Mayte Michelle Rodriguez (/rɑːˈdriːɡez/; born July 12, 1978), better known as Michelle Rodriguez, is an American actress, screenwriter and DJ. She got her breakout role as a troubled boxer in the independent film Girlfight (2000), which was met with critical acclaim and earned her several awards, including the Independent Spirit Award and Gotham Award for Best Debut Performance. The following year, she starred as Letty Ortiz in the blockbuster film The Fast and the Furious (2001), reprising her role in its sequels, Fast & Furious (2009), Fast & Furious 6 (2013) and Furious 7 (2015).
During her career, Rodriguez has played tough, independent women in a number of successful action films, such as Blue Crush, S.W.A.T., Battle: Los Angeles and Avatar. She is also known for her roles as She in the action comedy films Machete and Machete Kills, and Rain Ocampo in the science fiction films Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Retribution.
Rodriguez also branched into television, playing Ana Lucia Cortez in the second season of the television series Lost as part of the main cast before making numerous guest appearances before the series ended. She has also done numerous voice work in video games such as Call of Duty and Halo, and lent her voice for the 3D animated film Turbo and the television series IGPX.
With her films grossing over US$5 billion collectively, a 2013 Entertainment Weekly article described Rodriguez as "arguably the most iconic actress in the action genre, as well as one of the most visible Latinas in Hollywood".
Rodriguez was born in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother, Carmen Milady Pared Espinal, is a native of the Dominican Republic, and her father, Rafael Rodriguez, was a Puerto Rican who served in the U.S. Army. Rodriguez moved to the Dominican Republic with her mother when she was eight years old and lived there until the age of 11. Later she moved to Puerto Rico until the age of 17 and finally settled in Jersey City, New Jersey. She dropped out of high school but later earned her GED; in total, she was expelled from five schools. She briefly attended business school before quitting to pursue a career in acting, with the ultimate goal of becoming a screenwriter and director.
She has ten siblings and half-siblings. She was partly raised by her devoutly religious maternal grandmother, and was brought up a Jehovah's Witness (her mother's religion), although she has since abandoned the faith. A DNA test of Rodriguez, performed by the television program Finding Your Roots, found that her ancestry is 72.4% European, 21.3% African, and 6.3% Native American. She also stated on the show that there was some racial conflict between her families, since her Puerto Rican father had a light complexion and her Dominican mother had a dark complexion.
Having run across an ad for an open casting call and attending her first audition, Rodriguez beat 350 other applicants to win her first role in the low-budget 2000 independent film Girlfight. With her performance as Diana Guzman, a troubled teen who decides to channel her aggression by training to become a boxer, Rodriguez accumulated several awards and nominations for the role in independent circles, including major acting accolades from the National Board of Review, Deauville Film Festival, Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards, Las Vegas Film Critics Sierra Awards, and many others. The film itself took home a top prize at the Sundance and won Award of the Youth at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1999, she auditioned for a role in Sisqo's hit music video, "Thong Song". In 2002, she had a cameo appearance in Ja Rule's music video for his song "Always on Time".
Rodriguez has had notable roles in other successful movies, including Letty Ortiz in The Fast and the Furious (2001) and Rain Ocampo in Resident Evil (2002). She also appeared in Blue Crush and S.W.A.T.. In 2004, Rodriguez lent her voice to the video game Halo 2, playing a Marine. She also provided the voice of Liz Ricarro in the Cartoon Network series IGPX. From 2005 to 2006, she played tough cop Ana Lucia Cortez on the television series Lost during the show's second season (the character's first appearance was a flashback during the first season's finale, "Exodus: Part 1"), and returned for a cameo in the second episode of the show's fifth season, "The Lie", in 2009. She returned again in the penultimate episode of the series, "What They Died For", in 2010. In 2006, Rodriguez was featured in her own episode of G4's show Icons.
In 2008, Rodriguez appeared in Battle in Seattle. In 2009, she appeared in Fast & Furious, the fourth installment of the The Fast and the Furious film series. Later that year, Rodriguez starred in James Cameron's high-budget sci-fi adventure film Avatar, which became the highest-grossing film in history and Rodriguez's most successful film to date. She has expressed interest in returning for the film's two sequels. In 2009, Rodriguez also starred in Tropico de Sangre, an independent film based on the Dominican Republic's historic Mirabal sisters.
In 2010, Rodriguez appeared in Robert Rodriguez's Machete. The film received mostly positive reviews and earned US$44 million at the box office. In 2011, she appeared with Aaron Eckhart in the science fiction film Battle: Los Angeles which grossed over US$200 million in the worldwide box office. In 2012, she returned to play the good clone and bad clone of Rain Ocampo in Resident Evil: Retribution. In 2013, she reprised her role as Letty Ortiz in Fast & Furious 6. In the same year, Rodriguez appeared in Robert Rodriguez's film Machete Kills.
After her film debut, Girlfight, Rodriguez has consistently portrayed tough and tomboyish characters who operate in traditional male fields such as the police force or armed forces. Rodriguez says that she does not mind the typecasting, and in fact, is somewhat responsible for it:
"Oh man, I was typecast the minute I did a film called Girlfight years ago. You allow yourself to be typecast. If I decided I didn't want to be typecast tomorrow, I'd just do an indie film where I play some poor girl who goes through some excruciating experience and win myself an award for crying or being raped. But at the end of the day, I'm not in it for the acting. I only wanna be someone I respect or someone that I consider interesting or fun. I'm here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength, and that's what I've done for the last 10 years. I pigeonholed myself and I put myself in that box by saying no to everything else that came on my plate. Saying no to this, no to that, and eventually I just got left with the strong chick that's always being killed, and there's nothing wrong with that."
