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Mia Xitlali Talks Portrayals of Latinas in Entertainment & Shares Details from the Set of 'Max' [Exclusive]

First Posted: Jun 26, 2015 02:59 PM EDT
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Mia Xitlali Max

Photo : Warner Bros.

It has taken a while, but Latin Americans are slowly starting to get more opportunities in major motion pictures.

Mia Xitlali, a rising star of Mexican descent, is the latest actor to get an opportunity to make a name for herself on the big screen with her role as Carmen in the upcoming Warner Bros. film "Max."

Xitlali's career got started at the age of 7 when she landed a role in Roger & Hammerstein's "South Pacific" at the Hollywood Bowl. She has appeared in a few short films and continues to do theater work in Los Angeles.

Xitlali recently talked to Latin Post about the experience of working on Boaz Yakin's "Max," which also stars Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham.

David Salazar: How did you get involved in the project?

Mia Xitlali: I was sent on an audition. I thought it was going to be a long shot. But then I got a call back and then got another call back where I read with Boaz [Yakin] and Josh [Wiggins]. After a month of waiting, I thought I didn't get, but then I got the part. And I was ecstatic.

DS: What was the experience of working with Josh [Wiggins] and Dejon [LaQuake] and creating the strong chemistry?

MX: We all hung out outside of work. We went to the movies. We texted a lot. We got to know a little about each other, and soon enough we became friends. We did what teenagers do best. We talk to random people and become the best of friends within five minutes.

DS: What was the experience of working with Boaz?

MX: Working with Boaz was amazing! He's a wonderful director and he took the time needed, which was not very long, to do what he had to do to make this film work. I saw the finished product recently and he did an amazing job.

DS: There were numerous dogs that played the role of Max. Was it difficult to have an emotional connection with the character when you are constantly working with different dogs?

MX: Not really for me. I got to see all of the dogs and work with them because I had to go to a Malinois dog training on how to hold the leash. But on the side I got to know them a little personally. And I got close with Carlos, the main dog, and we actually formed a strong bond. All he wanted to do was be next me and sometimes they had to switch him out because he would just stay near me instead of going with Josh.

DS: Were there any other dogs that you bonded with or was Carlos the one?

MX: I think that he was the one I got along with the most because they used him all the time. He was also a puppy at the time. He was around one year old. The other ones were really nice too but they were older and more trained to not be so connected to humans.

DS: What was the hardest scene to do?

MX: I think the action stuff, riding the bike through the forest and trying not to fall. I did fall once. And also going to the cold lake that was freezing.

DS: In this film we get to see Latin Americans not just as bad guys but also as normal teenagers. Do you feel that we are seeing an evolution in the portrayal of Latin Americans in mainstream entertainment?

MX: I think it is going the right direction. I know that in the past we are usually portrayed as drug dealers and cartels or coming from bad families.

Carmen is not one of them. She's Mexican, but it is not focusing on that. She gets that, but that doesn't mean she has to act a certain way. She's a normal human being, a normal teenager. So treat her like one. It doesn't and shouldn't make her different from anyone.

I am glad that there is a character like that in the movie. It actually accentuates that she understands how she is expected to be portrayed as. But she doesn't let it bother her or the way she acts.

DS: Do you find that there are a lot of strong Latin American roles for women to play in mainstream entertainment?

MX: I would like to think so. I know that this was a miracle. I hope there are more roles out there because I would love to play those characters and hopefully open doors for other young Mexican actors and actresses. Or Latin Americans in general.

DS: When did you know that you wanted to be an actress?

MX: When I was 7 years old, I had done my first play "South Pacific" at the Hollywood Bowl and it felt like it was a calling. That that was what I had to do for the rest of my life to be happy.

DS: What are you working on next?

MX: I have a short film "Selling Rosario" that is going around to numerous festivals. And I am also working on a play in LA at Casa Boyle Heights called "Little Red" in which I portray the Chicana version of Little Red Riding Hood.

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