Cinthya Carmona has no qualms about being a woman in dark and angst-ridden films. While action and thriller films normally have a reputation of providing actresses with little depth or opportunity, Carmona praises her upcoming crime saga The Tax Collector for doing the opposite. The Shia LaBeouf-helmed drama is still a mystery to moviegoers, who are even unaware of when the flick hits theaters, but Carmona has insights into the gritty story and being a Latina woman in Hollywood that may clear some questions. Get ready to shift your perspective, because The Tax Collector's Cinthya Carmona sees this action role as a means for a strong woman to thrive.
While former Disney star LaBeouf is currently receiving praise for his autobiographical Honey Boy, Even Stevens devotees can't exactly scan the internet for clues about The Tax Collector. News of the movie broke online in June 2018 before filming commenced that summer. The production released little details, but its casting plus the promise of Honey Boy hinted that 2019 was shaping to be a comeback year for LaBeouf. In a conversation with Elite Daily, his co-star Carmona spills what she can about the project, revealing that the movie follows two days in the life of the titular tax collector, David Cuevas (played by Bobby Soto), who runs an organized crime group in Los Angeles.
"His partner-in-crime is the very talented Shia LaBeouf," Carmona tells me, gesturing with her hands when she gets excited. "His character's name in the movie is Creeper — that says it all. [David]'s a boss on the streets, he’s feared and very well-respected... he’s also a family man, though, and he has what you would call the Mexican-American dream life and family. He’s got two beautiful kids and he has a lovely wife named Alexis Cuevas, who I am so honored to have had the opportunity to play."
Describing Alexis as the "Latina Martha Stewart," Carmona finds her character subject to the troubles of a man's life, as is the pattern in many similar movies. However, Alexis has more control over David than she may initially appear to hold. Carmona's professional tone turns slower and introspective when she describes Alexis, as if she's still striving to do her character justice.
"Everything in her life is perfect, but we all know nothing is ever perfect and it’s usually a facade to cover up something a lot more serious," Carmona says. "While David is the boss of the streets, when you get home you realize that there's a little bit of a shift in power of who's really the boss in town."
When a rival is released from jail, the Cuevas family is forced to go on the run, introducing the question of what they are willing to sacrifice for power. Billing the movie as a mashup of Pulp Fiction and Training Day, Carmona has embraced the intensity of a role vastly different from her most well-known work in Netflix's teen drama Greenhouse Academy. In an influential move, Tax Collector director and writer David Ayer, whose past directing credits include Suicide Squad and Fury, was honest with her about Alexis' presence as the movie's strongest character.
"He was like, 'This movie is going to be violent, it's going to be aggressive, it's going to be brutal, it’s going to mess with people's minds, but you as a woman are the strongest character,'" Carmona says. "That’s my goal right now in my career... I’m not interested in playing the damsel in distress. I consider myself a strong woman, I come from a line of incredibly strong women before me, and these are the kinds of characters that I want to play."
Ayer also encouraged an immersive understanding of the cast's characters and their world. "He writes these super complex storylines and characters with these pretty messed-up backgrounds but they’re real," Carmona says, pausing throughout our talk to gush about her admiration and love of the filmmaker. "He’s got this exterior about him that you just know he’s seen and been through a lot in life... working alongside David, he reveals this world [of gang culture] to you. In all his movies you can see he’s comfortable with the streets, he’s comfortable with darkness, and he shows it in a way where you learn. It’s brutal, it’s harsh, and it’s a lot to handle sometimes but it’s very real."
While serving as a platform for Carmona's career to grow, The Tax Collector is also set to begin a new chapter in LaBeouf's life. "Shia, in my opinion, is one of the greatest actors of our generation," Carmona says. "I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s incredibly talented, he is raw in every sense of the word... he’s also extremely humble, and that is the most beautiful part about him, that he took basically unknown actors and he taught us so much... he’s left such an amazing example of what hard work, dedication, and true passion for your art really looks like."
It is our time and we're gonna be here for a while, I’ll tell you that much.
The stability of Carmona's long-running stint as student leader Sophie on Greenhouse Academy has allowed her to pursue grittier work like The Tax Collector, but she admits to only recently seeing more widespread opportunities for diverse actors. During our talk, she often gabs at a lightning speed, reminiscent of your eager friend who you're finally catching up with over lunch. At one point, she even apologizes for her lengthy answers, saying, "I'm a talker." But when we reach the subject of multicultural representation, Carmona breaks her perfect posture to inch closer with a trusting air as she revisits her past as a Latina actor.
Coming to the United States with her family from Colombia and Venezuela, a young Carmona relied on sitcoms like Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and George Lopez to learn English. When she began to act professionally more than a decade ago, cinema seemed to lack characters in which she could recognize herself.
"Movies are just so much more inclusive now, whereas I would see that before more on television," she says, citing Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, and Roma as examples of change. "Now I’m seeing it on the big screen and it makes me nothing but grateful to be in this time in society where that is what our generation is watching in the movie theaters. I’m so happy of my culture and of my heritage and I’m in awe of all of the opportunities that there are now... it's changed 100 percent and it is our time and we're gonna be here for a while, I’ll tell you that much."
As her optimistic spirit scatters across the room, Carmona says goodbye with a hug and a smile. When it comes to believing in the darkness of The Tax Collector, we only have her word to rely on so far. However, it's clear that, like Alexis, Carmona has found a way to thrive in a bleak world.
Photographs by Ben Ritter