During the promotional tour of Fast & Furious 6 Rodriguez has stated that she originally joined the Hollywood business to become a screenwriter. She has also stated that she has two screenplays under development and plans to take a break from acting to pursue her writing. One is a family film based on a concept which she describes as "a 2012 story about purity and animals and children", and the other is a revision of an American remake of the 1997 German film Bandits which she describes as a film "about four girls who break out of jail and get chased across the country by the feds and by this MTV-like representative".
Rodriguez has been performing as a disc jockey since 2009—both internationally in nightclubs and at film premiere after-parties. Rodriguez has stated that her preferred genre to mix is house music and has gone on the record to say, that "for the most part I like playing for mature crowds so that I can go all the way back to the 1930s then through the 1960s, 1970 and 1980s—then kick it into house, hip-hop and R&B. I like to mix it up, it's pretty eclectic."
Several times over the course of her career, she has been ranked in Stuff magazine's "102 Sexiest Women In The World", Maxim magazine's "100 Sexiest Women", and People en Espanol magazine's "50 Mas Bellos", and was ranked No. 74 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2009".
In early 2000, Rodriguez broke off an engagement to a Muslim boyfriend, citing opposition to religious requests he made of her. She has since reportedly dated her Fast and the Furious co-star Vin Diesel and S.W.A.T. co-star Olivier Martinez.
In July 2006, Rodriguez told Cosmopolitan magazine that she is not a lesbian, but had "experimented with both sexes". In November 2006, her openly bisexual BloodRayne co-star Kristanna Loken made comments to The Advocate that were widely interpreted by the media as an admission that the two were in a relationship, though the relationship was never officially confirmed by either actress. In June 2007, the lesbian magazine Curve ran a cover story that claimed Rodriguez to be bisexual. Rodriguez criticized the magazine for this, asserting that the magazine had "put words in her mouth". She again stated that she was not a lesbian in a November 2008 interview in the Dominican Republic women's magazine Cayena.
In October 2013, Entertainment Weekly quoted her saying: "I've gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks." She subsequently explained her coming out to Latina magazine: "I'm getting older. Eventually it's going to wrinkle up and I'm not going to be able to use it. I wanted to be honest about who I am and see what happens." In May 2014, she said in an interview that she hoped her actions would help others in a similar situation: "Maybe by me opening my big fat mouth like I usually do and stepping up and owning who I am, maybe it might inspire somebody else to do the same." She described herself as bisexual in another interview later that month: "Bi, yeah, I fall under the B category of LGBT". Regarding the lack of unconventional female roles available in films, she said: "What's wrong with being bi? I mean, we're getting flak everywhere we go."
In March 2002, Rodriguez was arrested for assault after getting into a fight with her roommate. The charges were later dropped after the roommate declined to press the allegations in court. In November 2003, Rodriguez went to court to face eight misdemeanor charges based on two driving incidents including a hit and run and driving under the influence (DUI). In June 2004, Rodriguez pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to three of the charges: hit and run, drunken driving, and driving with a suspended license. She went to jail for 48 hours, performed community service at the morgues of two New York hospitals, completed a three-month alcohol program, and was placed on probation for three years.
In 2005, while filming Lost in Hawaii, Rodriguez was pulled over by Honolulu police multiple times; she was cited for driving at 83 mph (134 km/h) in a 55 mph (89 km/h) zone on Oahu on November 1, and was fined US$357. She paid a US$300 fine for driving 90 mph (140 km/h) in a 35 mph (56 km/h) zone on October 20, and was fined US$197 for going 80 mph (130 km/h) in a 50 mph (80 km/h) zone on August 24.
On December 1, 2005, Rodriguez was pulled over and arrested for DUI. Rodriguez pleaded not guilty when arraigned, but on the day of her trial in April 2006, she pleaded guilty to one charge of driving under the influence. She chose to pay a US$500 fine and spend five days in jail instead of doing 240 hours of community service. She cited her high doses of allergy-relieving steroids as part of the reason for her erratic behavior. Because the Kailua incident was a violation of her Los Angeles probation, she was sentenced to 60 days in jail, a 30-day alcohol rehabilitation program and another 30 days of community service, including work for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, by a Los Angeles judge on May 1, 2006. Because of overcrowding, she was released from jail on the same day she entered. She wrote about the experience on her blog.
In September 2007, Rodriguez allegedly violated her probation by not completing her community service and not following an alcohol education program. It was reported that she originally submitted a document stating she performed community service on September 5, 2006, but it was later confirmed she was actually in New York City that day. Her lawyer claimed it was a clerical error. On October 10, 2007, following a hearing, she was sentenced to 180 days jail time after agreeing to admit to violating her probation. She was expected to spend the full 180-day term in jail, as she had been deemed ineligible for work furloughs and house arrest. However, after turning herself in to begin the jail term at the Century Regional Detention Facility located in Lynwood, California, on December 23, 2007, she was released eighteen days later on January 9, 2008, due to overcrowding.