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(This story contains spoilers for Fast X.)
Four years ago, Daniela Melchior came out of nowhere to land the highly coveted role of Cleo Caza/Ratcatcher 2 in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, and upon the film’s release in August 2021, she immediately became the heart and soul of the film. Vin Diesel, who voiced Groot in all three of Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, agreed with the consensus surrounding Melchior’s performance, so he offered the Portuguese actor a role in Fast X, as Isabel, Elena Neves’ (Elsa Pataky) street-racing sister.
Melchior knew that Gunn had forever changed her life when he cast her in April 2019, but receiving a direct offer for Fast X was when she felt it for the first time, career-wise.
“I felt (the impact of Ratcatcher 2) when I met Vin and Vin’s sister, Samantha (Vincent), for the first time, because they made sure that they spoke about Ratcatcher 2 and how they fell in love with my character … I didn’t audition at all,” Melchior tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Isabel is the aunt of Brian (Leo Abelo Perry), Dom and Elena’s son, and while Melchior did account for future stories involving her character, she’s unclear on whether Diesel and co. are going to have Isabel pursue vengeance against Charlize Theron’s Cipher for having Elena killed in The Fate of the Furious (2017).
“I asked all of those questions to Vin, but because we didn’t know where the story would go after this tenth movie, he was just like, ‘Those are interesting questions. Think about them, but you don’t need to put anything in this movie about them right now,’” Melchior shares.
Towards the end of Fast X, Jason Momoa’s Dante Reyes holds Isabel hostage until Brie Larson’s Tess shows up and turns the tables, forcing Dante to free Isabel. However, before he let her go, he made sure to do a bit of business that made moviegoers collectively squirm.
“(Momoa) asked me if he could lick my face. And I was like, ‘You do you. Do whatever you need to do and I’ll just react in character,’” she recalls. “So I was expecting him to lick my face, but the disgust wasn’t real. Of course, I wouldn’t like to be licked on my face, but that reaction was really in character, because I knew that he was gonna do that.”
Below, during a recent spoiler chat with THR, Melchior (pronounced mel-she-or) also discusses her hopes of returning to the role of Ratcatcher 2 and the unexpected challenge that she’ll face if and when that day comes.
So, was your Fast X casting one of the first times you felt the impact of Ratcatcher from The Suicide Squad?
Actually, yes. I felt it when I met Vin and Vin’s sister, Samantha (Vincent), for the first time, because they made sure that they spoke about Ratcatcher 2 and how they fell in love with my character. I didn’t have a clue that they even watched the movie until then.
Vin obviously knows James Gunn from the Guardians movies, so do you think James put in a good word for you?
I don’t actually know. I don’t think that he was a part of the process at all, but I’m not sure.
Did they give you dummy sides in order to protect your character’s identity as Elena’s sister?
Oh, I didn’t audition at all, so I didn’t have any dummy sides. I just read the script, and so I already knew who Isabel was.
Did you go back and watch Elsa Pataky’s Elena in Fast Five quite closely?
Yeah, but I didn’t meet Elsa. I just rewatched Fast Five and the next few movies that she was in. I also had a good conversation with Vin when I met him, and he showed me a video with all of Dom and Elena’s moments, so I could see their dynamic through Vin’s eyes. It had special songs and everything. So we talked about Elena’s archetype, and he gave me all the insights from his perspective about Elena.
In certain photos, you really do look like sisters. Did you see the resemblance as well?
I didn’t (at first), but now that the fans have put together fan edits and small videos, I can see the similarities.
Isabel feels guilty that she’s still alive and “the good sister” isn’t. Was that your way into the character?
Yeah, and when I had my first meeting with Justin Lin … I jumped onboard the project when Justin was still on it as well, and he told me that he had some plans for my character to continue and everything. So, as soon as I met Vin, I started building my character, and I didn’t work only with the script that I had. I worked out a backstory that she could have and that would affect the future as well. So her guilt and her pain is interesting, but how big is this pain? Is it just about Elena? When I read the scenes that I have with Dom, I was like, “Okay, maybe everything she touches gets ruined,” and that’s another layer. So I wasn’t only focusing on the script. I was also thinking about the next movies, but at that time, I didn’t know about the trilogy. So I thought, “What can I put on the table now that can lead into the future?”
Do you think she dreams about getting revenge against Cipher?
I thought about that as well, so I asked Vin those questions. I was like, “Does Isabel know that it was Cipher that killed Elena? Does Isabel think that it was your fault because you let it happen?” So I asked all of those questions to Vin, but because we didn’t know where the story would go after this tenth movie, he was just like, “Those are interesting questions. Think about them, but you don’t need to put anything in this movie about them right now.” So the way that I played it was that it was all in my head. I was putting some guilt on Dom, but we don’t actually know if Isabel even knows about Cipher’s existence.
Your character is a skilled street racer in Rio. Can you hold your own behind the wheel?
I can! I also don’t say bad words while driving, but I sometimes get stressed in Lisbon (the capital of Portugal) because people drive very slow. I always joke, “Where did you get your driver’s license? On a cereal box?” (Laughs.) But I don’t get too mad, and I never pass the speed limit.
You recorded some video in Isabel’s car as she’s lined up next to Dante (Jason Momoa) and Dom. How surreal did that feel?
