Adria Arjona | It Could Be Called Weaponry, It Could Be Called Kindness
When asked about home, Adria Arjona can’t help but laugh at the concept. The 26-year-old actress, a rising star most recently seen in the sci-fi sequel Pacific Rim: UprisingPacific Rim: Uprising: Uprising and opposite actress Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party, spent her childhood bouncing between Central and South America and Mexico City, her high school years in Miami, and at 18 moved to New York City where she attended Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute while waiting tables. As the daughter of award-winning Latin American singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona, she spent a large part of her childhood on the road with him. “Growing up in that environment taught me that that's the kind of lifestyle I want to live. I never want to be in one place for too long. I dislike comfort a lot,” she says, laughing. It makes sense that she gravitated to the continuous changes and shifting locations of a life on set.
Her love for traveling into the unknown made Arjona a fitting Dorothy for NBC’s Emerald City, one of her first starring roles for a major network. Based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, the show put a darker spin on the classic story, portraying a troubled mystical kingdom of outlaw magic. While Dorothy’s journey resonates with Arjona’s upbringing, she admits she questioned if the role was meant for her. “Culturally I came from a very different place then everyone’s perception of Dorothy Gile, and I was dealing with a lot of insecurities about it, a lot of, ‘What will people think of this Hispanic Dorothy? Or of this modernized version of Dorothy, when it's such a traditional story?’” says Arjona, who is of Puerto Rican and Guatemalan heritage. “I wanted to do justice to the story but also to create my own thing.”
Now safely back from Oz, Arjona will be appearing in another project centered on an excursion to a far away, dangerous land with Triple Frontier, a thriller in which five former U.S. special forces operatives come together to plan a heist in the multi-border zone of South America. Soon after she’ll return to the fantastic with a role in the Amazon/BCC limited series Good Omens, based on the novel written by sci-fi legends Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, which follows an angel and a demon who band together to prevent the apocalypse. Each role allows Arjano to embody something outside of her comfort zone, and, as her strong opinions on comfort might suggest, that’s a necessity for the actress. “I’m never secure in what I do, and I think that's why I love what I do. I’ve always told myself, the day I stop getting nervous is the day I’ll stop acting and go get an office job or go work in a supermarket. And I’m not kidding—I would quit,” she says. “If I don't get nervous, that means I don't feel anything, and that I’m not passionate about it in my mind.”
Though she dabbles in the otherwordly, Arjona aims to bring a dose of reality to each of her characters. “I just want to bring true voices to the females that I’m playing on screen. I always try to find a way where I never play tough, but I play strong. That’s a really hard balance. I want to be strong on screen and to help inspire other women to be strong, to own their femininity and to own their opinion.” The days of wondering whether she’s “right” for a role are well behind her now. With an infectious confidence, she makes it clear that she knows what she wants, and won’t back down without a fight. “If you stand your ground and you believe in something and you believe that it’s going to happen, then everyone else around you is going to have to believe it,” Arjona says. “You have to just be true to yourself, to not be ashamed of your ancestry, of your language, of your culture—to hold it very high up, because then others will do the same.”