It’s been 15 years since actress Jennifer Lopez took on the type of grittier role she’s seen playing in the new action film “Parker.” The last time was as U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco in director Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 film “Out of Sight.” Since then, Lopez, 43, has been known in the film industry over these last few years for her romantic comedies, including “The Wedding Planner,” “Monster-in-Law,” and last year’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” among others.

In “Parker,” which is adapted from a series of books by Donald E. Westlake, Lopez plays Leslie Rodgers, a real estate agent who gets involved with a professional thief (Jason Statham in the title role). Lopez says returning to this genre was “pretty awesome.”

“When I saw ‘Parker,’ it was like ‘Transporter’ and ‘Out of Sight’ had a baby,” Lopez told me over the phone last week during a conference call with seven other reporters. “This type of character is something I really, really enjoy doing – these sexy-action-thriller-dramas. It was a great thing to get back into and maybe focus on more in the next few years.”

Surprising, Lopez says she was able to connect with her character in many ways she didn’t realize she would be able to until she started filming. This includes the fact that Leslie Rodgers was going through a divorce in the film and during filming, Lopez, too, was experience the same thing with Marc Anthony.

“Leslie is at the worst moment of her life,” Lopez said. “When I was filming this role, there were a lot of similar feelings. I had decided to divorce. It was hard for me to get out of bed every day and even go to the set. In that sense, we were very similar. I knew what those feelings were – to have that sadness and feel like your world is falling apart.”

But like her character, Lopez has a resiliency about her that has never let her down. It’s a personality trait she sees in many of the strong Latina characters she’s played over the years.

“It’s great to play Latina characters, especially ones who triumph at the end like this,” Lopez said. “Of course, there is a Hollywood element to this. No one is really going to go out and team up with a thief and steal jewels, but at the same time, Leslie sees an opportunity and goes for it and doesn’t give up.”

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