Q&A: Yvette Monreal and the curious case of a caring Rambo

Actress Yvette Monreal gives us insight into working on “Rambo: Last Blood”, and how it reveals the most human version of action warrior John Rambo ever seen
Yvette Monreal plays the niece of John Rambo, who is kidnapped, prompting Rambo to step back into his old ways in “Rambo: Last Blood”. Photo Credit: Lionsgate

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

A thriving action franchise was started with “First Blood” in 1982, and since then Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo character has traveled the world dispensing justice and revenge. Now, 2019 brings “Rambo: Last Blood”, following the PTSD stricken Vietnam veteran as he must once again take up arms in his final mission, even after creating a home and allowing himself to be part of a family.

Yvette Monreal is a rising face in Hollywood, with credits beginning in 2013 in TV shows like “The Fosters”, to recently being cast as a superheroine in the show “Stargirl”, a D.C. comics show releasing in early 2020. Her role of Gabriela in “Rambo: Last Blood” is her most high profile to date.

Recently Monreal had some time to talk about her experience working on a tried and true action film that also has, as she puts it, “a lot of heart”.

In the following interview, Monreal explains her journey playing Rambo’s niece, her stunt work, binging Stallone movies and his memorable advice to her on set.

Hi Yvette, thanks for the time. First off, I was wondering what your background with the Rambo movie franchise was. When did you first hear about it, and had you seen the movies prior to working on this film?

Well I first heard about it when I got the audition. I actually didn’t know that the Rambo franchise existed to be honest. And I felt really dumb about it because my parents, my family, my friends, they were like, “It’s Rambo! Like how could you not know that.” And I felt really dumb, but I think it was just because I was more into watching Nickelodeon and just you know, little girls’ show. But yeah when I auditioned for it, I realized that it was a big deal. And when I finally got it, it was like a dream come true because it changed my life basically.

And since then have you gone back and checked those movies out?

Yeah for sure. I watched all the Rambo movies, I watched the Rocky movies – I had heard of Rocky but I never watched the movies, and so I just went on a Sylvester Stallone binge.

Yeah, and that guy in those movies was your co-worker.

Yes, he’s my co-worker! Sylvester Stallone. Oh, that guy? Yeah!

That’s so great. Now what the story is in “Rambo: Last Blood” from your perspective?

Of course, this movie this is the first time people got to see Rambo with a family and with my character Gabriela. She’s 17 and her mom dies at seven years old and my dad leaves Mexico for reasons I know nothing of. And so when I’m 17 I want to venture off into college but before doing so, I have this conversation with my Uncle John and I tell him that I found my father, and that I want to see him and I want to get answers face to face. [Uncle John] says no, “You know you should wait until you’re a little older and you can understand better.” He tells me how he’s just not a good guy and I just refuse to believe it.

So that’s when I go to Mexico and that’s where I get everyone in trouble. I get kidnapped and that leads Rambo having to save me and I ruin a lot of things. You know this is the first time he found peace. Then with my curiosity it kind of shifted things immensely.

Looking at your character of Gabriela, how do you think that character, and how did you help bring that humanity, family, and that peaceful side out of John Rambo?

Well my character she has a good head on her shoulders. She’s very well-mannered. She’s never gone out of her way to make life hard for Rambo or her grandmother. I’m a good kid but the only thing that I need to continue on and to just live my life without looking back is those answers and the truth from my father and why he left. And so that’s the only thing that is kind of basically holding me back and feeling fulfilled, I guess.

So, Rambo comes to me when I’m when I’m 10 years old and he becomes my stepfather figure. You know he could be he becomes that father figure for me so I’m the first family that Rambo has. You know that [in] the previous Rambo movies you see him in war and fighting it, but you’d never see him get close to a family the way he does in this movie.

I think that’s what’s so identifiable with the Rambo character and what everyone else can identify with because you want to protect your own, you want to make sure your family’s safe. You want to make sure that what you’ve created is in a good place and that’s where I go against what he’s basically said to me all my life and I go to Mexico and I kind of shift things around.

Yet also on Gabriela’s end it’s a pursuit of family that even pushes her to go into the danger that lies in finding her father, right?

Yeah for sure I’m going to my biological father and I want to know these questions – I want to know why he left and why he never came back. And I’m being told that he’s just not a good guy, but I refuse to believe that because – I thought I had good memories of him, and Rambo is there to remind me that he’s just not a good guy. “You shouldn’t go, you should wait until you’re older and can actually process the answers that he might give then.”

This is the one thing that is kind of like pulling at me, so I decide to go.

Thank you, Yvette. So, since this is an action movie, it’s Rambo after all, I was wondering what it was like working on set like this? How was it like with the stunt work. Did you have to do any of that?

Yeah. So, I mean I did actually perform one stunt on the movie, but I don’t think it made it in the movie. But yeah there’s a stunt team on there and they taught us the stunts right before we did it and it was it was fun. I usually like to do my own stunts.

I also wanted to know what it was like working with Adriana Barraza and Sylvester Stallone?

It was it was really great working with the both of them. They really made me feel secure in my choices and working on set with them. I mean naturally I got a little nervous because they’d been in this game for so long. They’ve been you know they have so many titles under their belt and I thought about that but once they got on set and it was go time they made me feel very comfortable. You know we have the family dynamic that is very natural.

Adriana Barraza is she so sweet and so loving and she is naturally nurturing. So, she made me feel so comfortable and [with] Sylvester Stallone you know like there’s a good balance. He means business he knows what he wants from the scenes and what he wants from you as an acting partner, so you know there’s a good balance there and it couldn’t have worked out better. I think you know sometimes people get casted and it doesn’t work out. But here the dynamic was just great. And we all got along we worked together, and it was beautiful.

With this more family-centered approach in “Rambo: Last Blood”, do you think that audiences could also spread to include viewers that don’t normally watch action films?

Oh definitely. I think so because it’s not only an action movie it has a lot of heart in it and I feel like people can identify with Rambo in this movie because it’s something that you know, if you had a family if you had anyone knew was going to go after the thing that you loved the most, the thing that you’ve come home to and like created that relationship with, I feel like naturally your instinct is to go berserk and just try to find whoever hurt the people that you love. So yeah, I think that’s very identifiable with the audience.

I think in one way or the other like people can relate to this because naturally I think as humans we just want to protect the people that we love the most and have a lot of that and it does have a lot of action and fights and everything. So, just be ready for that. Very entertaining.

Thanks again Yvette, for your time. For my last question, is there anything you would like to share with us in terms of any surprising things you took away from working on the movie, a story or memory?

Sure. A cool memory was when I was on the horses with Sylvester Stallone, my horse was scared of his horse. I think his horse was a stallion, so it just ran off and I started going full speed and I was scared because there’s a bunch of holes in the field. I felt like maybe I would fall but then I ended up just embracing the moment and I was just like, “This is never going to happen again, so I’m just going to enjoy it.” Yeah so, we had to do the scenes [afterwards] with people actually holding our horses because mine was so intimidated by his.

Also, another thing that Sylvester Stallone told me, an advice that he gave me, was that if you’re working 14- or 16-hour days, to always give it your best. Give it your all. The movies are always going to be there, and you can’t go back and redo it once it’s out. Even if you’re tired you just give it 100 percent because it will always be there, you can’t redo a performance.

You can see Yvette Monreal in “Rambo: Last Blood” in theaters now.