphic stuff, because during test screenings, a lot of the women said they couldn’t watch. So what you see in the film is very little compared to what I had to do! It was tough. It was summer while we were shooting, it was in the jungle, 102 degrees, there were mosquitoes, and I had layers of make-up and a facial prosthetic that took hours to apply, so the conditions were quite miserable. Me, personally, as Roselyn, was quite miserable. [laughs] So it wasn’t hard to get into that state of mind at all.
Any stunts gone wrong?
Actually, yes! One of the stunt guys accidentally hit me in the face and I was hysterical. We didn’t get the choreography right and I had one eye closed and it happened. Occupational hazards.
What’s the message you hope audiences will take away?
The Navy SEALs are the most elite group within the army, but they’re also shrouded in secrecy, so I hope people will get to see the brotherhood between them, and how they unselfishly risk their lives for America and for us every minute. I think people will have a lot of respect for them after watching.
What did you learn about Navy SEALs that you found surprising?
That they’re so normal. When you think of a Navy SEAL you think of a really secretive person that doesn’t speak to anyone and they live in their own world. But when you meet them, you see that they’re completely normal, just walking down the street, these bad-asses, with highly specialized training. Some of them are married, they have families, and they’re deeply in love with their country. You kind of have to be.
Speaking of families, I have to congratulate you and Eric [Winter, Sanchez’s husband, who’s also an actor] on being a new parents. How has life changed for you guys?
It’s changed completely. I now know what it’s like to be completely unselfish, because I don’t have time for anything else but my baby girl. We had been trying to have a baby for years and when it happened we were more than ready. I don’t know what sleep is anymore. Last night she was up crying with stomach cramps. On a good night, we sleep for four hours. I’m breastfeeding, so every two and half hours, I have to feed her.
Is there a special meaning behind the name, Sebella Rose?
There is, actually. Last year, we went to Napa with Eric for his birthday. We went to this one vineyard to do a tasting and we tried this dessert wine. I’m not big into alcohol, but if it’s something sweet, I’ll try it. So they brought us this beautiful bottle that said Sebella and I thought to myself, ‘That’s pretty.’ The owner of the vineyard then explained to me that he has twins named Sebastian and Isabella, so he combined both names and named this sweet wine after them. I thought that was such a sweet story, so we brought a bottle home with us and I still have it. We had such a great time that weekend. When the baby was born, we were trying to decide between Amelie and Sebella, and we picked Sebella.
She’s a little over a month old now, so I’m sure it’s hard to tell, but who is she looking more like these days, you or Eric?
I don’t know, everyone who comes over says something different! One person will say, “She looks just like you,” and then the next will say, “She has Eric’s face,” so I’m confused. But I think it’s me. [laughs]
Will being a mom affect the types of movies you sign onto going forward?
Maybe, although I’ve always been very career-oriented, so if I like a character, I do it. But there’s some new level of responsilibity so it’s possible my maternal instinct will tell me to choose projects extra carefully from now on.
Reminds me of what Jessica Alba said when she signed onto The Killer Inside Me, which I almost walked out on during the more violent parts. So what other projects do you have lined up?
We’re in pilot season here in L.A. and the timing is tricky since I’m recien parida, as they say, so it’d have to be a TV project that really strikes me as interesting. My main focus is being a mom right now. Let’s talk in a few weeks and I’ll let you know what I have going on!