It was so exciting and empowering at the same time. At first, I didn’t feel like I was on the same line and getting ready for the same race as them; it felt like I was looking up to them. But the way that they welcomed me as a younger actress was really empowering. So that is what ultimately made me feel on the same level as them, at least in that scene. Isabel needed to feel like a badass in that scene. So I admire them and I will always look up to them, but the way that they welcomed me never gave me the feeling that they were up there and I was down here.
Dante used Isabel to get to Dom, and it led to a moment on the highway where Isabel was being held hostage. Dante then did something that made my audience squirm in their seats. Was Isabel’s reaction your natural reaction? Was very little acting required in that moment?
So when we were rehearsing, he wasn’t doing that. He was just grabbing me by the hair and letting me go, and with each take, he would add something else. He then kicked me in the butt and everything, but he would say, “I’m thinking about doing this.” Some actors like the surprise factor. Some actors like to just do things to see what their (scene partner) does. But he always asked, and then he asked me if he could lick my face. And I was like, “You do you. Do whatever you need to do and I’ll just react in character.” So I was expecting him to lick my face, but the disgust wasn’t real. Of course, I wouldn’t like to be licked on my face, but that reaction was really in character, because I knew that he was gonna do that.
Did Isabel get Brie Larson’s Tess to the hospital in time?
I don’t know! That could be the beginning of the next one. I don’t even know if she would get along with Tess.
So what’s up with the female spinoff?
Vin told me that when he was on the plane from Rome to Mexico, he talked with Louis (Leterrier) about the future of my character. And I was like, “Tell me everything!” but they didn’t tell me anything. We were having our last dinner in Mexico when they told me that, and we really couldn’t have that conversation there. So I’m very curious, but I’ll let them do their job. (Laughs.)
Shifting gears, when did James bring up the subject of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to you?
He sent me a message, saying, “Get ready. Your team will approach you for Guardians 3. I wrote a character for you. It’s a sequence where you’ll be kidnapped, but it’s a cool sequence with Gamora and Quill.” And that was it. So I was very excited. I called my team right away, saying, “Just so you know, this will happen.” (Laughs.) So this was months before we started shooting.
Had The Suicide Squad already come out (August, 2021)?
When you shot your Guardians 3 role and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) said that he was Patrick Swayze, did you know at that point that you were going to be in a Road House reboot?
No, but I really do believe that everything happens for a reason. So I didn’t have a clue about that. When I shot Guardians of the Galaxy, I knew that I was about to close Fast X or have the meeting. So all I knew about was Fast X. I didn’t know about my future after Fast X, but that was a good coincidence.
Did you have a good time on Road House?
Yeah, it was so much fun! I can’t wait to hear more about it because I don’t even when it’s coming out.
So James has already said that some Suicide Squad characters will appear in the Amanda Waller show, but overall, are you confident that you’ll play Ratcatcher again?
I would love to. The fans have been asking that, too, but I don’t know. I totally understand if Ratcatcher 2 is not the priority right now, but if I ever do go back to Ratcatcher 2, I hope I can return to my accent at that time. I’ve been slowly improving my accent or cleaning my accent, so that’ll be a good challenge. I put a lot of innocence that I had into that character. It was my first international movie and everything, so it’ll be a good challenge to find that vibe and energy again.
In the eyes of the audience, James somehow redeemed John Cena’s Peacemaker by way of the Peacemaker series, but he’s not redeemed in the eyes of Ratcatcher, Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Harley (Margot Robbie). Are you eager to address that story point?
Yeah, for sure. Everyone deserves a second opportunity, and when I watched Peacemaker, I remember doing an Insta-story and sharing a piece of a documentary called Human. It has a backstory about an (incarcerated man) and what trauma they went through to become how they are. So I felt that was a good comparison. I also remember reading on Twitter that people were excited to see Ratcatcher reconnect with Peacemaker after the show and get to know his story.
How long had you been trying to break into Hollywood when you got Ratcatcher?
So I was shooting a soap opera in Portugal, and I signed with my manager in a non-official way. It was like, “I would love to sign you, so start sending self-tapes, and if you land something, we’ll see.” And I was like, “Okay.” This was at the end of 2018. But at the beginning of 2019, I quit working in Portugal and went to Thailand. I was too unhappy as an artist, so I went to Thailand for an undetermined amount of time. It was also pilot season, and my manager was like, “What are you doing there?” And I was like, “I don’t even know.” I didn’t even know what pilot season was at the time, so I came back from Thailand at the end of February and did the tape for The Suicide Squad. And then at the end of April, I did the audition in Atlanta and I booked it. The Suicide Squad was my third self-tape. So all of this happened between the end of 2018 and April 2019.
So I just talked to Hailee Steinfeld for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and I didn’t realize that you voiced Gwen Stacy in the Portuguese version of Into the Spider-Verse. Did you dub the sequel as well?
No. For example, in Brazil, whenever you do voiceover for a character, that character will be yours forever, but in Portugal, that industry is not that big or evolved. So it was really tricky, and I was in a position where I needed to think about myself first and protect the roles that I’ve been playing. So it was sad, but I needed to say no this time.
Fast X is now playing in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.