Eric Hinton

Rosario Dawson on Tackling the Role of Wonder Woman … and Being a Role Model

Over the past 25 years, Rosario Dawson has intricately woven herself into the tapestry of American pop culture.

After making a splash onto the public stage at the age of 15 in the controversial film "Kids," she has since appeared in blockbuster films like "Men in Black 2" and "Sin City," endeared herself to a legion of Marvel fans as recurring character Claire Temple on the now defunct Netflix Marvel superhero series, and acted opposite the likes of Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Ryan Reynolds.

Now Dawson takes on perhaps her greatest challenge -- Wonder Woman herself.

No ... Gal Gadot doesn't need to look over her shoulders. Not yet anyway. Dawson is voicing Princess Diana in the animated film "Wonder Woman: Bloodlines." During an appearance at New York Comic-Con to promote the film, Dawson took some time to reflect on the upcoming film, her long career and the need for additional representation of women of color behind the scenes in Hollywood.

You've voiced the character of Wonder Woman in other animated films, but this is the first standalone film where she takes center stage. What's it like to be Wonder Woman?

Incredible. Really a dream come true. It's been a few years now in different iterations of her in different stories. So it's incredible to graduate to the classic  origin story with our twists and playfulness and bringing in characters we haven't seen in a long time. I think it's a perfect moment with the Wonder Woman live action film coming out soon and this sort of resurgence of an appreciation of this dynamic, powerful character who appeals to boys, girls and everyone across the whole spectrum.

The character was first introduced in the early 1940's. Why does she have appeal that's lasted generation after generation? 

She's just so powerful and there's a beautiful origin to her that I think is inspiring in the same way as a Spider-man or Superman. There's something magical and dramatic that draws you in. She's got that thing that all of us wish to have ... where you can extend that olive branch and be someone who’s capable of being the smartest person in the room and also having incredible heart ... but also having the ability to back it up with strength she is a warrior. It’s an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other.

Looking at your body of work you move so easily between different genres it's hard to put your career in a box. Is that by design?

You know I've been with the same manager since I was 19, so they just know me and the different things that I care about and love. I'm one of their clients that they know they can send a lot of different things to ... like if it's say a first time director. They know that's where I started,  so I’m always interested in looking at that. I don’t always need to have some huge big name. I'm not always looking for the biggest budget or biggest paycheck when it comes to certain story lines that I’ll get to explore and share. 

Speaking of first time directors, you became one yourself in 2019. What was it like sitting in the director's chair for your short film "Boundless"?

I learned so much. It felt like the first time where all of the disciplines I've been active in for so long and all the experience that I’ve gotten were useful beyond just anecdotes for an interview. I got to run the set and if a location fell through or if we can only work these many hours because we’re working with teens or we’re doing a build or we’re doing green screen and then we’re doing a tear down. Just like all of this different stuff. It was really remarkable.

There's so little representation of women in general and in particular women of color behind the scenes. How do we get from where we are to where we need to be?

When you look at the numbers, they’re atrocious. The speaking roles for women ... even the amount of words that are said on any particular show or movie in comparison to how many male words are spoken. When you see the absence of women on boards or as directors and you see some of our biggest actresses saying they’re still fighting for equal pay even though they’re headlining films and they’re still not getting the credit they deserve ... there's still a lot of work to be done.

But at the same time ... I think you're seeing a galvanizing in Hollywood in a way that I’ve never seen in my 25-plus years in the industry so I find it encouraging because I've been on a lot of those sets. I've sat there getting SAG minimum while my co-stars are getting paid millions and busting my a-- and seeing how people are treated. I've been around a lot of different folks that were allowed to be jerks because they were “geniuses” and now because there's content in so many different spaces and so many more artists being able to rise to the top, you're able to see you can do a really amazing projects with really wonderful  people and no one has to be sexually harassed and no one has to feel like they're having to have a second job in order to make ends meet. We can all be there doing our craft and be respected and paid well. It's exciting. I’m looking forward to the years to come and being very much in that fight.

What does it mean to  you to be considered a role model for the ground you've broken in the industry? 

I remember when I did "Josie and the Pussycats" and we had dolls that had just come out and my doll was brown. I had parents coming up to me saying 'I am so excited you did this because this movie is out there and I can give my daughter a brown doll.' Now you're seeing such a plethora of options. I understand that for the real critical change to happen, which is legislatively, we have to change culture and to have been able to embody, share and disseminate stories that need to be told with radical black and brown characters in them which I’ve been able to do in many different ways over my career whether it's producing it or narrating a certain film or acting in some sort of story.

"Wonder Woman Bloodlines" is now available via digital access and arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Combo Pack on Oct. 22.

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