There are few ’80s babies out there who couldn’t identify the armed man in the steel suit declaring, “dead or alive, you’re coming with me.” It was a period blockbuster that has since become a cult classic, and now RoboCop is back with all the techno-modern fixings expected of such a highly anticipated redux.
Putting his own spin on the 1987 original is José Padilha, Brazil’s award-winning director and documentary filmmaker, known for films including Elite Squad (2007 ) and Secrets of the Tribe (2010), which earned a nomination for Sundance’s coveted Grand Jury Prize in 2010. While perhaps an a-typical choice for your average shoot-em-up action film, Padilha and his cast — who also break the action-blockbuster mould — are exactly what an intelligent and evocative remake of RoboCop demands.
“This film feels very indie. It’s a smart film that will challenge the way the audience thinks, says actress Aimee Garcia, who plays scientist Jae Kim, assistant to RoboCop’s inventor, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) in the film. “Of course, it has cool action sequences and amazing special effects, but unlike most action blockbuster movies, this film asks tough moral, psychological and political questions.”
Like cast members Joel Kinnaman (Lola Versus), Abbie Cornish (W.E.) and Jay Baruchel (The Art of the Steal ), Garcia’s best known role as Jamie Batista — nanny to the title character’s son on the acclaimed series Dexter — skews away from the mainstream. A favourite on Dexter — Garcia switches gears for RoboCop, turning down the fesity and amping up the earnest science nerd to play Jae Kim — whom she refers to by her last name, like a proper PhD would prefer.
“I was actually shooting Dexter and RoboCop simultaneously, so it was a bit jarring going back and forth between bikini-clad Miami girl Jamie to PhD brainiac scientist Kim,” shares the actress.
With RoboCop hitting theatres February 12th, we caught up with Garcia to talk about playing a scientist in the year 2028 with a particular knack for fusing a human body to a robot and how her beauty regime differs from the no-nonsense approach of her character’s lab coat centric routine.
How would you describe your character in a nutshell?
Jae Kim is a scientist. She has a PhD from MIT and works as Gary Oldman character’s assistant. She helps create, monitor and bring RoboCop to life.
How has it been transitioning from Jamie in Dexter to playing Jae Kim? While they both have backgrounds in science, I imagine the latter’s area of expertise makes her a bit more serious.
Jamie definitely shows more skin than Kim. Jamie is warm, sexy and has no filter. But, Kim is much more reserved and thinks she’s the smartest person in the room.
Well, she does know how to put a man inside a robot, so she’s definitely clever! Did you brush up on robotics for role?
Absolutely! I read a ton of books, watched TED talks and interviewed a bunch of scientists. I even shadowed a friend of mine, who is a scientist and works in a lab to watch how she interacts with her colleagues and experiments.
Do you have a new appreciation for mechanics after this film?
It’s incredible what engineers can do. The lab that Kim and Dr. Norton work in was built on a revolving stage and every time I walked on set I felt like I was on a Cirque De Soleil stage. That lab really takes your breath away. And, the RoboCop suit was a marvel in itself too.
It looks pretty intricate.
It required three mechanics at all time. I always joked that the Robo suit required it’s own personal entourage!
I understand you share most of your screen time with Gary Oldman. What was he like to work with?
Yes! I play Gary Oldman’s assistant so all of my scenes are with him. He’s a living legend, and yet, the most generous actor I’ve ever worked with. I mean here’s the man who was Sid Vicious, Dracula, Beethoven and Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, and yet he’s humble, gracious and a total class act. He took me under his wing and I’m so grateful for that. Plus, he’s super stylish and has great taste in music. We bonded over our love for David Bowie. He’s the best.
What about Joel Kinnaman, what did you like about his personal interpretation of RoboCop?
His commitment. He never phoned anything in, no matter how small the scene was. Every time the cameras were rolling, he was present…discovering and listening.
A good guy to work with then.
It was so fun to watch him work. He’s incredible actor. He’s so good-looking that he could just get by on his looks, but he is a serious actor, who is dedicated to his craft.
Joel is an interesting choice for the character, for audience members who know him from films like Lola Versus, he doesn’t immediately pop to mind when you think of action, but he’s a great fit for the film. What would you say makes Joel the perfect Robocop?
