Adria Arjona and Jared Leto Still Have Hope for the Future of Movies
Adria Arjona can keep a secret, kind of. When it was revealed last summer that she had been cast opposite Diego Luna in the Star Wars spin-off series Andor, the 28-year-old actor danced around the report, not exactly confirming it, but not denying it either. Ditto for her role in the upcoming Marvel thriller Morbius. When asked who she plays opposite Jared Leto’s scientist-turned-vampire at the center of the story, Arjona remained purposely vague. (The answer is Martine Bancroft, Morbius’s girlfriend and a scientist in her own right.) Morbius was set to hit theaters last July, but was delayed to later this year after most theaters shut down. The pandemic also forced Arjona to hit pause for the first time in her life. As the daughter of the Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona, she spent her youth criss-crossing Latin America as a de facto member of her father’s traveling road-show, selling merchandise and even stage managing as she watched him play to bigger and bigger crowds. That early exposure to a transient lifestyle suited her well when, after studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, she began appearing in projects such as the second season of HBO’s True Detective, and, more recently, Michael Bay’s full-blast action extravaganza 6 Underground. Now, with a return to pre-pandemic productivity in sight, Arjona is gearing up to pick up where she left off—with, as she tells Leto, a renewed sense of purpose.
JARED LETO: Where are you right now?
ADRIA ARJONA: I’m in Guatemala, at my dad’s recording studio.
LETO: I literally just left the recording studio. How’s your dad doing?
ARJONA: He’s good. I think he misses his people and his audience, but otherwise, he’s doing great. It’s the only year off he’s ever had.
LETO: Did you grow up on the road, or did he keep you away from that?
ARJONA: I was in the middle of it. I’ve lived on a tour bus for the majority of my life. He was playing really small gigs and he would just string us along.
LETO: I can relate, because I’ve spent so much time on tour buses, but thinking of a little kid running around out there on tour is awesome. And your dad is a legend. Does having this self-made icon as a father ever weigh on you?
ARJONA: Yes and no. When I’m with him he’s my dad, and when I’m away from him and hear the way people talk about him, and when I hear his music, I really feel it, like, “Holy shit, that’s my dad.” My last name does weigh on me sometimes, but I carry it with pride. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach his standards, but I’ll try.
LETO: I’m sure he’s so proud of all the great work you’ve been doing. It’s such a crazy time, isn’t it? What the hell? What’s the last year been like for you?
ARJONA: It’s been a little bit of everything. At the beginning, there was pressure to be productive, because everything I’d see online was like, “Do this workout, and now do this, and you should be painting, and you should be doing that.” But I’ve been working so much for the past couple of years that a lot of things caught up with me, and I’ve had the time to process them. It was really tough, but now I feel a lot lighter. I was able to grow as a person from all the shit that I’d been putting to the side. I have a job that I’m doing in January, and I was lucky enough to get the scripts five months in advance, which never happens. So I have that to look forward to.
LETO: What is it you’re doing in January?
ARJONA: I’m doing a Star Wars show for Disney.
LETO: That’s incredible. I’ve been loving The Mandalorian. I found that in quarantine and I really enjoyed it. I went to see the first Star Wars in the damn movie theater. Isn’t that crazy? But anyway, tell me about your Star Wars. Is it top secret?
ARJONA: Star Wars is always top secret, but I can tell you that it’s the prequel to Rogue One, and it’s Stellan Skarsgård, me, and Diego Luna. I’ve never been so nervous. I almost want December to be the longest month of my life, because I start in January.
LETO: Those guys are awesome. Do you ever get intimidated or awestruck by your cast?
ARJONA: I got very intimidated when we were acting together. Right before our first scene, I showed Daniel [Espinosa, the director of Morbius] my hand, and it would not stop shaking. But off-screen it’s fine. We’re two normal human beings. We just happen to be actors, and people just happen to glorify actors and musicians, but we’re still humans.
LETO: Before I fail to mention it, I had a blast working with you. But it’s a big burden to star in a movie like that, and sometimes those things are not the easiest to do. There was so much technical jargon, but you performed beautifully.
ARJONA: That means a lot coming from you.
LETO: I mean it. Does your Star Wars show go on and on, or is it a one-time deal? What is your 2021 looking like?
ARJONA: It’s a little hard to tell. I really want to go back to independent cinema, which is a little trickier now. I have a couple movies that I’m attached to, but they’re independent, so pray for me, I guess.
LETO: There’s an entire vertical of films that they used to make and that people were eager to finance, and it’s become a really hard path. A lot of those types of films have morphed into limited series.
ARJONA: As much as I want to be in a limited series, and that is the way it’s going, I still want to fight for those little movies. I want to create a name for myself so that I can get a little movie like that made. I believe in cinema. How do you feel about it?
LETO: It’s nice to be able to take a great risk and do something a little less conventional, and for movies to be enjoyed in a theater in that communal way is really special. I hope that it survives, and not just the biggest movies, but also the documentaries, the independent films. I think there’s room for everything, but people enjoy these longer-form pieces because they get to know the characters and they can dive in a little deeper. I think there’s something really magical to that as well. The nice thing is that there isn’t a stigma anymore. When I first started out, you were either a TV actor or you were a film actor. And now, that’s completely gone.
ARJONA: An actor is an actor.
LETO: I remember when I was younger, you either made indie movies, or you did blockbusters, or you did TV. It was very fragmented. But I like what you said. An actor is an actor, and it’s nice that people can bounce around and do different things. Would you ever do any music?
ARJONA: No. I have a good ear, but I cannot sing for the life of me.
LETO: I don’t believe that. You have a slightly raspy-sounding voice, and I bet that you could sing beautifully. But I understand making your own path. And singing is like anything—you have to be compelled.
ARJONA: I’m a frustrated pop star, for sure. Growing up, I wanted to be the next Britney Spears or the next Christina Aguilera. But I can’t sing and I’m way too shy to try.
LETO: Well, maybe you can play a pop star in a movie and it’ll be a good excuse to sing and dance. It’s amazing how long it’s been since we shot Morbius, isn’t it? Have you seen it yet?
ARJONA: No, I haven’t.
LETO: Me neither. You see it first, and then tell me what we need to change or fix.
ARJONA: Can we watch it together?
LETO: Oh god, could you imagine the sweaty palms and the nervous energy in that room? I’d be freaking out. What are your thoughts on having made that crazy movie? It was such a wild one.
ARJONA: It was. I remember meeting you, and we hit it off. And then I was excited thinking that I was going to get to work with Jared Leto. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be working with Jared Leto. I’d be working with Dr. Morbius. It was a big master-class for me, watching your dedication. I had never experienced that before. Every time you stepped on set, the vibe shifted. You always brought the story first, which I appreciated.
LETO: We’ve got to find something that we can do together again, something where we can have a lot of fun and just go nuts. I was watching Malcolm & Marie, which Zendaya and John David Washington made during COVID, and it’s just two people in a house, in a relationship, losing their shit. It’s quite fun. I look forward to going crazy with you sometime in the future. And the good news coming out of COVID is that everybody has watched every movie and every TV show and every limited series ever made, so we’re all dying for new content. So get ready to keep working a lot, because we’re going to need a lot more Star Wars.
Hair: Teddy Charles using Oribe at The Wall Group.
Makeup: Melanie Inglessis using Armani at Forward Artists
Fashion Assistant: Daniel Gaines
Hair Assistant: Virgine Pineda