Top Gun: Maverick has been the shocker of the year. The sequel to the 1986 film is loved by audiences and critics, scoring a solid rotten tomatoes number well above the 90s; Top Gun: Maverick is the very definition of a popcorn blockbuster that demands to be seen in theaters. Of course, watching Tom Cruise do death-defying stunts is always a must; however, the sequel managed to weave together the cast in the first film with a new cast that features Lt. Natasha “Phoenix Trace, a tough-as-nails fighter pilot who happens to be the chick in the group. Speaking to The A.V. Club exclusively, actress Monica Barbaro discussed Top Gun: Maverick and the importance of her role:
“Yeah, it was such an interesting challenge. I thought it was necessary, and we all thought it was necessary to represent women in some specific way where every woman in the world feels represented by this one character – and ultimately, we realized that’s impossible. And then you start to look at it like, no, she’s a character. She’s another naval aviator in this group. And I was lucky to have some incredible pilots to learn from. And I asked them those questions, and they said the same thing- “We’re just striving for the day when we’re not female aviators, but we’re just aviators.” And everybody in our production team, Tom [Cruise], Joe [Kosinski], Jerry [Bruckheimer], me, the Navy, everyone cared immensely about having her be shown as a strong, capable pilot who you would trust with your life.”
It helped that the actual pilots were able to coach and guide the actress throughout shooting, which helped develop her character on screen, and her loyal relationship with Rooster:
“That was made easy [through] the actual pilots that I met who the kinds of people we sourced a lot of information to develop this character were. And also, her relationships with different people, like her solid, loyal relationship with Rooster, where she expects the most out of him. And meeting Bob and not necessarily trusting him at first, they build a perfect bond where they start sticking up for each other. And her feelings for Maverick are like, “Ha ha, who is this guy?” But immediately, “Oh, no, he’s going to give us everything we need to get this done.” So those became the things that I focused on”
Naturally, it wasn’t easy to act under extreme circumstances. All the actors had to be confident behind the cockpit while still displaying the necessary emotions to carry the film beyond what was expected. Barbaro went into further detail about the process and how Tom Cruise was such a big help:
“Well, it started by receiving this incredible gift as an actor from Tom, which was this all-encompassing flight training program. He gave us backstory in that we spent all this time learning how to fly basic aircraft takeoffs, landings, all oandvocabulary. We moved on to an aircraft that was doing aerobatics, and we sustained G’s and learned not to pass out during maneuvers. So we would practice maneuvers in the script, like I learned what a split ‘S’ was, which is something he pulls in the first movie-and, like, did one. And then we got to a dogfight in L-39s. So by the time we got to the jet, we had a lot of information and knew what these things felt like. And that was worth its weight in gold.
We had to re-film the scene where we were walking into the bar because we started walking differently everywhere we went after we had done all of this. It just gets into your body in a way that changes you and gives you a real sense of swagger, a pep in your step. So that was fed to us organically through learning as much as possible what these guys do for a living. And it was designed after the naval aviation training courses. Obviously, they do it a little bit differently, but it wasn’t that dissimilar. We told [our real-life counterparts] what we did, and they said, “Oh yeah, that’s how you learn to do what we do, eventually.” So we brought that with us in our performance, which helps.”
The Top Gun: Maverick actress continues about her role in the hit sequel, discussing if she ever expected to get such an ample opportunity if her relationship with Rooster was more explicit in the script, and so much more.
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