June 2005 By Philip Berk
Shortly after she was chosen by James Cameron to play the lead in his TV series Dark Angel, I asked Jessica Alba — she was a teenager at the time — Weren’t you nervous about meeting the Titanic director?
“I was?” was her snooty reply.
But she had an explanation.
“Before that audition, I hadn’t worked for eight months. By choice,” she emphasizes. “I didn’t need to. I wasn’t paying bills. I didn’t have anything I needed to support. I felt I would only work if I really loved it, which is why I do it. I don’t do it for the money. I do it just for me.”
So who pay the bills? I wondered.
“I do. I’ve been working since I was ten, and I’ve saved my money.”
Does she still live with her parents?
“I live by myself. I’m eighteen. I graduated high school when I was seventeen, and that’s when I moved out of my house. My parents didn’t think I could do it. They were scared. My mom would call me, ‘Do you need me to come over, how’s your laundry?’ I’m like, ‘It’s good, it’s fine.’ ‘Are you feeding yourself?’ And I’m like, ‘I can go grocery shopping, mom.’ And she’s, ‘You should call me sometimes.”
She sounds like a typical Latino mother, but she isn’t.
“My mom’s family is from Denmark and Montreal. She’s French Canadian and Danish. My father is from Mexico. I’m proud of both heritages, but I’m all mixed up; so I tend to play sort of nondescript characters, although I definitely can’t play the Waspy white girl which sometimes breaks my heart.”
At the time she was rumored to be involved with her Dark Angel costar Michael Weatherly.
Asked about it, she refused to talk about him or anyone else.
“Who I’m involved with I don’t really like to talk about. It’s a personal thing. I like to keep it mine. I just don’t like to talk about it.”
A year later, after she had been nominated for a Golden Globe, she was officially engaged to Weatherly.
How has the working relationship changed? I asked her then.
And she was prepared to talk about him.
“We’ve only worked three days since the announcement, but I don’t think it changes anything. Our engagement is a completely personal thing. The chemistry we have is what we’ve always had.”
But then unexpectedly she added, “I’m just the luckiest girl in the world to be able to be up there with my boy.”
When did they first discover you were in love?
“With anybody it just kind of happens. I’d rather not go into the details. It means a lot to me, and I’d rather keep it to myself.”
Isn’t she rather young to be thinking of marriage?
“Not really because my parents got married when they were eighteen and nineteen, and they had me and my brother at nineteen and twenty. They’ve been together ever since, and my grandparents, the same thing. My grandmother was twenty, and my grandfather twenty-three. My father has four siblings, and only one has gotten a divorce. We really believe in family and loyalty and the old Catholic idea that you stick it out through through thick and thin.”
Don’t some of her friends try to discourage her?
“Some think it’s great; some think it’s a bad idea. But it’s a my choice.”
Does she get along well with her brother?
“I have a very good relationship with my brother. When we were little kids, he knocked out four or six of my teeth. He pushed me off beds; he hit me in the face with plastic boats. We’d go at each other because we’re only a year and three months apart. But then when he got old enough to drive, he became real nice because I had a car. So all of a sudden I was his best friend, and he would make up my bed in the morning. We’ve gotten along real well since he turned sixteen. We’ve been really close. If he needs advice about girls or school or what he wants to do, he usually comes to me.”
Three years later they’re still close, but sad to say she and Weatherly are no longer together. They broke off their engagement in 2003.
Since then, she’s dated Wilmer Valderamma and Mark Wahlberg among others.
At her press conference (in Las Vegas for The Fantastic Four) relationships are the least thing on her mind.
She’d much rather talk about the three movies she has coming out this summer, the first of which Sin City (banned in Malaysia) casts her in a completely different role as an exotic dancer.
In the movie she’s a blonde,
And at the press conference she’s blonde.
Wasn’t she always a brunette? I ask her.
“My hair is naturally dark, although not as black as it was in Dark Angel. But I wanted to look like my mom and explore the other side of me. My mom has strawberry blonde hair, and she never felt I looked like her, but now that I’ve dyed my hair, she thinks I do. At first I thought it would be a change, but now I have three movies in a row in which I play a blonde so it’s been good.”
The other two are Into the Blue with Paul Walker and The Fantastic Four, in which she plays one of the title characters.
Did she need a coach for the exotic dancing in Sin City?
“I had done Honey where I played a choreographer and actually trained three months for that. So I thought great, I’ll get a choreographer to teach me stripping, but Robert was like, ‘No, Nancy has her own thing. You just feel it.’ So I went to strip clubs and watched how the girls do it. I found that nobody has a schtick. In the book Frank made her very glamorous. She has chaps, she has pistols, she has a rope. It’s a lot more glamorous than it is in the strip clubs. So I used my imagination. I stole some music from the strip clubs, but that was all.’
How embarrassing was it for her, Jessica Alba, movie star, to walk into a sleazy strip bar?
“Sleazy, I don’t know. I think strip clubs have a place in society. There’s definitely a market for them. It’s as sleazy as Vegas, I guess. The only thing that made me uncomfortable was when the girls wanted to give me lap dances, and I was like, ‘I don’t want that. I just want to talk to you.’ I would sit them down, give them a hundred bucks, and ask them how they became strippers. ‘How do you dance on stage naked? How the hell do you do that?’ ‘What if you fall?’ They wear high heels and sometimes they would fall. ‘You pretend that nobody is there,’ they told me, but then they would ask me, ‘You want your lap dance now?’ And I was like,’No, here’s another hundred bucks not to do that. That really made me nervous.”
What can she say about the other two movies?
“That it was nice being employed for a full year. I was in the Bahamas at the beginning of 2004 for Into the Blue playing a shark wrangler. I did that because I wanted to scuba dive in the Bahamas for five months. How could I not want to.”
Does she play a desperate character in that as well?
“Not at all. I play a really innocent, sweet, smart girl unlike anyone I’ve played before. There’s nothing street or urban about her. She’s this hippie who lives in the Bahamas and is in love with her boy friend. After that, Sin City came along which was also a departure for me. Nancy is so hopeful and naive. She just believes in soul mates and love. I think the blond hair helped. And then I was got Fantastic Four, and the chance to play Susan Storm who is my favorite heroine. She’s the one who keeps the boys together. She’s the only woman in this team of super heroes. She’s very respectable, very maternal, very intelligent, but has a problem expressing her emotions because she’s a woman in a man’s world. I couldn’t wait to play her scenes where I had to hold in my emotions.”
Getting back to relationships, I ask her, Having once been burned, would she get involved with a co-star again?
“I don’t think you can generalize. Relationships are purely about whether you are compatible or not. They have nothing to do with the work place. (Sin City director) Robert Rodriguez and his wife work together. She runs his production company, she runs the show. He wouldn’t have the creative freedom to do everything he does if he didn’t have the structure she provides him. She keeps him grounded and organized. It’s a great relationship that’s completely professional .”
But if she were to meet someone on a set, would she get involved?
“I’d be okay with it, but I’m not looking to move from my current position.”
“I have a beautiful man in my life. His name is Cash, and he’s wonderful.”
Did they meet on a set?
“No, he’s not a actor.”
(His full name is Cash Warren and he happens to be the son of actor Michael Warren, a regular on TV’s St. Elsewhere’s)
Is she still close to her family?
“They were out with me last night; they’re probably better partygoers than I am. I’m more of a homebody. They like to have a good time, and they’re very cool.”
What has she learned from them?
“They believe in marriage. That was a big lesson. You stick with it through good times and bad.”
And for herself?
“I think it’s beautiful. It’s a big commitment, and if you believe in it, which I do, there’s nothing better.”