I think Joel’s natural charm and relatability make him perfect for the role. He has an earthy quality about him. You root for him. I also thinks he has a big heart which shines through … and when 90 percent of your body is covered, heart and charm become very important to a character like this.
Good point! Do you think diehard fans of the original film will be happy with the remake? Will there be moments and sentiments that they’ll recognize?
Yes. I think RoboCop is such a good story that it deserves to be told again. The original RoboCop was a classic and our film doesn’t try to replace it in any way. In fact, I think José’s film tells a great story and puts it in present day. In today’s world, we are dealing with robots and bionics … Siri, drones, synthetic limbs for amputees. Fans will recognize the story, but will see the story being told in a more relevant world.
Were you a fan of the original Robocop growing up?
Absolutely! I loved the original. It’s a classic. It had such a unique tone … funny, grotesque and widely intriguing.
As a busy scientist, does your character give much thought to beauty and fashion?
She’s pretty natural. It’s hard to be stylish when you’re building a state-of-the-art robot.
While we were filming RoboCop, I kept trying to convince the director that Kim wouldn’t wear her lab coat all the time, but the sexiest he’d let Kim be was Kim with her hair down. I took that and ran with it.
What about yourself, what does your daily routine include, especially when busy on set, but still in need of looking camera ready?
Yoga, kale salad, avocado, tons of water and sleep! I bring tiny weights to my trailer and make sure to squeeze in a cat nap in when I can. Your skin rejuvenates when you sleep so it’s the best pick-me-up activity …. especially when you have to be at work at 4 A.M.
Any similarities between your fashion and beauty sense and that of your characters?
Yes. We both take the “less is more” makeup approach and wear our hair straight. But, Kim loves pencil skirts and cashmere sweaters, where as I’m more of a Rick Owen boots and tank top girl.
In your opinion, what’s the one beauty product every woman should invest in?
I’m a big skin person, so I’d say skincare and sunscreen. If you have great skin, you don’t need as much makeup, so I wear sunscreen, eye cream and moisturizer every day. I’d also invest in a good facialist. I never had one until recently. Now, I go to Shani Darden, who is amazing and she’s given me a simple, non-invasive routine that keeps my skin dewy, hydrated and healthy.
Agreed, good skin is the perfect base. What’s an easy way to transition from your usual daytime beauty look to the perfect evening look?
A change of shoes… going from flats to heels completely changes a look. Also, I usually don’t wear eyeliner (just mascara), but if I don’t have time to go home between work and dinner, I”ll just add a smoky eye and I’m all set for the night.
What’s your go-to red carpet beauty look?
Should have guessed!
People think you have to wear a ton of makeup on the red carpet, but I prefer to have beautiful, dewy skin, so that I don’t look over-the-top in person. My makeup artist, Ashleigh Louer, likes to make my eyes pop with lashes and put a pink lip on me. I would say that skin and eyes are priorities for my go-to red carpet beauty look.
And what dress will match this red carpet look come the RoboCop premiere?
I have no idea! I should probably get on that!
Who is your beauty idol and what about her beauty look inspires your own look?
Natalie Portman. I love that she always looks like herself. She’s classy, chic and yet relatable. She’s the face of Dior, but can also be girl-next-door. She’s managed to navigate between being a beauty icon, Oscar-winning actresses, Ivy League graduate and down-to-earth humanitarian.
What beauty items can we find in your purse on an average day?
From your red carpet pictures, it seems like you prefer a softer makeup look.
As actors, we wear so much makeup when we’re shooting that I”d rather just have great dewy skin, so that I don’t have to cake on a lot of foundation for red carpet events. My eyes can take a lot of makeup …I’d rather have more eye makeup and a nude lip.
What’s one thing we will never see you do beauty-wise?
I don’t think I”ll ever wear blue eye shadow, but then again, never say never. Lately, my makeup artist has been saying: “We should try a deep, royal dark blue, not pastel or sky blue, but like a navy. That’s so pretty with dark brown eyes. It’ll make your eyes pop!” So, we’ll see.
Sounds nice! Any beauty trends you are particularly into this season?
I’m definitely not a fan of the super thick eyebrow trend that’s going on right now. I prefer filled-in manicured eyebrows. But, I’m loving the berry, wine-stained lips and flush cheeks trend. It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day and spring.