Bella Ortiz on the beauty of ‘American Carnage’

Bella Ortiz as Micah in the thriller/comedy AMERICAN CARNAGE, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Bella Ortiz stars as Micah in the comedic horror film, American Carnage, and we got to chat with her about the film, and the themes behind it that make it so relevant.

Synopsis: After a governor issues an executive order to arrest the children of undocumented immigrants, the newly detained youth are offered an opportunity to have their charges dropped by volunteering to provide care to the elderly. Once inside the elder care facility, the volunteers discover the governor and the facility’s supervisor have cooked up a horrifyingly depraved conspiracy that endangers the young and the old in this twisted thriller-comedy.

American Carnage is directed and written by Diego Hallivis (Curvature, Game Time) alongside co-writer and brother Julio Hallivis (The Devil Below, Trespassers). The film stars Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Love, Simon), Jenna Ortega (X, Scream), Allen Maldonado (“The Wonder Years,” “Black-ish”), Bella Ortiz (“Chicago Med”) and Eric Dane (“Euphoria,” “Grey’s Anatomy”).

Check out our interview with Bella!

What was your reaction to reading the script?

Bella: Yeah, my reaction- I loved it just because, I mean, I hadn’t come across anything like it before. I thought that it was very interesting. Taking the realities of our world as we know it and themes of immigration, which are very close to home for me, and then putting it into this horror/thriller/comedy genre… I thought that that was a really interesting way to talk about something that there is a necessity to talk about, but approaching in a way that wasn’t like didactic or hitting someone over the head or trying to unload all this seriousness on them. So when I read it, I think, at first, I usually try to stay away from the horror genre just because I’m a big fan. So it’s a little bit precious to me. But when I read the script, I’m like, ‘How can I not be part of this?’ So yeah, it’s been cool.

You mentioned that the themes were close to home. Do you mind talking a little bit more about that?

Bella: Yeah. So I’m an immigrant. My mom and I moved from Chile to the United States when I was four years old, and she was 25. Even though my dad is American, I didn’t become a citizen until I was 17. So that’s from the age of four to 17, you know, growing up in the United States, at that time, Spanish was my first language, and, you know, when I moved here, I had to assimilate. I was so young, so the United States was essentially the only home that I really, really knew. And I think that a lot of people don’t really understand the whole process of becoming an immigrant and immigration and they kind of just see it as one side or they get lost in what is being perpetuated in the media and the negativity. So, that’s definitely something that I was so proud and happy to be able to be a small part of in a project like this that talks about that. That’s something that I’m very passionate about in my personal life.

(L-R) Allen Maldonado as Big Mac, Jenna Ortega as Camila, Bella Ortiz as Micah, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as JP in the thriller/comedy AMERICAN CARNAGE, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
I did not know that, so thank you for sharing. After learning Micah’s story arc, what did you think of her?

Bella: Yeah, so they always teach us in ‘Acting 101,’ I guess, is not to judge your characters. So I think, at first I had auditioned for a different part, and then the role of Micah was presented to me, and I think I kind of, you know, had a little bit of hesitation at first, because I guess I didn’t really understand, like immediately, how or why a person was like this. I couldn’t get a handle on her necessarily, but then I realized her and I, we share the same kind of starting point where we’re both white Latinx women. And so once I kind of realized it from that, from the beginning instead of just seeing the endpoints and thinking that we’re so different, I was able to really tap into my imagination and kind of consider how my life could have been different, you know, if I was surrounded by a different type of community or different influences. And that really opened up a very vivid world for me to be able to approach this character.

What was it like working with your cast mates? Especially with Jorge and having some more intimate moments?

Bella: Yeah, so I think that it was both our first times really being intimate on screen, but because our characters had not established any kind of intimacy prior to that scene, I think it really aided to that moment. And it felt really genuine where, you know, young love or when you have a crush, you know, how it can feel like butterflies in your stomach and you feel nervous and I think because him and I, as actors, we were nervous in terms of like, this is the first time we’re going to do a scene like this and therefore we don’t have past experiences to really compare it to. I think we both kind of had those little nerves, and it gave to the scene really well, I think. But everyone on set that I worked with, it was such a pleasure and I think we had this common ground of being a part of something that we think is very important. The principle cast were Latinx, so I thought that that was really beautiful that we were able to represent so many different stories and cultures and backgrounds in casting alone.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was toward the end where the elderly get their revenge. What was it like working with them in that fight scene?

Bella: Oh, it was so cool, because I love physicality. I think that I have, just personally, a lot of energy coursing through my body that presents with me talking with my hands or, you know, like a bouncing leg or anything. So, I’m always really eager and excited when it comes to anything physical or that you have to like practice and train towards, so it was really cool. I hadn’t really had much experience with fight sequences or coordination and yeah, I was all for it. I think I probably was a little too excited. They’d be like, ‘calm down, like why are you so excited?’ (laughs)

(L-R) Bella Ortiz as Micah and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as JP in the thriller/comedy AMERICAN CARNAGE, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
So, we talked a little bit earlier about themes of immigration and how it’s more of a heavier movie at its core. What do you hope people take away when they see this movie?

Bella: Hopefully a lot of things. But, I hope that people are just open to the idea. I mean, it’s almost like it’s a no brainer to have diversity reflected in the media, but I think that sometimes because we don’t necessarily see different types of projects done, that when they come out, I think people are more inclined to look at it with more of a critical lens because there aren’t that many projects like it to compare it to. So I hope that people really just take away from this that, regardless of whether or not you love the movie or not, that there is just such a necessity for diversity in Hollywood. And I think to watch this film as you’re supporting movies and projects done by Latinx creators, and hopefully it can be more of the norm instead of the minority in the future. That’s the biggest takeaway that I hope people have. I hope that they had fun with it. I hope that they’re challenged to kind of think about the things that happen to our world so that we don’t find ourselves at a point where we wake up and wonder how things ended up that way. But I just really hope that people hold space in their heart for diversity and accurate representation.

To end on a lighter note, what would you say was your favorite scene or moment in the movie? 

Bella: There are a few that I’ve discovered in reflecting in these interviews. I always like to say anything with Alan Maldonado, I love that guy so much. He’s so talented. He’s so funny and effortless, I had a blast in all of my scenes with him. Sometimes I would get a little frustrated because I’m like, ‘damn, like, I’m not supposed to be laughing in this scene.’ But, of course, because he was improvising and saying stuff, it was almost unnatural not to laugh in the scene just because it would be any character’s reaction. And getting to work with unique talented artists like Troy James, he was like on America’s Got Talent, and he can move his body in ways I didn’t even know were possible, but that definitely highlights how much we’re capable of. And yeah, just getting to work with everyone, that was my favorite part.

(L-R) Allen Maldonado as Big Mac, Jenna Ortega as Camila, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as JP, Bella Ortiz as Micah, and Jorge Diaz as Chris in the thriller/comedy AMERICAN CARNAGE, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
American Carnage will be in theaters and VOD & Digital July 15th.