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– by Gig Patta

How hard is it to control a Jaeger anyways?

Very, very hard. Although, it’s a sci-fi fictional movie. There’s a lot going on make the Jaeger scenes realistic in Pacific Rim: Uprising from the action sequences to the inside of the cockpit.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is out on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today. The sci-fi sequel follows ten years later from the Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim that starred Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi. In the sequel, Kikuchi returns alongside Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. New faces in the followup movie included John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny and Tian Jing.

Pacific Rim: Uprising follows the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a promising Jaeger pilot and son of the legendary father who sacrificed himself to save humanity. Jake abandoned his training to be a part of the criminal underworld. Due to an arrest, he must redeem himself with the training of new recruits. Unbeknownst to them, the Kaiju already initiated a plan to destroy the world.

LRM had a phone interview late last month with one of the actors on the cadet team with Shyrley Rodriguez. Rodriguez plays the often playful and physical Cadet Renata. She joyfully discussed the background of her character, training and the inside of the cockpit of a Jaeger, in particular with Saber Athena.

Pacific Rim: Uprising was her Hollywood film debut, with three upcoming films in the works including Set It Up, Wheels, and Russian American. She is best known for her Netflix show The Get Down.

Pacific Rim: Uprising will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on June 19 and digital download today.

Read our interview transcript below:

LRM: Before I really get down to the interview, your name is a unusually spelled. How did your parents come about with that?

Shyrley Rodriguez: My mom, she came to this country from Cuba when she was 18-years-old. She had us about 23-years-old or 24-years-old. She had me and my sister were only like a year apart. She was very young and was still learning English. Traditionally, in our country, people make up names and spell them differently. I mean that’s how it is usually. So in Spanish, he wanted it to be “shi-lay” like that. When she wrote it out here and everything and named me–she had no idea there was like Shirley or Shirley Temple or any of that. Growing up, people always said Shirley. When I was old enough to know the story behind my name, I was like, “No, I want my name to be what it was supposed to be.” I ended up just changing it to like get pronounced the right way. And so that’s pretty much the story of my name. [Laughs]

LRM: [Laughs] That’s awesome.

Shyrley Rodriguez: It’s a part of who I am and my background. It’s important to me.

LRM: That’s great. Be proud of it. That’s what I say.

Shyrley Rodriguez: Thank you.

LRM: How you brought a board for a Pacific Rim: Uprising?

Shyrley Rodriguez: I got this audition, just like many auditions that I get, I am represented by this agency. They helped me to get the role and these auditions. Not every, not all of them are the same. There’s some theater. There’s some film. There’s some on TV.

This was one of them and it was open to any ethnicity. I was like, “Okay, cool.” I went in. Then it was only like a couple days later that they called and they said that you’ve got the job. And I was like, “Oh my, God. This is great.” I’m going to travel abroad and shoot this film. That’s pretty much how it happened. It happened kind of quickly actually. I think it’s because they already were at the end of their casting process for the entire film. I was probably like one of the last ones to get on board.

LRM: What do you like about your character? Cadet Renata.

Shyrley Rodriguez: I like the fact that she is really good fighter. She’s very physical, but quick. She’s agile. I also love her sense of humor, because I feel like I’m like that too. I’m very playful. At the same time, even though she smacked up Cadet Suresh in a scene, she does it with love. She does with tough love, like big sister kind of love. I really liked that about her.

LRM: Did they give you more background information about Cadet Renata than they actually reveal in the movie?

Shyrley Rodriguez: It’s funny you asked that, because we did talk a lot about background stories with all the cadets. We did definitely sat around and crafted everyone. They really let us kind of craft their own background. They were certain things that they had to lay down. They just kinda left it open for me to just decide kind of my story. We did come into this program really young. We had been together for about 10 years training. So there are certain facts like that. I just love the fact that she’s like me. I’m Hispanic girl and we don’t have to explain myself. I’m just another woman. I’m another young adult. I don’t have to explain why or we don’t have to explain so much on why were are all also different?

LRM: [Chuckles] What background did you create for yourself for Cadet Renata in your head that you think that Cadet Renata came from?

Shyrley Rodriguez: I think she came from a poor community with all that was going on in the world. The battle of the three when she was younger and saw all the chaos around. I did craft that I had my family still, but only had like my mom and my sister. Everyone else kind of disappeared from the battle, from 10 years ago of the Battle of the Breach.

We have our bunks. Everyone had their bunk beds. We were able to bring pictures to put any picture that we wanted in the bunk. I put my mom and my sister is there to kind of remind myself as Cadet Renata that I’m working toward a better future for her family. We think that be able to be with them one day again even though he really does enjoy being part of like the program and helping to save the world. She really does wish that life was a little easier. She had that in behind in her mind. To have family, she’s very big on her family.

LRM: That’s an excellent background story. That’s terrific.

Shyrley Rodriguez: Thank you.

LRM: Now your character, out of all the other cadets, is a very physical. Did you actually have to do any prior training or was this all acting?

