Natalie Martinez Talks End of Watch, on Blu-ray and DVD this week
End of Watch, the thrilling new cop drama from director David Ayer, is available now on Blu-ray and DVD. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two LAPD officers working the dangerous streets of East Los Angeles. We recently caught up with co-star Natalie Martinez, who plays Michael Peña's wife in the film, to find out more about this exciting thriller.
What was the hardest thing about shooting End of Watch in the middle of Los Angeles with real-life gang bangers? Here is our conversation.
David Ayer, I believe, is the best director working in this genre at this current time in film history. He brings an intensity to the set that we can actually see on screen. There is an authentic buzzing electricity there that we don't get in other films. What is his process like on set? What's it like to be shooting alongside such a force behind the camera?
Natalie Martinez: He is this movie. This is the life he grew up in. This is the area that he grew up in. Working with him, he is very militant, because he knows what he wants. He knows how he wants it to sound and what he wants it to look like. Sometimes it's difficult, because he wants everything to be very natural. He does so well with this genre, this is so his story.
A lot of the movie is presented in a fount footage style, but it takes that sub-genre and pushes it in ways we haven't seen before. It's a mix of both shooting styles. A lot of actors will say there is no difference between acting for those two distinct styles...But watching something like The Supernatural found footage episode, you see that the main guys are acting for a cinematic, staged camera, and the other actors are acting as though they are in a documentary. Its is more natural, less pronounced. How did you find that balance working on the set of End of Watch, because here, you're really being asked to do two very different things?
Natalie Martinez: To tell you the truth...This is the first movie that I have ever done, that is like this. I found it to be a lot more personal. A lot more intimate. From the moment I walked on set, I was Michael Peña's wife, until the moment that I walked out. Because you never knew which camera was on, or when it was on, or when it would be recording. Or if it would be added, or edited. It made you a lot more aware of your character. It allowed you to live in your character the whole time. It made it very personal and intimate for me. A lot of the time, the main camera would be off. They would be setting up a new set-up, and Jake Gyllenhaal would be there with his handheld camera, and he would stay in character. You know? I found it very interesting. And very liberating. Because you did get to ad-lib. You could evolve and just be this character that we'd spend so much time working on. We spent a lot of time working on these relationships with each other. Michael Peña and I, for example, spent a lot of time together hanging out. So, once we were on set, we could be as natural as possible.
What sort of challenges are presented to you as an actress, when you are not allowed to break the line, or step out of character between cuts?
Natalie Martinez: I don't find it hard. Not on this particular shoot, because it was a lot of fun. She was a fun character to be. And it was fun being on the set...Well, obviously not the ending, you know...But there was a lot of fun to be had, and you have to bring that to it. I might just be sitting there, and Michael Peña is doing his thing. My instinct is to just run my hand over his hair. I want to caress his hair. Which is something I am comfortable with in doing, because we've been together for so long. I think, it is kind of fun. I thought it was entertaining and challenging to be natural with someone that is pretending to be someone they are not. You know what I am saying? Its like making that character real. I didn't find the process difficult in this particular film. I'm sure the circumstances might be different next time. It might be hard. But on this particular film, I found that really easy. And it was interesting, because when you do see the film, you can feel that chemistry between all of the different characters.
What's interesting about David Ayer is that he hangs out with the people we see on screen. These real gang bangers and thugs that he pulls in and uses for extras. These are real people. And this is as real of an environment as a Hollywood movie can get. What does that mean to you, as an actor, to have that real life element brought before the camera. To have that to bounce off of?
Natalie Martinez: I think its one of the reasons the movie resonates. Because it is real. The people who are out there are constantly telling us what is real, what would happen, what wouldn't happen. You know? Every move we make is monitored by I don't know how many people. We did a tour through all the major cities in most of the states. We showed all of the police stations the movie, before it came out. That was one of the most common things we found out in each city. Just how close we hit home for a lot of them. One of my best friend's brothers is a cop. He called me, and he says, "My wife doesn't want me to be a cop after seeing End of Watch." Its kind of crazy how close it gets to home. Its because David Ayer knows all of these people. He grew up around all of these people. He does what he knows, and he keeps these people around for us all. Its good to hang out with people, to be able to talk to them when you need them and ask them questions. They help you do your part correctly.
I know the guys trained quite extensively, and that they went on ride-alongs. What kind of people did David introduce you to? Did you sit down with a lot of wives of policemen, to get a feel for their hardships and aggravations with leading this type of intense life?
Natalie Martinez: I played a cop before, so I have gone on ride-alongs before. I have done those types of things. I've seen them firsthand, how they are. I have met some of their families. David Ayer hooked me up with one of his friend's wives, who was born and raised in California. She was Mexican. I went to her daughter's baby shower, so I could see how they all hang out. There was one of them that had a cop for a husband as well. And like I said, one of my best friend's brothers is a cop. So I know his wife, for about twenty years. Those are the types of things I have always kept in my files. Doing the job, and meeting people. I study people. Whenever I met someone new, I will ask a lot of questions. I will put that away in a file cabinet and pull it out when I need it. This time around, I talked to a couple of Mexican American born women. I hung out with them. And I saw how they interacted. How they were still with their high school sweethearts. It was just through knowing people like that.
Going back to the real gang members and cops that act as extras on set. Are there any noticeable moments in the film that you remember, that were changed greatly from the script, or influenced by their insight?
Natalie Martinez: I think there was a lot more of that happening between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Because they spent the most time together. That last scene where they are cracking each other up, and they go to high five...They miss...That is all...That really happened. They just kept laughing. That was something that came like that. Also, that wedding scene that I do. I was told to make that really awkward for everybody. They let me go. So that became an out there kind of scene.
David Ayer has this collection of video and audio from all over the world, of police and military doing various things on the job that maybe they shouldn't be doing. Did he ever share some of that stuff with you. Did he make you watch some of the more hardcore stuff that has been documented?
Natalie Martinez: I think its more...Its about witnessing it yourself, and coming to understand the script and the material. He might have shown them some of that footage. That is more for the guys. I probably wouldn't need to see that. I don't know what they did together. I didn't see any of that stuff. He did make sure that we were always talking. We were always in contact. He would always go over certain aspects of the film, just so that we were always knowledgable about what we were doing.
Having talked to cast members from both End of Watch and Southland, I know you guys all have a mutual respect for what the other is doing. Was there ever any concern on set of repeating, or trying not to do something that the show had already done before?
End of Watch is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.