Interview: Sonya Balmores

From the interview archives.

Actress Sonya Balmores is known for films like Soul Surfer and Kuleana and this fall you can catch her in IMAX as well as on ABC for the new Marvel series Inhumans. VULKAN caught up with Sonya to talk about the new series and her role in the upcoming film Den of Thieves and we learned what the former Miss Teen USA contestant thinks about what pageants contribute to society.

Let’s talk about Inhumans. The series will first be showing the first two episodes in IMAX over a two week period and then it will premier on ABC, a very unusual way to showcase a new series. Do you hope to see film and television progress in this way? What do you think it adds to the viewing experience?

Yes, it is very unusual because it’s the first time in history for a TV show to have an IMAX premiere. I’m pumped, I think action/sci-fi genre stories look and feel amazing in theaters. I saw Dunkirk the other week in IMAX and it was heart pumping, the movie score and bombs literally rumbled my chair; IMAX is quite an experience. It would be great to have more reasons to go to the movie theater. I have so many memories of first dates and going to the movies as kids, our parents were cool with us going to the movies versus a party on the weekend, we didn’t have to lie to go to the movies! It would be sad if we all just stayed home… I think we’ll miss out on a lot of healthy social interaction if things go that way. 

Can you tell us a little about your character Auran?

Auran is head of the Royal Guard in Attilan. We protect and serve the Royal Family. She’s fierce, strong, and very task orientated. At times she’s a bit arrogant and too independent and closed off.

Aside from her super abilities, what do you think is the most interesting or complex part of her character?

I love how fearless she is even though she is tiny. She’s surrounded by huge dudes that make up most of the army and the Royal guard but her strength and intelligence keeps everyone in fear of her, I love playing her and bossing people around. The complex issue for her is she’s a servant in a very strict caste system, there’s not a lot of upward movement for her or anything else to dream for, I think that’s the saddest thing for her on the inside.

In the recently released character trailer Auran is dubbed “The Assassin” – what kind of training did you take on in preparation for this role? 

Not much honestly, we went straight into production like two weeks after I booked the part! Luckily I grew up pretty active: surfing, dancing and I’ve done some Muay Thai and other fight choreo on past projects. They asked me in my audition if I was athletic… so I knew something exciting was up ahead. When I got to Hawaii I took proper boxing classes to get my cardio up as well as to learn how to punch safely. But we had an awesome group of stunt coordinators and actors that coached me to bring ferocity to the choreo — they were amazing. 

There are a lot of “rules” within the Inhumans world, one of which being that each of the Inhumans are assigned a “place” in society, what is Auran’s place, and is she happy with it?

Yes, it’s very strict. I don’t think anyone in Attilan is necessarily happy about it, but they’re just used to it. Like people who follow very strong traditions, it’s hard to imagine anything else besides what you’re accustomed to. So when new ideas on how to run Attilan are introduced I think they make all of Attilan rethink everything. But don’t get me wrong, Auran isn’t in the lowest caste, she’s way better off than most, no complaints there!

The Inhumans went on to form their own society, in the series will we see them begin to reintegrate themselves with the rest of humanity? Will they be welcomed with open arms, or are there apprehensions surrounding this?

Yes, many of the characters interact with humans when they escape to Earth. That’s one of the major arguments for the Royal Family, are the humans to be trusted? They have such a long history of wanting to be controlled or eliminated by humans because Inhumans are dangerous and stronger because of their abilities… so yes there will be a lot of reasonable apprehension on both sides.

Does Auran hold any resentment to being a test subject?

If I have my Inhuman history correct, the Inhumans that are on the moon are descendants, many generations down the line, from the original ones that were tested on. I think most Inhumans in Attilan are proud of their abilities, it’s like a badge of honor and makes us who we are because it literally defines where we end up.

What was the costume and makeup process like for this series? I always imagine it’s rather intensive when you’re portraying such an other-worldly character. 

I’m quite lucky, I didn’t have to do any prosthetics or spend crazy amounts of time in hair and makeup. They gave me a fierce hair cut and custom made black and navy leather costume that was directly inspired from the graphic novels. Stepping into all that leather and zipping up all seven zippers each morning definitely helped me feel different than the Hawaii girl that I am.

You’re also shooting Den of Thieves. Who is Malia and how does she fit into the mix?

I bring the feminine and family aspect to the story which helps bring contrast to the tough characters in an action packed bank robbing heist film! Again, I am a very small woman in a male dominated world. But don’t ever underestimate small ones or the power of love, it’s like a woman’s super power!

I’m always a big fan of bank heist films, what do you think it is about these types of stories that drives people to the theatres?

Who doesn’t want more money? I think we all do! But the exciting thrilling part is the stealing aspect… we all know deep down it’s not good and that consequences always follow… mostly bad ones. I think we like to watch characters go through the process, it lets us go on the adventure without the consequences, but when we walk out of the theater we’re reminded that life will probably be so much better for us if we don’t steal.

The film casts a wide range of actors, from action star Gerard Butler to gangsta rap legend 50 Cent and newcomer O’Shea Jackson JR amongst others. What’s the feeling in a room full of people with such astronomically different personalities?

Lot’s of testosterone, lot’s of flexing! Haha! Everyone was really cool, talkative and friendly. They were all perfect gentleman around me… but I can’t speak about their behavior when I wasn’t. I would have loved to be a fly on those walls.

By the looks of things you’ve had quite a busy couple of years. What helps you stay on top of your many commitments?

Just getting things done as soon as they come up. Not letting things pile up. Prioritizing relationships, I have to say no to a lot of things and people.

Do you ever miss participating in pageants? Would you say that they contribute positively to society? Why or why not?

No, I don’t miss it. I wasn’t raised as a pageant girl, I just did it because all my friends from my Tahitian dance group wanted to do it to show off our Tahitian solos! A fellow contestant told me about the Miss Hawaii Teen pageant that took place in Honolulu and said I could win easily and get cool prizes. I was like sign me up. See! Perfect example of one of those easy money situations. At the heart of it I’m just lazy, I like easy money! LOL! But pageants also award scholarships to college, so yes I think they can contribute positively especially if you don’t grow up in a big city, it gave a girl like me something to do, something to train for and work towards. The girls I met in the pageant world were extremely intelligent, driven, disciplined and served their communities in a variety of positive ways. Many have gone on to careers in  journalism, entertainment industry, teaching, and politics. 

Best movie you’ve seen so far this summer that you’d recommend?

One of my favorite movies ever is A Knights Tale so this summer I was a huge fan of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, I just love that genre and Guy Ritchie’s style and Daniel Pemberton’s music. I also cried my eyes out in LOGAN, Hugh Jackman has done such great work with a comic book role, definitely inspires my work. I’d recommend WIND RIVER in the drama genre, it’s beautiful and heart wrenching.

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