Just how far are you willing to go to pursue your own dreams at the expense of other people? That is the question at the heart of J Blakeson’s sardonic new dark comedy thriller, I Care a Lot, which explores the reality of predatory guardians who game the system and exploit their elderly wards in senior care homes.
A self-proclaimed lioness with dogged determination, legal conservator Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) is a sadistic court-appointed guardian that has made a living by selling off the assets of dozens of retirees that are trapped in her permanent care. With the help of her lover and business partner, Fran (Eiza González), Marla has built an impressive portfolio of “cash cows” when the couple decides to go after Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a wealthy retiree with no apparent living heirs or family. But when their latest victim turns out to have secrets of her own and ties to a powerful gangster (Peter Dinklage), Marla and Fran are both forced to level up in a game that only predators can play.
“I read the script and reading those first five pages of that opening monologue were groundbreaking,” González tells Observer with a laugh. “I was like, ‘I need to be part of this.’ Marla was just such a forceful character and everyone that was connected to her was something that I felt needed to be [seen] on-screen.”
“I loved that Fran was kind of the foil to Marla, and it allowed [people] to see a very different side of me as an actress. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to play more grounded roles like this—I don’t know why sometimes—but it was exciting to go for it. I was really proud that I was able to nab it because I learned so much on this film, and I think it’s a great display and a very different role to what everyone has seen me do before.”
In a recent phone interview with Observer, González talks about the refreshing appeal of playing women that are devoid of shame in I Care a Lot, the challenge of finding more grounded roles that are not defined by her race or ethnicity as a Latina woman, and her upcoming film, Godzilla vs. Kong, where she will star opposite Alexander Skarsgård and Millie Bobby Brown.
Observer: In a lot of other cultures, including Hispanic cultures, it is customary for older parents to be taken care of and to live with their adult children. When you first moved to the U.S., were you aware of senior care homes themselves and the countless loopholes that exist within that system?
Eiza González: I was not aware of the countless loopholes; I was aware of senior care homes and I’ve always thought that they’re really weird. (Laughs.) It was a really odd thing. As you said, I grew up with this idea that you would take care of your parents and grandparents for the rest of your life. Everything of this story was just new to me, and obviously doing a deeper dive, I was even more shocked by what I discovered. I was really, very disturbed by it.
I’ve always known that there are ways to break the system because, listen, I grew up in Mexico City. Mexico can sometimes [have] a lot of political loopholes that happen consistently. But in a first-world country, sometimes, it seems like it would be harder to happen, like in America, right? And yet, more than the loopholes, what really stuck with me was how systematically it’s set up for us to fail and not to succeed. If you’re not born with wealth, then your possibilities are never going to be set up to have your own business on that level and on that scale, so what would people do to get that? I thought it was a perfect display of what we are capable, as humans, of doing.
You and Rosamund just seem to have such explosive on-screen chemistry. Why do you think you worked so well together?
I don’t know! I think we had a connection since the day we met, and I admire her, she respects me and I respect her. We both had the same sort of questions and feelings of, Wow, it’s crazy to be devoid of shame. We “grew up” experiencing these things together. She’s done roles like this, but [in] Gone Girl, [she was] ultimately surrounded by a man. She’s done roles that are inherently very strong female roles, but I think this is quite different. This is new territory for her. She’s playing a gay character and a female character with a lot of drive. It’s like a mix of every role she’s ever played in a big movie. It was cool to see because we were very passionate about the story from the get-go and felt this movie had a lot to offer.
While this isn’t necessarily a feminist film, was there something inherently liberating to be able to play women that were seemingly devoid of shame?
Oh my God, the best. (Laughs.) It was like a personal journey for both of us, I think. It was like, Oh, we’re here, and we’re questioning, Should we be doing this? Should we not be doing this? [We kept thinking], Oh, I feel weird saying these things. It was a great display of how we’re used to the way that the society has set it up for us—all of these things that the society has pre-determined for women—that we should feel embarrassed if we’re doing something that is inherently inappropriate.
It was really tricky for us, but it was refreshing because, as an actor and a woman, it was liberating. We got intoxicated with the feeling of it. [My character] is a little more grounded in that sense. You can see that Fran is a spoiled Marla. She is sort of the grounding gravitas of the story, so she has more of a moral compass than Marla does, and I think Fran inherently admires Marla for the audacity that she has. I think Marla loves Fran [in the sense] that she’s capable of doing certain things, but she is still grounded and a good person and she is inherently the cohesive thought within the dynamic.
How refreshing was it to portray a normalized and accepted love story between two women or was that something that didn’t really cross your mind because it was so normalized?
