What results from there is one of the most cerebral and emotional stories to take on the idea of the multiverse and time travel in recent memory, one that is anchored by Salazar’s performance. While the actress is no stranger to the genre world, thanks to projects such as Alita: Battle Angel, The Maze Runner, and Brand New Cherry Flavor, Undone has proved to be a unique and incredibly personal cornerstone of her filmography. In conjunction with the Season 2 premiere of Undone, ComicBook.com got a chance to chat with Salazar about the new batch of episodes, the surreal and cathartic experience of making them during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so much more!
(Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Amazon Studios, Prime Video)
Response to Season 1
ComicBook.com: What was it like, initially, to see the fan response to the first season?
Rosa Salazar: Oh my God. Incredibly overwhelming. Positively overwhelming. It’s just so emotional, because you have a long career and there are things that you do that you’re like, “I really learned a lot from that.” But then there are these things that you do that are like, “Oh my God. I feel so attached to this and special about this.” This is all of our baby, and it’s pretty esoteric, and to have it be received the way that it was received — it was a really big statement for all of us artists, from the Rotoscope animators, to Minnow Mountain and Submarine, and Hisko, and the writers, and all the actors. We were all just so grateful that audiences just got our drift, and were on this ride with us, and were really just responding to the emotional aspects and the technological aspects of it. It just makes me so happy. Really, it does.
Making Season 2
I’m so curious about making the second season — I would assume the pandemic had something to do with the production aspect of it. And, obviously, releasing it with the pandemic, I’m sure season two is going to take on such a huge emotional significance. I know for me watching it, I was like, “Oh my God, this is hitting in such a different way after the past couple years.” How did it in impact you as an artist, trying to make this season during the pandemic?
I think we’re all raw as f-ck, right now. People think like “Pandemic over and now we’re out.” And it’s like, “Oh man, things catch up with you at such a slow speed. You just wait for it, honey, there’s going to be a blow back.” But we’re raw. We’re so raw right now. It’s kind of beautiful to see. And I think that Season 2, maybe it was all meant to be, that it could hit at this time when we’re all sort of still raw in that very primordial human phase again.
Shooting in the pandemic was a mixture of bliss and trial. It’s difficult to shoot things in the pandemic. Amazon made it incredibly easy for us. We were one of the first shows greenlit to go back into production, and thank god. I had lost my mother at the beginning of 2020, and then my dog of old age, and it was an incredible upheaval in my life. And thank god Undone was greenlit, because I got to spend that time with people, with community, with my family. So, I was really excited.
It was very different. We only had about six to eight people on the set, including our COVID officer, Ron. Shout out to Ron, he was amazing. And again, they made it very safe and very easy for us to shoot. They did it the right way, which we didn’t even know there was a right or wrong way to do it at first. So we felt safe. We felt great. There were very limited people on the set, which I really liked. We were like in a incubator doing this work, and it was incredibly emotional. I spent a lot of time with Angelique. She really is my sister, and she really helped me through — and Undone helped me through — one of the most difficult times in my life. So, I think that probably dripped into the paint a little bit.
I did want to ask about the dynamic with Angelique, because the sister bond that you both have, it really shines in every single second that you guys are on screen together. It is just so nice and earnest. Now that the relationship of your characters has changed to where she now has powers, what was it like to play that off of her?
Oh my god! So fun, because we’re such opposites in real life. On the show, we are really very different. Our perspectives on life are so different, but there’s so there’s such joy that I get from that, and that she gets from that, I think, I’m assuming, because we learn from each other. We are so in our own identities, whatever that may be in the moment. But we are so ourselves, and we click really beautifully because of that. We’re both very authentic people — hope to be, aspire to be. We formed this buddy cop comedy together and it was so incredible. It was so fun. She is just an amazing actress, an amazing comedic talent. And it was just a joy, a complete joy. I learned a lot from her. I learned so much from her.
