On a rainy Atlanta morning Cuban-American actress Natalie Martinez joined me over Zoom, (my view was a warm but dreary, fire-smoked Bay Area sky), to discuss her new film “Reminiscence”, which deals with both memories and climate change packaged within a Sci-fi noir story set in a flooded Miami, Florida.
From writer/director/producer Lisa Joy (co-creator of “Westworld”), “Reminiscence” is set in the near future, where wars were fought over land as the seas rose up due to global warming, and land barons control the dry areas and exploit those wanting to live above water for profit.
Ex-police detective and war veteran Nick Bannister runs a business as a “private investigator of the mind”, where he has the tech and know-how to hook people up to a machine and guide them to see their most important memories. Even more than just seeing, these customers essentially re-live their lost and faded memories, from the touch and taste of the moment to the sounds and feelings of the past, all unlocked from their own heads.
Bannister has a partner in his business, Emily ‘Watts’ Sanders (Thandiwe Newton), who keep Bannister on his toes and out of trouble. But the story takes a turn when a new client arrives and changes their lives forever.
Coming back to our Zoom guest, Natalie Martinez plays DA Avery Castillo, who works for the Miami PD and has a mutual relationship with Bannister’s business; they help each other when possible by attempting to solve crimes through tapping into memories for evidence.
Martinez was born and raised in Miami, so it was interesting to get her perspective on how accurate this Sci-fi story weaves in the distant fictional Miami to the current cosmopolitan city.
Without further delay, hear from Martinez herself on how she came up with her portrayal of Avery Castillo, why you shouldn’t live in the past, and how climate change is more real than a fictional dystopian future.
How are you doing, Natalie?
Good. Thank you for having me.
Thank you for taking time to talk about “Reminiscence”. Are you currently in Miami?
I’m actually in Atlanta.
Oh I see. I was going to ask how the sea level out there in Miami was right now.
It’s very close to kind of [what] “Reminiscence” looks like. I mean, it looks a lot different in the movie [though]!
I wanted to ask if you could talk about your character Avery and her role within the film.
Yeah. So with my role on this film I play Avery Castillo, who’s the DA, and she’s just frustrated. She’s frustrated with the criminal activity that’s going on, and in the world that [Director] Lisa Joy created, you know, you have a world that’s set in the near future that is Miami, where it’s underwater, most of it. And if you have money and you are the barons who are majority of the land owners there, you live well, but if you’re the have nots and you don’t have anything, then you’re struggling.
And I think Avery Castillo is at a point where she wants to take this down because it’s not fair that these people are so corrupt and they’re pushing everybody kind of aside. And in that you have a Hugh Jackman’s character, Bannister, who has this technology that allows us to go into the minds of people to find out things. And Avery is really trying to crack the code and try to find evidence to take down these criminals.
And in that she always kind of hooks up Bannister because she feels for him and what he’s going through and where he’s at in life, and in that you kind of see where he gets addicted to this machine and connecting to the past and kind of finding something and living in it.
So with Avery, you have her kind of taking down this crime syndicate and Bannister, who’s helping her do that. And in that we live through Bannister kind of showing us the story of what he’s after, what he’s really after.
Now, can you talk about what might have been your inspiration or process in bringing your character to life?
Well, I think I think it’s frustrating. I think with everybody in the world that we live in today, it’s frustrating where the powers that be aren’t doing anything to help those who don’t have anything, you know, and it’s very hard politically and climate wise. So I think a lot of that frustration that she had, I think a lot of us do have. So it was very easy to play because, you know, it’s just really hard out there. And I think in the world that they live in, it’s definitely hard because there’s a lot of unfairness and people suffering when they don’t need to be.
Could you speak on the experience of working on this film and working with that excellent cast and director, Lisa Joy?
Yeah. I was in awe of working on this job every day. I think Lisa Joy is brilliant and she’s a genius. The world that she creates and the way she executes her vision, I found it very impressionable, kind of watching her on set and dealing and creating and delegating everything. I find her to be a very powerful woman. And working with Hugh Jackman, was just such a pleasure. I mean, you hear rumors in Hollywood all the time of what a great person he is, and he’s far more than even anything you’ve ever heard.
He’s someone who so charismatic and so empathetic and just overall a nice person. And I think as well as Thandiwe Newton, she was amazing to just watch work. I mean, these are all characters, and these are all people who I look up to. I’ve watched all my life, and I really respect their work.
As someone born and raised in Miami, what was it like working within this fictional realm of the city? And how does it compare?
I mean look, obviously we’re not underwater, but I think it’s something that is not farfetched. You know, we are below sea level over there and climate is changing. And whether people want to accept that or not, I don’t think it’s far from the truth. I think she created this world that kind of gives you a little insight of what things maybe at some point or where I can get to.
As what Miami is like, I mean, it doesn’t look like that but I made a comment earlier – when it’s raining and we do have flooding my car has been flooded, my house has been flooded. When we have Hurricanes, there are definitely areas of Mami that get extremely flooded. So that’s why it’s not too far from the truth.
The film deals with themes of memory and loss and things of that nature. I was wondering what your interpretation was of those themes overall after working on this film?
I think it’s one of those things where you have to be careful, because the more you focus on the past, the more you stay stuck on the past. And I think that’s one of the things you see in the film where you can’t lose track. You know, we’ve all been through things. We all miss people, places, things. You know, memories that we wish we can have a second shot at or we wish we could just be there again. But I think it’s important to just take those and move forward with the knowledge that those times gave you, those people gave you.
And I think it’s important to stay focused and just kind of keep moving forward, because if you stay in the past, you know, you’re going to miss what’s in front of you.
Very true. Now, overall, what was your big takeaway from working on this film and this experience? And what do you hope that audiences walk away with when they see this film?
I think I just think it’s a really beautiful script, and it was shot very beautifully. So I hope people walk away with this, taking away that underlying message of, you know, what would you do to reconnect with someone? How far would you go to keep someone’s memory alive with you? And I think it’s important to think about what really matters at hand, what’s really important right now as opposed to what happened and reliving that and moving forward. I think this movie can have many different messages for many different people.
I think it’s just all the way you interpret it. And I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about Lisa’s writing and the world she creates that it’s up to interpretation. And there’s so much you can take from it. So I really hope that people go into this film open minded and watch it and just really embrace the storytelling of it.
Thank you. And my last question. Thanks so much, Natalie. Again, what upcoming project can people see you in next?
Yeah, I have a show coming out in September on NBC and then Peacock called “Ordinary Joe”. And it is a show that is about the question, “what if?” We always ask ourselves, “what if?” What if I didn’t become an actress? What if I would have never moved to LA and I would have moved to New York, what would my life have been like? And this show explores those ideas, and it shows you what life would be like if you base your choices on passion, love, or loyalty. And I think it also shows how fate and destiny play into this as well.
Great. Thank you so much, Natalie.
“Reminiscence” is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.