Shyrley Rodriguez: Yeah, we had to train six days a week working out and strictly eating to be following our diet. We also had to do some martial arts training and some boxing. I really enjoyed, because I like being active and physical in that way. I’m just always been who I am. So that to me was like candy land. [Laughs]

LRM: So how was it a sparring with Karen [Brar] on the set?

Shyrley Rodriguez: Oh, man! It was so fun. He is a great guy. I love him. He’s so good. He’s so cool. He’s very down to Earth and humble. We just had a lot of fun, because we did have to rehearse our sparring scene a lot. Every time we just focused on getting it as clean and as good as possible on how we would if we were actually really good martial arts fighters. But, it was great. It was so fun.

LRM: Tell me about working with your, mech Saber Athena. How was the set and putting on this suit to be in that scene?

Shyrley Rodriguez: Oh my God! I’m so glad you asked, because I haven’t been asked this yet. It’s something that I like to talk about. Okay, so look, this set was amazing. I mean inside you get to see the two spots that we would be in with my partner, Cadet Ryoichi, was to my left and I was to the right. We really did have to get into harnesses. We really have to get into this suit. It was kind of like a wet suit, but it was heavier. We had to wear this nice tights underneath, these long sleeves underneath, then the wet suit with the helmet and the boots. The boots were so heavy. The wet suit was like pretty heavy too.

We shot this part where we had to run. We were running in position in the Jaeger. We were connected with this hand to the back of your wet suit in the Jaeger. That way you’re kicking and everything so that you’re not moving. You’re part of the Jaeger. We were running in place. We shot this scene like two times, but when I tell you I was so tired. If we go with third one–I don’t think that I will be able, because you are just heavier now as a person. That was challenging.

LRM: Just by watching the movie, it looks difficult. Watching you run or even do like a roundhouse kick in in that a harness and suit.

Shyrley Rodriguez: Yeah, the roundhouse kick. We were rehearsing that. It was so much easier when I was in my workout gear. We did have to rehearse with the boots on. When we do the whole thing on for the day of shooting, it was like “Whoa! Now we’re talking, you know?” [Laughs] It was a different feel for having to kick around and stuff. It was definitely hard. I will say it was challenging. It was one of the most challenging things is working with gear.

LRM: So how cool was it that they actually chosen Saber Athena for you to pilot for the movie?

Shyrley Rodriguez: Oh, it was so cool. I just loved the fact that she was the orange too and he was slim. She stood out in a different way. It really represents Cadet Renata well to be like the agile like Athena is. In fact, she’s one of the fastest ones, but not the fastest one. I couldn’t even believe it. Like I still see toys like the Saber Athena toys. I just still can’t believe like little old me and my friend in the Jaeger, Cadet Ryoichi. We’re the ones that piloted this thing in there. We drift together. It’s hard to believe.

His name is Mackenyu.

LRM: Was the set that they actually built–was that actually unique for all Jaegers and for Sabre Athena? Or did they just basically use the same one over and over again?

Shyrley Rodriguez: No, they all different, [but] have [some] similarities. They were different. From the inside, the even the colors are different. So I felt like yes and no–they were different. They were different teams. They were different sets. If anything I feel like we rehearsed in probably the same one. I think everyone had their own.

LRM: I noticed through your Instagram, it looked like you had a lot of fun with all the other cadets and actors. Who did you miss the most from this production?

Shyrley Rodriguez: Definitely, Karan. [Giggles] Karan, he was my partner. He plays Cadet Suresh. He’s the one I missed the most. He’s really great and I got along with him really well. He was just an awesome fun kind of guy. We really clicked and we really hit off. He’s a very lovable guy. He’s a really great friend. I’m glad that I had met him and worked with him.

LRM: Can you talk about any future projects that you may actually have?

Shyrley Rodriguez: I did this episode on this second season of this show on the network Freeform called The Bold Type. I believe it comes out in the fall time. They’re still shooting right now. That’s the most recent thing I’ve done. I played this girl named Angie. She’s new in the story. She’s a young woman just having to work a lot and provide for herself. It’s a shattered dream. I feel like it’s a good example for every young adult now to have that kind of dream, to want to do things and complete your goals. Uour circumstances sometimes get in the way of that, or most of the time. She gets an opportunity and she’s hopeful that it will go through even though she’s still a little bit hesitant in believing it.

LRM: Excellent. And one last question for you. I know you sing and act. Which do you enjoy a better?

Shyrley Rodriguez: Singing. [Laughs] It’s funny cause they probably go hand in hand if you sing you have to definitely have like emotion behind it. There are acting elements to that, but it’s something different in that way. That you’re not speaking, you’re emoting vowels in that way of singing and emotions. I really enjoy that since I was young. I like dancing, but singing is just like where my heart is.

LRM: Excellent. Hey, thank you very much for this conversation. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you.

Shyrley Rodriguez: Thank you. No problem. Take care. Okay?

Pacific Rim: Uprising will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on June 19 and digital download today.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.