Rosario Dawson, 28, is fearless. She plays a woman who is raped and seeks revenge in the NC-17 rated thriller Descent, which opens this weekend in limited release. She also produced the film through her production company, Trybe, and has her comic book, Occult Crimes Taskforce, her charity work, and a slew of acting roles keeping her busy. It isn’t easy being this New York native, but it certainly is fulfilling.When Rosario greets reporters during an interview for the film at NYC’s Regency Hotel on August 7, she takes joy in surprising them by already being present in the room instead of making the typical grand entrance. Donning a black shawl, striped blouse, black pants, a black bracelet on one arm and a brown bracelet on the other, her citrus-smelling perfume wafts. But she isn’t all glamour. Her intelligence is striking, but because she is sitting beside director/writer Talia Lugacy, she is relatable. The women have known each other since they were teens attending an acting camp in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Welcome to the world of Rosario Dawson, the multiracial girl who grew up squatting in NYC. After being discovered on her stoop at 15, she shot to stardom in Kids and never looked back. In this interview, Rosario, who is single after dating Jason Lewis for two years, talks about the movie, her relationships, heading back to Broadway and her comic book.WHERE DID YOU GO INSIDE TO PORTRAY THIS CHARACTER, WHO IS RAPED AND SEEKS REVENGE?I had to be someplace willing to be vulnerable and open, and think not like myself in a lot of ways because this was a woman that went into this situation with some naivete that I don’t have and some insecurities that I don’t have, and made choices thereafter that weren’t mine. I had to be really honest to that. Unfortunately it’s a very common story. I felt like I was wading through water. There was a lot of resistance to everything I was doing. I had to be very methodical about everything, including the long passage of time when I wasn’t speaking. It was very difficult for me. HOW DID YOU RELATE TO THIS CHARACTER?I think I’m very vulnerable in relationships, but at the same time, not. Intimacy is a difficult thing for anybody. It’s especially difficult with my lifestyle. There’s an inconsistency that’s built into my work, and that’s very hard. A lot of my vulnerability does go into my work. It’s an interesting thing to see how we lose ourselves. Our emotional palette is always exercised, it’s just not necessarily in a way that everybody agrees on, or is societally accepted. You can be very passionate about your work, and very cold in your relationships, or vice versa. It’s the juxtapositions in our lives that sometimes create who we are, and it’s those inconsistencies that can be the most telling about ourselves. I think that’s the real challenge of getting to know people, because every single moment, we’re alive and we’re choosing things and we have our internal world going on. Just because someone’s there at work and on top of it and doing their thing, doesn’t mean that their father didn’t just die yesterday. That’s the reality. That’s what we wanted to show here.WHAT WAS YOUR BOYFRIEND’S REACTION?He’s not still a boyfriend, but that’s a conversation Jason [Lewis] and I had always had. We all have our particular relationship to violence. We’ve all had experiences, and his were also quite acute, so we had camaraderie about what this experience was, and how important and delicate and respectful it needed to be. The conversation was always quite serious and comforting and supportive and respectful. I don’t think I could be in a relationship with anyone who couldn’t be sensitive and ëget it.’ It’s not like there was any macho stance to it, or any weird childishness about it at all. It was always very adult. That was pretty phenomenal. Any anger issues I was going through weren’t carried into my relationship being negative at all. It was something I was able to exorcise any demons in a safe environment with him, which was pretty great.DID YOU TALK TO HIM ABOUT SHOOTING THE FILM?Yeah, everybody. But I’ve talked about this stuff for a long time. I’m passionate about it, and I’ve dealt with these things before. My mom used to work at a place called Women’s Inc. in San Francisco when I was younger, and I knew what that was like talking to the mothers. It was the mundane issues that were always so striking to me, like ëOK, I’m going to leave my husband who’s beating me, and my children, but I don’t have a job, I don’t have any money saved up and I have no skills and no resume. I have no one to help me. How do I do that?’ Because otherwise I’m going to end up right back with him because I don’t see any other options. Those are the things that are fascinating to me. The smaller things. That’s what I wanted to deal with and talk about.If it changed me in anyway, it cemented it more just because any experience when you indulge it for a long time, becomes more a part of you. It’s a strong experience, an emotional experience and the memories are really strong. When situations come up, I have even less patience for them than I had before, but it’s not that I ever really had much patience with them to begin with. It has made an affect. It has made me feel just a bit more adult than I have. I’ve solidified some of my opinions, which considering how opinionated I am, is kind of scary but it’s good.WERE YOU SO AFFECTED BY IT THAT YOUR LOVE LIFE SUFFERED? DID YOU TAKE IT HOME IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?After we would finish shooting this, we would go home and be giddy because we were making our movie and we had shot really beautiful stuff that day. We were excited about what we were shooting the next day, even if it was horrifying, because we were twelve years in to our dream. That’s phenomenal.There were very drastic emotional changes. Afterwards, I did need to shut down. My body was exhausted, I needed a break and I went home with my boyfriend and we talked and chilled out. I just needed complete nothing because it was really difficult having such high highs and low lows and maintaining such a strong vibration the entire time. It was interesting. I channeled a lot of it. Because I was wearing the producer’s hat, I was able to somehow step out of it and not indulge certain emotions for too long, because I just made sure they were completely on film and when it was cut, we were thinking about something else and I had a different hat on. In some ways maybe that saved me from some psychological damage on that.HOW DID YOU DE-STRESS?Normal stuff, to the point of just taking a bath, talking to someone or concentrating on the work and just feeling proud about it and good about it and being able to let it go. It’s not just like having done it and having release and needing to de-stress from that. There’s also the stress of going ëdid we get it? Did I go far enough with it? Is that going to translate? Is it 100%?’ There’s stress in a different direction about not being precious with myself but being precious with the material. That’s something you get used to. I know musicians who do a great show and everybody’s all over the place, and people are getting engaged in the middle of it it’s so perfect, and they don’t want to talk to anybody the next day. It’s weird, you know?WILL YOU HEAD BACK TO THE STAGE?I hope so. I think about it. I was just asked to do Rent for a stint, and I think that’s something I’d be very interested in doing at some point, but just not right now. There’s not a lot of control in this industry, but there are bits where you can. This is exactly what I like to explore in films, and the choices we have in front of us, and what experience I choose to put myself through right now. It’s been really interesting doing that, and luckily I’m very excited that I do have a lot of options and I could focus in certain areas, but it’s fascinating seeing where I am focusing now as opposed to where I was before. Right now, I’m concentrating on the comic and concentrating on our production company and I’m really concentrating on acting. I really want to be a better actor. That’s so
mething that’s very important to me. I’m multi-tasking already. I’ve got the Lower East Side Girls Club, I’m working with Operation USA on relief work around the world, and just regular travel and experiencing that and growing and learning. It’s fun. I’m excited about that, and leaving some things for myself to discover on my own.CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR COMIC BOOK, OCCULT CRIMES TASKFORCE?Occult Crimes Taskforce is a comic book I started over a year ago. We just released our first trade paperback, which is a compilation of the first four issues with extra manual bits. We have our next miniseries coming out, which I’m really excited about, and we’re in development with a trading card game and a movie. I’m cowriting on that and continuing on it. I really love it.WILL YOU STAR IN THE MOVIE?Yeah. I’ve read conversations online, and people are like ëI’m thinking Selma Blair.’ Selma Blair?! It’s very upsetting. She’s already in Hellboy.YOU’VE BEEN TO A LOT OF COMIC BOOK CONVENTIONS?Yes, I have actually, that’s why I have a bit of a cough right now. I was in Heroes Con for a few days. My uncle and I did the auction, as we did last year, and I was also at Comic Con for five days. This is my third time. I showed Descent in North Carolina, at Heroes Con, which went over very interestingly. It was a family convention. That was a little disturbing. We had people warning people, letting them know, and we had a lot of people show it. It was really powerful. These are people coming up to talk to me about Superman and Wolverine, and then they watch this movie. It’s not Sin City 2. It was really phenomenal. A lot of people came up to me. I wanted to show it to that audience in particular, and a lot of people were very curious ëwhy would you want to do that? What is important about this? Is this really your audience?’ and I was like ëwho am I to judge whose audience this is?’ Rape, sexism and violence affects everybody across the board, including someone who likes comics. I love comics, I have a comic book, and I’m still interested in this issue, so why not? It was great. This is not something that would normally be there, and that’s a very viral community of people who get online and talk about stuff. It’s a community that passes information along, and it created a lot of buzz and made for great conversation.WHAT’S THE VISION FOR YOUR PRODUCTION COMPANY, TRYBE?Our motto is in our name being Trybe, which is basically making movies the three of us unto ourselves are 100% behind. Knowing that and feeling comfortable that we have the talent, the motivation and the discipline to actually create it in a way that can be delivered to audiences and that it is viable out there. We’ve tested it out, and we’ve done several shorts together. We could really want to do this, and we could be really bad at it. We could be telling stories people really don’t want to hear, or that we’re really wrong about. This film was an opportunity to put ourselves out there and it worked really well. I think it made an impact and is going to set the temperature for the next things that we do ? even if they vary a lot in genre and tone, I think people get that it’s going to be very respectful and 100% about that story. It’s not going to be diluted, and it’s not going to be done by committee. It’s going to be done by us. We want to be able to brand it in a way that people can rely that when we say ëcome check out our film,’ it’s going to be an experience — whether you love it or hate it. The response we’ve had has been fascinating. Even people who don’t like the film, don’t like it for personal issues a lot of times, and they really respect the film itself. It’s not going against her as a first-time director, or me doing a glamour project [like] ëpay attention to me.’ It’s really satisfying to know that they’re criticizing or interested in our baby, and we’ve treated it well and it’s going out there and speaking for itself. People say ëeven though I don’t like this movie, kudos to you for trying.’ That’s great; that’s what we want to put out there.WHAT ABOUT DIRECTING?I was in discussions to direct a film with Famke Janssen and Christina Ricci but it fell apart. There’s another project I’m talking about with Sophia Sondervan, directing a music video to just kind of break in ? something light. I love stories, and I’m excited about doing them as an actor, getting into it as a producer, and I think I eventually will get into it as a director. Right now I’m also enjoying writing with my comic, and continuing producing with Incense and Peppermints and the OCT film. I want to incrementally learn. I feel comfortable that I have a lot of time. I just met with Dustin Hoffman, who told me ëyou’re in the first act of your career.’ It’s like ëawesome.’ He’s about to direct his first film, and he’s really excited about it. This is something he’s been working on for a lot of years. It’s cool to see him in that stage and discovering something new and attacking the same industry from a totally different angle. That’s what I’m doing, and I’m taking my time with it.Descent opens in limited release August 10.By Valerie Nome Photo:

Sound off in the comments below!

Join the conversation