Emily Rios was 16 years old when she landed the first lead role of her young career in the small independent film “Quinceñera.” Little did she know, “Quinceñera” would surpass everyone’s expectations and go on to win the coveted Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
Since that fortunate break six years ago, Rios has made every great opportunity she has been given count. Most recently, she has earned recurring roles on hit TV shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Men of a Certain Age,” and “Friday Night Lights.” Although TV is something she is always open to, acting in films is what she is focused on right now.
In the new comedy “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” which hits theaters Feb. 18, Rios plays Isabelle, a young graffiti artist who attends an all-girls performing arts school where Big Momma (Martin Lawrence) and his son Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) go undercover after Trent witnesses a murder.
During an interview with me, Rios, 21, talked about her appreciation for all forms of art and admits why she doesn’t consider lowbrow comedies like “Big Mommas” her kind of humor.
Has the auditioning process become easier since your first experience in “Quinceñera?”
(Laughs) Yeah, it has. I think I had to audition for the part in “Quinceñera” about four times. For this I just had to read for the producers and the director. But “Quinceñera” was one of my first auditions, so I really didn’t understand the process. Now I’m more knowledgeable about it, so that helps calm my nerves because it’s a really nerve-wracking experience.
Your character Isabelle is a talented artist. Tell me more about her.
She is the best of the best in painting. Her background is that she used to paint on walls and get arrested, but then she found a way to channel her talent and make her future brighter by going to school and possibly making a career out of it. I’m a big fan of graffiti art so the character was right up my alley. I really responded to it.
Some people would argue that graffiti is not art.
It’s one of the biggest forms of art. Anything you can do to express yourself is a form of art. That’s why I love my craft so much. I always wanted to play other artists. If I can’t play an instrument, then I want to play a character that can. There is an artist behind everything and I think that’s beautiful.
You’ve done a couple of comedies in your career. What kind of comedy makes you laugh the most?
I like very dry humor. I don’t like things that are over the top. I like subtlety. I like things that are nonchalant. I like characters that are sort of monotone and based in dark comedy.
You just described the exact opposite of Martin Lawrence.
(Laughs) He is very over the top! I remember growing up I would watch him on his TV show “Martin” and he would dress up like Sheneneh and all those characters. That was the humor I was into. Now that I’ve grown up, my taste has changed a lot. But this movie is a learning experience for me. I wanted to experience it to see why this sort of humor doesn’t interest me so much and why some audiences are attracted to it. This was never the type of comedy I would have said I was interested in doing, but there are a lot of people who appreciate it. I definitely wanted to tap into that and learn about it.
We’ve seen you in a few TV shows over the last year like “Breaking Bad” and “Men of a Certain Age.” Is TV something you would like to continue to do or are you more focused on film?
TV kind of worked out naturally for me. I was fortunate to do a show like “Breaking Bad” and then go straight into something like “Friday Night Lights.” It’s not something I focus on, but when they’re great projects I can’t pass them up. If I wanted to do TV full-time, “Breaking Bad” is definitely the type of project I would want to do. But TV is not my favorite thing in the world. I definitely want to focus on film. It’s what I grew up loving. It’s always been about movies, movies, movies, movies, movies. I really want to make great films.