Eiza González knows her next role is controversial. That’s what she loves about it.
González stars as Fran in J Blakeson’s black comedy crime thriller I Care A Lot, the romantic and business partner of Rosamund Pike’s protagonist, Marla Grayson. Together, the two women have set up an intricate scam of state-mandated legal guardianship that preys on the elderly. Step one: Hone in on a target and have them declared mentally or physically unfit by a sympathetic doctor who’s also in on the take. Step 2: Marla, a professional legal guardian, gets appointed by a judge to manage their assets and their care, which usually means placing them in a nursing home run by yet another associate. Step 3: Marla and Fran rob them blind. Rinse and repeat. It’s a heartless, ethically compromised con — and having two women at the center of it feels nothing short of groundbreaking.
“I think it's funny that the reaction [so far] has been more about people being conflicted about the fact that the women don’t apologize and less about the scam[ming] of old people,” González told Refinery29 on a Zoom call ahead of I Care A Lot’s weekend premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. “People are just like, They're ruthless. But this is a reality — people are like this. It’s not just men. Women can be, too. Why have we normalized that women have to be apologetic about things?”
“I bet you in a heartbeat that when these movies are getting pitched for men, no one's questioning the moral dilemma,” she continued. “No one cares, everyone is like, yeah men can be like this. As a society we have fully accepted it.”
Critics have been raving about Pike’s steely Gone Girl-like performance as Marla, but equal attention should be paid to González’s more low-key turn. Where Marla is all bold power suits and blunt, clean-cut edges, Fran is softer and messier, the woman who helps to humanize her. With her curly bangs and bomber jackets, she’s also a character unlike any González has ever been able to play before.
For Fran, money means freedom to live her life with Marla outside the narrow confines of socially acceptable cookie-cutter norms. For González, who began her acting career in her native country of Mexico, playing Fran meant the freedom to reinvent herself beyond the scope of what Hollywood has imagined her to be capable of thus far.
“I struggled slightly with being able to get out of a stereotype or a predetermined idea of who I am as an actress, especially the way that I started my career,” González said. “Fran felt like the complete opposite. I'm usually more of the ruthless character in the movies, and in this she's the heart of this story. She's the grounding character. It allowed me to do things that I hadn't tried before as an actress.”
That stereotype she’s referring to is what González calls “the hot Latina.” And though she stresses over and over again that she’s proud of past projects like Baby Driver, Welcome To Marwen, Paradise Hills, and Alita Battle Angel, she does appreciate the opportunity to be seen as more than a one-trick pony.
“[Latinx actors] are either the help or the drug dealer,” she said. “It always kind of falls in between these two, and it can become boring. I hate to think about myself simply as a Latina actress, but the industry thinks of you in a certain way. This character is very much a character that any actress could have played. It wasn't necessarily tied to culture or background or any specific ethnicity. And I think that that's kind of the current type of character that I want to be doing, and reading more for.”
González specifically emphasized Fran’s appearance in the film as an aspect she was eager to embrace. “She's more deconstructed and careless,” she explained. “The fact that I was able to not wear makeup the whole movie and not worry about beauty and looks… she’s just a real woman. I feel like other women get a lot of opportunities to do that, and I don't feel like I have. It was just exciting that J believed in me. He took the gamble of betting on someone that wasn't necessarily the obvious choice.”
Likewise, she appreciates that Fran doesn’t have the kind of arc that Hollywood has stressed in the past when it comes to Latinx characters coming to terms with their sexuality. Fran has no fear of religious or cultural repression, nor does she grapple with potential negative consequences of coming out. Her and Marla’s relationship is simply just another facet making up their complex characters.
“It's not a conversation about being queer or about being Latinx. It's just proudly being it and not making it a sore thumb that we have to look at. By doing that, I feel like you normalize it even more. This movie is about women who are partners. They're trying to build something in a very dark way, but it stems from a good place. So, I want to root for them, but also not root for them.”
The response to the film so far has been positive, despite the controversial subject matter. But no matter the reception, González says she considers this the start of a new chapter in her career. “This is the type of role that I want to be doing, and I feel like this is just scratching the surface,” she said. “This is the kind of acting career that I love and feel passionate about.”