Rosario Dawson put in plenty of practice to master the vocal style of her “Trance” character, a professional hypnotherapist, and the clearest sign that all of that practice paid off came when she nearly got herself and a pal into a car accident. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
To master the wording and rhythm of the many trances that her character uses to hypnotize clients over the course of the film, Dawson recorded herself saying each one and would listen to them back — which was all fine and good until she took the practice on the road. “I had made this recording and I was going out with my friend Tara to go to Sunday dinner — which is a thing in England in the afternoon — but I had 10 pages that Monday and I wanted to make sure I had it all down,” she recalls. “So I was like, ‘Do you mind if we listen to it on the way over there?’ She’s driving and kind of [zoning out]. She was like, ‘Rosario? I think I understand why they say to not operate machinery while listening to motivational speeches. I’m feeling very lulled right now, this might not be good.’ So either I’m boring you or I’m really good at this.”
Endangering her pals aside, Dawson had other concerns when it came to “Trance” — namely the film’s extremely revealing and much-talked-about nudity. “The nudity definitely is something. Not so much that it bothers me but because it becomes a focal point, it becomes a conversation point,” she says. “I liked the way that this was structured and how particular and specific the necessity for it in that scene is. The secrets and the depths that are gone to that are revealed there that have nothing to do with it being the obvious titillating visual. It felt very dangerous and risky, and I could connect to it as an actress. It didn’t feel gratuitous, it didn’t feel too much. It felt like the right kind of challenge.”
But a challenge that still gave her pause, she admits. “This was a remarkable script, but it was also a lot different and way more challenging, and it was kind of going, ‘Do I even go in on this? If I’m not willing to go to the levels and places that this is going to demand me to go — because it was all in the script — then I need to not even audition,'” she says. “Because I know I’m going to walk in and be so excited to work with [Danny Boyle], and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So it was a real moment of reflection. I dig this character, and it’s something that you don’t see very often, this kind of a woman at the center of a film and the strength that she shows through her mind and her cleverness. I was willing to go there, to explore her bravery and her courage, and it tested mine.”
Rosario Dawson is renowned for her beauty and longevity, but she’s not about to take credit for it. “Have you seen my hair and makeup team back there? It’s like getting going into the [Nascar] pit,” she says with a laugh. And of course, she has genetics on her side. “I feel very lucky. My grandmother was almost 76 when she passed, and she did almost everything wrong — she was a smoker, she was a drinker, she used to wear oil in the sun — and she had the most remarkable skin and was just awesome and vivacious and strong and incredible. So I’m just going to give it to the good genes and hopefully I can follow in her footsteps, and if not it feels like there’s not much I can do. Live in the moment. Drink a lot of water and try to get sleep.”