Move over Sarah Connor: the actress Natalia Reyes has arrived, and she plays a new Terminator heroine name Dani Ramos.
In Terminator: Dark Fate, out today, Reyes' Dani is a young woman who works in a factory in Mexico City with her brother Diego (Diego Boneta). "She has a simple life," Reyes said of her character in the latest installment of James Cameron's sci-fi franchise.
"She’s brave and a little bit like me—really stubborn, and she’s little but she’s hard. She’s the little one in her family. She has her brother and her father, but she’s actually the boss."
When Grace, a cyborg from the future played by Mackenzie Davis, protects Dani and Diego from being killed by a Terminator—a new and improved liquid-metal model of the android assassin from prior installments of the franchise—she meets Sarah Connor, the lauded heroine of the series played by Linda Hamilton. Filmed largely in Spain and Budapest, Terminator: Dark Fate is the story of Dani, Grace and Sarah joining forces to head the Human Resistance.
Natalia Reyes, who is from Colombia and is 32 years old, was not yet born when the first Terminator premiered in 1984. “But it’s one of those classic movies that are always on TV," she said. "I was really young, like nine, when I saw the first Terminator, and I was amazed by the world they created, and everything James Cameron did.”
Reyes said that it was actually the second installment of the Terminator series that drew her in further, particularly the ways in which Sarah Connor (portrayed by Linda Hamilton in the majority of the editions) was initially pegged as a trope-y damsel in distress only to evolve into a fighter in her own right.
“I remember seeing Sarah Connor and being in love with her and wanting to be her so badly,” Reyes said. “I’ve admired her since then. When I found out they were doing the new movie and it was a continuation of that second one, which was the best movie, I still can’t believe it.”
The actress recalls the first few times she met Hamilton on set, and like most people would be in that scenario, she was a bit starstruck to meet Sarah Connor in the flesh, but found that Hamilton could not have been more down to earth. “She is so respectful and generous and loving. I think she tried to let me build my character and do my thing,” Reyes said. “She gives her support and love all the time. With some lines that were really important, I tried to find the way in, and she was always there to help me and give ideas. She was next to me all the time, holding my hand. I felt really supported by her.”
Reyes bonded with Arnold Schwarzenegger—the original Terminator—on set, too, but their connection had less to do with acting. "What we share is how worried we are about the environment. We would share news and talk about that," she said. "It is about time that we all realize, it’s not a cause or something to just talk about—it’s an emergency. It is real. It’s already late. It’s something we all need to take action about, so I do advise people to do that and also be conscious about the fact that everything you do, wear, and eat matters."
As for the rest of the cast, she had not met any of them before joining them on set. In fact, Reyes called it "a whole new world" when referring to being a part of an international franchise of action films. "It was a whole new world for me in general," she said. "The crew, the industry, and Hollywood. It’s a huge thing for me."
Before joining Terminator: Dark Fate, Reyes had acted in some Colombian television shows, but this film is her biggest vehicle to date. "I feel really lucky because I discovered acting when I was really young, I was like nine and I think I had a really happy childhood and youth. I was doing what I wanted," she said. "But I wasn’t sure if you could actually make a job out of acting."
Of course, coming from a family of creatives didn't hurt when it came time to figure out how to make a career out of her passion. "I don’t have any actors in my family, but all of my mother’s family are singers and they do music. My grandma is a painter, and was into poetry," she explained. "I finished high school and college—I actually moved to New York to study film—and was always working in theaters and studying. You never stop learning."
Though her roles prior to Dani have been parts in smaller, independent projects, Reyes is adamant about keeping some equilibrium between big action blockbusters and small indie films. "I would love to maintain a balance," she said. "I love acting and I love challenges."
"I’ll keep doing movies here in the states, in Hollywood," Reyes continued. "But I also want to start developing my own projects. I think there’s so much talent in Latin America—you know, directors from Mexico and Chile and Colombia—we have so much talent and there are not enough platforms to show our talents, so I’d love to use this and start creating my own endeavors and get all these really talented people together."
When she's not acting, or developing her own projects to bolster Latin American talent, or traveling from continent to continent to shoot an action film and then promote said action film, Reyes and her husband own and operate a resort in Cartagena. "The hotel has been amazing. New Year’s is crazy there so that season is coming," she said before adding, "I just hope after the tour I can go somewhere and do nothing."