Rosa Salazar is currently cornering the market in YA bad-ass women. In Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, she plays Brenda, a young woman Thomas (Dylan O’Brien). The two are thrown together: the unlikely hero and the seasoned survivor, making for an intriguing power dynamic.
“I describe Brenda as like a rescue dog,” says Salazar. “She’s had so many traumas early in her life. She’s been dejected and thrown out into this really desolate, depressing world, and pulled herself up by her bootstraps. She’s said, ‘I’m not going to be a victim, I’m going to get awesome.’ Brenda is a survivalist.”
In a post-Furiosa world, Salazar says she feels a shift in how women are being portrayed and cast in Hollywood.
“I’m a feminist. I want to see more women in film. I like that they chose a Latina woman – I thought that was pretty fucking brave of them. It’s speaking to the changeover in executive feeling right now. Everyone is feeling like people are listening,” she tells us.
“I want to see bad-ass Charlize Theron. I want to see bad-ass Michelle Rodriguez, and I want to see bad-ass Gina Rodriguez. I want to see bad-ass black women and Asian women. I want to see just bad-ass women period, and it’s really nice to be a part of that.
“It’s an absolute dream come true, I have to pinch myself every day,” she enthuses. “Ten years from now, I’m going to be looking back and thinking, ‘Oh my god, I worked with Wes Ball!’ That’s like working with a young James Cameron or Spielberg, and I got in at the ground floor.”
From what we’ve seen so far, the fans have embraced Salazar as Brenda, although she does admit that there was a slight wobble in the early days.
“Oh my god, they hated that I had short hair. But that’s sort of like a sexist thing. That’s what’s told to them: femininity is long hair; femininity is curly hair; femininity is pouty lips. You know, femininity doesn’t always look like a five-foot-two Latin girl with big hips and no hair.
“With Brenda, they feel an ownership over her. They are very protective. And I think they reached out at first to suss me out and see if I was good enough. I get that. You get so devoted to a character that you want to make sure that they’re being handled the right way. Once the stills started coming out, and they could see the vibe between me and the rest of the cast, they were like, ‘Okay, she’s in.’ I’m so happy to have them, because it’s a lot of good support.”
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is in in cinemas now. For more news on the biggest movies, pick up the latest issue of SciFiNow.