You have had a successful acting career in Portugal, but The Suicide Squad is your first English-language theatrical film. What a huge way to break out in the U.S.! What was your reaction to landing the part of Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher II?
I was really emotional when James [Gunn] called me saying that I got the role. As soon as I hung up, I started crying. That was a turning point in my life because from that moment I had to (and it happened) give myself more value as a person, but particularly as an actor.
Can you walk me through the audition process?
So I self-taped from my home in Portugal, and I wasn’t proud of it at all. For me, it was one of the worst tapes that I have sent in my life. But actually, my manager called me a few days later saying they loved it and wanted to fly me to Atlanta to do a screen test. I was like, “Really?! They liked that?” While I was taping, I was reading my lines like this [on my hand]. I wasn’t at all comfortable with acting in English. I wasn’t proud at all of that tape, but they liked it. I flew to Atlanta and had a meeting with James Gunn and one of the producers, Peter Safran. I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t know how things worked in America because it’s really different in Portugal. In Portugal, we have to go with no makeup. The more natural, the better. My manager told me, “Go dressed like a superstar,” and I was like, “What is that?” I went in black skinny jeans, a black top, a black leather biker jacket, and Dr. Martens because I was like, “Okay, it will be an action movie. I’ll go like a model.” [James] told me later that, after the meeting, [he and Peter] looked at each other and said, “No, she is not Ratcatcher.” But then the next day, I went to the audition and did my scenes, and James told me that as soon as I started to do the first scene, he looked at Peter again and said, “ Please tell me I’m not desperate. She’s the one,” and [Peter] was like, “No you are not desperate. She’s the one.” After that, I had a chemistry test with rats, with real rats, and it was amazing. I think I made friends there. I booked it a few days later.
Ratcatcher II has a special ability to summon and communicate with rats, which was passed down by her father. You also have your rat sidekick, Sebastian. Were you squeamish about having to work with rats?
I was fine. I had two hamsters when I was little, and I love animals, even if they are weird. Before having the actual chemistry test with them, I just thought, “I’m not going to overthink it. I’ll go in there open-minded and see what happens.” I just had to forget about the tails. Don’t look at the tails. They were the sweetest. And they are actually very smart.
Ratcatcher II brings a lot of heart to the film, which I really enjoyed. She’s a villain, but where do you think that compassion/sensitivity comes from?
She is really different from the others because this is her first mission, and her entire life was living with her father. As kids, even if our parents do bad things, we always find a good reason to justify (even if it’s just for us) that to be happening. The things that she learned from Ratcatcher were always to be good. She would steal with her father just to survive. It wasn’t ever being bad just because. So I really think that this makes the difference between her and the other supervillains. I am really excited to see if she will start to be like them—like, “This is fun. Okay, I can take lives, so let’s explore this.” I don’t believe that will be her future, but I’m really curious about it. I would say she doesn’t have reasons to be bad, even from a young age. Her heart is in the right place. Her values are in the right place. So I think that’s why she is different from the others.