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Michelle Rodriguez on Fast & Furious 6: "I Didn't Want to Play a Slut"

USMagazine, Thursday, May 23, 2013, 8:40am (PDT)

Michelle Rodriguez doesn't just play a butt-kicking babe in the The Fast and the Furious franchise -- she's just as tough offscreen, too. Before the first film began production in 2001, the 34-year-old actress fought with producers to make her character, Letty Ortiz, more than just eye-candy for Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner.

"Originally this girl was a slut. Girls don't respect girls that are this way, and guys don't respect girls that are this way. They want to bang them, or they make a good one-night stand, but no man respects a floozy," Rodriguez tells Vulture. "If you're an individual within this franchise, the third lead, or the fourth lead, nobody's going to be paying attention to your story but you. Because you know what, the writers and producers are a little bit busy coming up with all the action and the last thing on their mind is the integrity of the individual character's story lines. So it's the people who actually fight for their characters who win in the end."

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Rodriguez's efforts proved to be successful, as she convinced writers to give her character more depth. "I was crying on the set. I was like, 'Look, dude, I love you guys, I really want to be a part of this, but I can't play a slut in front of millions of people around the world,'" she recalls. "I'd rather go back to Jersey City, doing my small little indie movies."

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The actress credits one particular superstar for paving the way for female heroines. "It's not until now, post–Angelina Jolie, doing her thing as a woman who can actually bring box office, that you can make money with a woman who's respectable and kicking ass in a movie," Rodriguez explains of Jolie, 37. "It changes the game for writers. Before there was no incentive for them to take the girl out of being captured or being the girlfriend."

Though Letty was presumed dead in 2009's Fast & Furious (the series' fourth installment), Rodriguez held out hope her character would return. "I begged them to leave open the possibility of me coming back," she recalls.

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When Rodriguez got the call that producers wanted her back for Fast & Furious 6, she was overcome with emotion. "There's two things that happen. First you feel this love, this warm, fuzzy feeling in your chest, where you're like, 'Wow, all that hard work I put into making Letty a respectable character, that work was appreciated.' Then there's the second part that happens, and that's that sense of responsibility and massive amount of pressure. 'All right, they brought you back, now prove you're worth it,'" she tells Vulture. "It was a mixture of emotions that I went through when I found out that the people wanted me back and that the studio was receptive to that."

Fast & Furious 6 is in theaters May 24.

This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Michelle Rodriguez on Fast & Furious 6: "I Didn't Want to Play a Slut"

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