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Q&A: Chicago native Nadine Velazquez of 'Flight'

October 31, 2012|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

Here’s something you may not expect to hear from “Flight” co-star Nadine Velazquez, who’s often included on lists with “hottest” or “sexiest” in the title.

“I just didn’t want to be a face that you see and make fun of,” says Velazquez of her hesitation toward breaking into film. “People like to get critical and they say, ‘Oh, she’s not pretty enough to be in film.’ ‘She shouldn’t be in film.’ ‘She can’t act.’ I didn’t want all those things to be said about me with my experiences in film, so for a long time I wouldn’t go out for it if I didn’t feel like I couldn’t handle it.”

Clearly the 33-year-old actress, who grew up just outside Oak Park and also appears on FX’s comedy “The League,” has gotten over that. In “Flight,” opening Friday, Velazquez plays Katerina, a flight attendant who provides an emotional anchor for heroic, alcoholic pilot Whip (Denzel Washington)—and opens the film fully naked in a hotel room with her colleague, post-knocking boots.

From her home in L.A., Velazquez talked about telling her parents about the nude scene, wanting to be seen as more than a pretty face and why people shouldn’t take issue with Sofia’s fondness for Ruxin on “The League.”

What’s the most memorable reaction you got from family or friends when you told them the first thing they’ll see in “Flight” is you and Denzel Washington sans clothing?
I just told my mom. [Laughs.] I told my parents about a month ago.

What did they say?
My mom was horrified for about five seconds. [Laughs.] And my dad in the background was like, “No, you didn’t. No, you didn’t.” I said, “Yes, I did.” And then I said, “Just be late. Just be late for the movie.”

Why did you wait so long to tell them?
Because I knew they wouldn’t have understood. I would have felt guilty doing it had I [told them] when I got the offer. So I just waited until it was done. And I actually went to ADR to see what the movie was like, to see what the feel of it was. When I did that I just knew it was going to be a phenomenal movie. And after I watched it I called them and told them it was an amazing, epic movie and they should not be worried. This is not a salacious scene. There’s nothing bad about the scene other than I’m nude. It’s a beautiful scene, actually, I think.

What do you mean you would have felt guilty? If you told them in advance and they disapproved?
Yeah, without me really knowing how that scene would have played out. I needed to see it first to have the confidence to tell them. And I think that had I told them beforehand I would have been questioning it myself [and been] maybe too uncomfortable to do a nude scene.

What tips, if any, did Denzel Washington give you?
He was really helpful. He doesn’t rehearse so one of the things he said to me was, “Don’t rehearse. Life isn’t about being rehearsed. It’s about the moment. You can plan a scene, but you don’t know what’s going to happen even in the scene. You don’t know if something’s going to fall off the dresser that you’ll have to react to. ’Cause you have to react to everything. You never know what’s going to happen in the moment because you just never know what the next moment is.” He does not believe in rehearsing.

What do you think of that?
I love it! I think that it’s a place where I would love to get to. I don’t know what he does in his private time; I’m sure he goes over it. But I’m sure when he gets to the set, I think he probably learned it to the extent that he needs to know his character and know what he’s doing. Every time was completely different. Every moment I felt like he was living. And for me just recently I usually study with a coach, and I have two amazing coaches that I love, but I had two appointments and one of them [was] yesterday with a director and I just decided, “You know what? I’ve been doing this for a long time. Sometimes the best stuff happens when you’re not planning on it, when you’re just inspired in the moment.” When you’re rehearsing you get really inspired in the beginning, but then it becomes repetitious and you lose the magic. How do you get the magic again? The magic happens when you’re not pushing it. So I think that this is going to be a new way of me discovering more about who I am as an artist is to have more trust in that moment and to stop worrying about the results.

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