I think you just hit it on the head. It’s just so normalized in the way that J [Blakeson] directed the movie. He didn’t want to sensationalize it at all, and I think we get off of it more than he actually did because we had fun. (Laughs.) I think that we inherently, as you said, have a really good chemistry, so we really liked being around each other.
But it was nice to see a dynamic that isn’t exploited. It’s just natural and it does what it’s meant to do on-screen for, I think, the future generations and the way we don’t need to see a man-on-woman relationship exploited. I would like to see that with man-on-man and woman-on-woman on-screen because there’s so much more to that. It’s not just the sensationalizing of sexual pride or the curiosity that it creates. I think it’s just normal. It’s two people in love, partners-in-crime and doing what they do best.
I feel consistently that when it comes to female, Latinx stories, we fail to give them a bigger voice than just explaining what an immigration story is or whatever bombshell idea of what we should be.
It’s definitely been refreshing to have seen so many female-led stories in the last year.
First of all, I love that we are living in a generation where movies like I Care a Lot, Promising Young Woman, Malcolm and Marie—they’re movies about real subjects and women. This year, specifically, was re-vindication for women. I’m watching movies that talk about women wanting to succeed in a predominantly male business, what it looks like in the aftermath of a woman’s miscarriage and the trauma that comes with it, what it looks like to be sexually abused and what is the trauma that comes afterwards.
We’re normalizing subjects like this on-screen for younger women that I would have loved to have when I was 20, 19 or 15. I grew up with more of a glossy idea of what the perfect woman or the female character should be, so it’s exciting to see this on-screen. It’s exciting to really just push the boundaries with filmmaking and female stories, and especially for a Latin woman like me, I just want to see more roles that have nothing to do with my ethnicity and are just about a normal person’s experience.
You grew up in Mexico City and got your start on telenovelas before you crossed into the American entertainment industry. Given that you’ve had a taste of cross-cultural productions, what kinds of stories would you like to tell at this stage of your career?
I’m in a place where I’m feeling more creative than ever as an artist. Right now, through quarantine, I fully focused on finding female stories that I felt needed to be honored. I feel consistently that when it comes to female, Latinx stories, we fail to give them a bigger voice than just explaining what an immigration story is or whatever bombshell idea of what we should be. I feel like there have been so many iconic women that have made such a humongous difference in history for women like me, and have paved the ground for women in general, that I focused on searching [for] women that I wanted to portray, produce, create and just find allies. It’s really exciting that I get up every morning and I have 4-6 different phone calls for 4-6 different projects that I’m trying to bring to life.
Obviously, I’m at the mercy of getting cast. I’m a diverse woman and probably at the bottom of the totem pole. It’s really hard to force the industry to see you in a different way, especially when you’re at the mercy of casting. So, I try to bring more awareness to bilingual characters, women that feel more contemporary, contemporary immigration stories—not just the stories that we’ve seen over and over again. There’s so many other versions of that that I don’t feel like we see on-screen and normalize [to] become universal too. The Narcos stories, they’re all going to be told, but how do we counteract that by bringing our [other] stories to life? So, that’s where I’m focusing, and especially moving forward when I get to a place in my career [where], hopefully, I get to pick more things that I get to do and directors feel more open. I’d love to see these massive directors cast more women, Latinas especially, in roles that are not necessarily Latin-induced and really giving us the opportunity of doing a role like Gone Girl or something like that that has nothing to do with our ethnicity.
What can you tell me about your next project, Godzilla vs. Kong, which you got to film with so many incredible actors?
Oh my God, it was just amazing. It was amazing that Legendary and Warner [Bros.] felt like they could have such a diverse cast. You have Latin, Asian, Black, white—you’ve got it all. (Laughs.) It’s beautiful because it’s not the typical roles that you would find each of these actors [playing]. I get to play a character (Maya Simmons) that is very strong-willed and has a sense of who she is. She’s a top executive at APEX and she has her own agenda. She’s smart and intuitive and it’s fun not to be necessarily playing what they would expect me to be playing.
The movie is incredible. It’s a spectacle, and I really hope people can see it in movie theaters if they have the opportunity. It’s the one movie that I’ve been part of that I was really blown away when I was watching it. I was like, Wow! It’s a huge-scale movie. I think I knew it, but I didn’t know how big of a scale it would be until I actually saw it. I’m really proud of it and it’s fun. I feel like people want to see a fun movie, and it is ultimately a wild, fun ride, and I think people are going to love it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
I Care a Lot is now streaming on Netflix and on Amazon Prime Video, depending on the region.
Godzilla vs. Kong will be available in international theaters on March 26 and in the U.S. on March 31, where it will be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.