Jessica Alba Brought Her Mexican Heritage Into All Aspects of “Trigger Warning”

Netflix / Ursula Coyote/Netflix

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jessica Alba leading a film – in 2018, she pivoted to focus on her billion-dollar sustainable brand The Honest Company, which she stepped down from as chief creative officer in April. But in her latest movie, “Trigger Warning,” Alba not only returns to the screen; she also makes a rare appearance as a Latina lead of an action flick.

In the movie, which was released on Netflix on June 21, Alba plays Parker, a US special forces commando stationed overseas who takes a trip back to her hometown after learning her father has died (which she later discovers was caused by a murder). The “Dark Angel” and “Sin City” actress, who also worked as the film’s executive producer, says she made sure every detail behind her Mexican-American character was as authentic as possible.

It’s no secret that Latines are major moviegoers and yet remain underrepresented on-screen. According to UCLA’s 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report, Latines accounted for only 5.4 percent of movie leads and 5.7 percent of actors in any onscreen role that year. When we dive into specific genres that many Latines enjoy – like horror, rom-coms, and action films – the representation is even lower. But Alba’s return proves how much we need to see more of this.

“I feel a lot of the times when you see women in this genre; we’re either the damsel in distress or we’re the male version of a badass woman – pretty emotionless [with] pretty stoic one-liners, wearing completely impractical clothes in action,” Alba says. “And I just feel like it was so nice to play someone with wild hair who wears vintage [clothes] and cowboy boots, and it just felt very feminine and very human. Like someone who can be your neighbor and your friend.”

The actress, who is half Mexican, says she took from her own experiences to bring all those layers and cultural nuances to Parker’s character. Viewers can see it reflected in everything from the music-like the classic folk song “La Llorana” featured in the film-to the clothing choices.

“There are certain movies where I feel like our culture is represented, and many where it’s not done right.”

“When we were talking about it, I was really like, the music just has to be right. There are certain movies where I feel like our culture is represented, and many where it’s not done right. I was like, I just want this to feel and just have that little bit of flavor so that it feels really right with what’s going on right now,” Alba says. She adds that she made a Pinterest board of the vibe she was going for with Parker’s clothes, and the costume designer, Samantha Hawkins, and the director, Molly Surya, helped bring the whole vision to life. “Between the three of us, we really got to shape her and give it that nice kind of grittiness and realness.”

But there was perhaps a deeper reason Alba’s performance feels so convincing. The movie centers on loss, and if Parker’s grief and devastation seem real, that’s because Alba herself was grieving the loss of one of her own relatives when she was shooting the film.

Related: Jay Wheeler’s Abuela Helped Make Him One of Reggaetón’s Most Romantic Voices

“Weirdly, my grandfather passed away around the time that I was shooting the movie, so I was genuinely grieving him, and it was a very cathartic experience to be able to do a lot of that reflecting and grieving alongside Parker,” she says. “A lot of my family photos are actually in the movie, so I really did get to infuse a bit of my family in the movie.”

You can especially see Alba’s touch as executive producer in one scene where Parker finds herself navigating an uncomfortable conversation with an ultra-conservative and racist senator played by Anthony Michael Hall. He mocks the term Latinx while giving Parker a pass for being a likable Mexican among many in the town.

“I don’t know how that scene came to life exactly, but I loved it, and it took on a life of its own with Anthony Michael Hall, and I was sitting in that seat … in like all of Parker’s ancestors’ earrings and clothing because it’s all vintage and lived in,” she says. “And for this ding dong to sit there and try to reduce us and kind of be so disrespectful in an offhand way, it all landed. This thing kind of all clicked with that scene. It was like this is a flavor I had never seen in a movie.”

The film, which has been positioned as a franchise starter, made Netflix’s No. 1 spot over the weekend – proving that authentic storytelling is resonating with audiences. And while Alba is no stranger to action films and doing her stunts, “Trigger Warning” truly aligns with her longtime dream of becoming a Latina action hero.

Johanna Ferreira is the content director for PS Juntos. With more than 10 years of experience, Johanna focuses on how intersectional identities are a central part of Latine culture. Previously, she spent close to three years as the deputy editor at HipLatina, and she has freelanced for numerous outlets including Refinery29, Oprah magazine, Allure, InStyle, and Well+Good. She has also moderated and spoken on numerous panels on Latine identity.

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