And in the story, the first season is all about Alma being on the back foot about her abilities. She’s like, “This is terrifying. Oh my god. What’s going on? I’m not sure if I want to do this.” And you know, Bob’s character is like, “Come on, come on, come on.” And then in Season 2, Alma has assumed more of her father’s position on things, where she’s like, “Come on, come on, come on. Let’s do this. We have f-cking powers now, let’s go.” And Becca, she takes more of Alma’s stance where she’s like, “I don’t know, this is weird. This feels strange to me.” So, there’s some role reversal happening within Alma, now she’s the one antagonizing her family to go on this spiritual trip through time and space.
The larger family dynamic across Season 2 is so compelling, as new members and different generations of the family are introduced. What was it like to play that with this cast, in the specific weirdness of filming in a pandemic, and have it be this very emotional and very personal family story?
Whew. Yeah, like I said, I don’t really have much family. I do, I have half brothers and sisters. Both of my parents have passed, my mom at the beginning of the pandemic, and I was in foster care as a young kid. So, I have been a very lonely — Cry for me, Jenna. [chuckles] I’ve been a lone wolf my entire life, and that’s been an amazing journey, but it’s also been very difficult to accept and to grow with and to learn, and I think I’ve been made into a much stronger person because of it.
But to have this family — the joy of my career is that I get to have these experiences, very close experiences with a family. You do become a family. But in this instance it is, literally, a family. Getting to go on that journey, with these beautiful scripts provided by the brilliant Kate Purdy and clan. It’s so cathartic for me, which will only in turn mean it’ll be cathartic for audiences. To have this family, especially during the pandemic — like I said, it pretty much saved my life. To be able to express these things, to be able to — thanks to Rotoscope animation — go through my lineage, Alma’s lineage, and to really bask in the sacrifices that generations past have made for Alma, that have made for me, Rosa. It was very cathartic for me and euphoric. It was really amazing.
I did want to ask about the decision that Alma makes in the final episode. Where you think she’s at as a person after the events of doing that? And do you think there’s potentially more story to be told from there?
I see her going inward. You have a character, like Alma, who is very preoccupied with external and the external events happening to her. Trauma, fixing her father, fixing in this timeline, her mother, fixing her sister, trying to fix her family. How far back does she need to go to realize that choices are made, and they click into place to make who you are now? When I talk about my own personal past, all of that clicked and clacked into place, and now I’m here talking to you about this show. If I go back and I change something yesterday, does that happen?
I see her going inward. She’s very much about fixing everything. Even in the second season, it’s to an incessant degree. She’s so myopic about it. So manic about it. “I need to fix this. I need to fix this.” And for me, it was a clear choice to differentiate from the first season. To have her go on this very, sort of, manic episode of “Okay, now we’ve got powers. Becca, catch up to speed, you’ve got powers. Let’s fix this. We can fix that. Okay, well, we’ll just go a little deeper, we can fix that, and we can fix that.” Only to come to this very bittersweet conclusion that you’ve got to fix yourself. It’s the only thing you can change, and the only direction you can move in is forward.
Thanks to Rotoscope animation, we can move sideways, and all over the place. Time and space, baby. But in reality, even in a Rotoscope reality, the real way to move is to move forward, which means inward, in my opinion. There’s an even more expansive universe within each of us. I could go on my Jim Carrey right now, but he’s right. It’s true. So, I would be interested in going into that universe. And I think that decision she made shows the first step of personal growth.
I also really loved Brand New Cherry Flavor. I thought that was just incredible.
What is it about these kinds of trippy, genre-bending, very cerebral sort of projects, that draws you to them?
That’s the only way for me, Jenna. I’m very much interested in expanding my consciousness. I only want to do things that really intrigue me. I think that the things that speak to me are the things that I’m probably going to be best at telling that story, I tend to fit those stories well, but I’m also a very curious person. I’m also a very strange person. I like things that are outside of the box. Conformity is very antithetical to me.
And aside from all that, I just really want to do things where people don’t text through them. I don’t like screen time. I think it’s destroying civilization and yeah, I just really want to do things that reach through the TV, like Samara from The Ring, and sort of grab you and say, “Watch this.” And I think that we achieved that in Brand New Cherry Flavor, and I think in a more sophisticated way, did that with Undone. That’s my whole thing, to ask people to be more curious, and to show them new and exciting perspectives on life. And also just to represent, obviously. We don’t get to see a Latin woman do this “weird sh-t.” And that’s my calling, I guess.