Q&A: Terminator’s dark new villain shows his soft side

Nataleah Small

“Terminator: Dark Fate” hit theaters Nov. 1. The film is the sixth iteration of the killer robot saga that first gained popularity in the 1980s.

In the film, Gabriel Luna plays the deadly and nearly indestructible Rev-9 terminator. The character is stern, calculated and aggressive. Luna couldn’t be more different.

During a conversation with the Texan, the Austin native discussed growing up, watching the Terminator films, his time on set and getting in the  headspace of a villain.

Daily Texan: Growing up, did you like watching the Terminator movies?

Gabriel Luna: I always loved the Terminator movies. I saw the first one at nine years old accompanied by an adult. (I) fell in love. At nine years old, you put yourself in the shoes of John Connor and you’re imagining being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best friend and him protecting you and you guys going on this adventure. Then you flash forward 28 years and he is your friend and you have the real experience.

DT: When you were younger, did you ever think you could have a role in these movies?

GL: No, never at all. I never even considered being an actor when I was young. I was an extremely smart kid. I was always top of my class. I was friendly, but I wasn’t overly extroverted. It was always football, basketball, track. That’s all I cared about. (My mom) was a 15-year-old widow when she had me, so school always came first. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school, after I sustained an injury playing football and I had to pivot, that I started pursuing the arts. It (was) a good decision in hindsight.

DT: During your time on screen, you were either in action scenes or staring down your target. How did you get in the headspace to play the Terminator?

GL: Be confident in the fact that your human body in space is enough. If you occupy that space and you stand there with confidence and with energy and frequency buzzing in your body like a drawn bow, you can achieve a level of presence that is undismissable. People have to look at you even though you’re not necessarily speaking or moving your face or doing anything in particular. Be OK with doing nothing. It’s OK. Just sit there and see and listen, and the audience will be with you.

DT: Did you and the cast share any fun or quirky moments on set?

GL: When I was on stage, most times I (was) staring daggers at Natalia Reyes (who played Dani Ramos) and scaring her all the time. But we played a neck slice game. As a Terminator I took it very seriously (and) became very competitive. The idea would be you try to sneak up on someone and slice their neck (with your hand). If they block it, you have to do 20 push ups. If they don’t block it, they have to fall, play dead (and) you get to take a photo. All of those photos were compiled and shown in the slideshow at our wrap party. So there was this healthy competition of who could be the greatest Terminator on set.

DT: Who was the greatest Terminator?

GL: I was, of course.