Boon Star Christina Ochoa Talks Creative Freedom in Neo-Western
Christina Ochoa has been busy regularly working in television, starring in projects like TNT's Animal Kingdom and ABC/Hulu's Promised Land. The actress takes the occasional film role, and when she heard that Neal McDonough was working on the neo-Western Boon, she jumped at the opportunity. I spoke to the actress about her role as Emilia Fitzgerald, learning from her more seasoned co-stars, and working with writer-director Derek Presley, including providing her creative input.
"Before I even had a chance to read the script or have calls with Ruve and Neal and our producers and just the caliber of people involved, I knew no matter what the final product, the process itself would be a learning experience," Ochoa said. "I would get a chance to share the screen with Neil, Tommy Flanagan, James Madio, and these veterans that have been doing it for 30 or 40 years. I jumped at the opportunity even before knowing [my character] Amelia and what she would end up doing. I was like, 'I want to help these people go on this journey and do it with them.'" Boon, the follow-up to 2021's Red Stone, follows the title character Nick Boon (McDonough) defending a struggling widow (Christiane Seidel) and her son living in fear of a criminal kingpin (Flanagan).
"This is a project that not only is the epic kind of story of the good versus evil kind of epic battle that we all relate to," Ochoa said before breaking down her character. "We've all felt like victims to an unjust and unfair situation that we want to battle, and we have no choice but to because inaction doesn't really show up as an option, but also, I think for me, this is the first time I've done a character that was so on the dark end of the spectrum and no heart, no conscience, and no guilt. To indulge in that defined my way towards her so that I don't judge her, so I don't vilify her, and to just enjoy tapping into those feelings and tapping into that person. That was unique for me."
Filming encountered an unexpected obstacle as cast and crew acclimated to COVID protocols as Ochoa described the camaraderie on set. "We were 'battle buddies' in the trenches," she said. "That's kind of the analogies that I tend to use for it because an indie feature is very difficult to get it going and get it to go seamlessly. We were in Spokane, Washington. It snowed on us on days where we had to match the exterior to the previously established completely dry, completely snowless place. It was just constant unexpected battles everywhere. So we were all in this together for one of the first productions. I believe that was shot during the pandemic very early on. So we were all also learning what those protocols were like and trying to be safe. [Derek] was very collaborative. He shared a lot, and our producers, in general, did as well. One of the things that I think was great is that Neal and these veteran actors because they had done it so much. They knew and helped Derek really create this very cooperative environment where everyone felt creatively, very free, very capable of doing and trying different things. I think that shows when you have someone who's been doing it for so long, they've seen it all, and there's a reason for it. There's a reason people like Neal and stuff keep getting in this industry bigger and bigger, and they keep doing more amazing things. It's because they know how to navigate those situations. So I just got to learn from what that set was like."
Ochoa was grateful for the creative freedom allowed on set with her character. "We had permission, which is a rarity and a wonderful way to get everyone invested and involved," she explained. "We had permission to give our input and discuss things. I started talking in Spanish at times when I was barking orders and things like that. Tommy and I have a similar way of working. So there were a lot of little ad-libs and lines that were between us for that chemistry. I think that everybody felt like they had a lot of ownership over these characters and over these parts. There's nothing like getting us involved in that way to help make something the best it can be." Boon comes to theaters, on-demand and digital, on April 1st.
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