Roselyn Sanchez may be a happy new mom in real life—she gave birth to daughter Sebella Rose on Jan. 4—but starting Feb. 24 she showcases her darkest film role yet, as a kidnapped undercover CIA agent in the thriller Act of Valor.
What made you want to take on this role?
This wasn’t a traditional role for me, which is why I was drawn to it. I play a CIA agent and I get kidnapped, beaten and raped in the film, so it was very intense. When I was in the moment, I thought, “Oh my God, what did I get myself into?”
What was the best part about playing a CIA agent?
It’s just a great storyline. I go undercover as a doctor on this mission and end up kidnapped. It was tough going through the motions of somebody who is an educated professional who gets kidnapped in a foreign country and feels completely powerless. My character endures a lot of physical abuse in the film and we had to use prosthetics and lots of makeup for the aftereffects. It was brutal for me. We were shooting in the summer in Puerto Rico, so it was hot and uncomfortable at times, but I used that uncomfortable feeling in my performance and I’m very proud of the end result.
The storyline is very violent. How did you cope with shooting the harsher scenes?
The director’s goal was to make the scenes as real and raw as possible; for me it was all new. After we shot the film the director called me and said that they ended up having to edit a lot of the scenes because when they test-screened the movie, a bunch of people ended up walking out because they just couldn’t take the violence anymore. So a lot of the really harsh scenes weren’t used, but it’s still pretty brutal. It’s reality, you know? This is what these guys live and see every single day. I know my mom will be uncomfortable watching it [laughs], but for me, as an actress it was pretty amazing because I challenged myself.
On a much more uplifting note, what are you looking forward to the most about raising Sebella?
I had such a great upbringing in Puerto Rico and it was just a very normal life. My mom enjoyed raising me since I’m the only girl and the youngest of four, so for me to now have a little girl ... I just want to bring somebody good to the world. I can’t wait to have her be a Christian and get her education. I just want her to be a symbol for everything that is good.
Was your husband [actor Eric Winter of The Mentalist] helpful during your pregnancy?
He was amazing! I’m not just saying that either. I always tell people I feel like I won the lottery. He was so patient with me. He wanted to be a father so badly, so he was just incredible during the process. He came to every doctor’s visit, made all of the appointments and he handled the nursery design. He is very hands-on. I always joke and say that he is this child’s mom.
What’s the best motherly advice women in your family have given you?
My mother always gives the best advice. When I left Puerto Rico to pursue my dreams, she always supported me and said to me, “I’m never going to cut your wings, so don’t let anyone else do that to you.” That has been my philosophy through life. I want to share that valuable lesson with my little girl someday.