There are days in one’s life where you realize how blessed you are. For me, those days were in June of 2008. Earlier, I auditioned for the role of “Gabby” for a movie called The Red Queen. After three call backs, I received news that I got cast as the lead role of “Gabriella Carmella Diaz Salinas.” Another passion of mine, besides martial arts, is acting. What I was so drawn to about this role was that I was going to be able to showcase my passion for the martial arts as the character, Gabby. I am able to portray a character who is a martial arts instructor and who seeks to unveil the mysteries of her past. In the course of discovering her past, she encounters lethal enemies who wish to inflict harm upon her family.
Months prior to the auditions, I read the synopsis of the movie on a poster, and this is what it stated: GABRIELLA, ‘GABBY’, SALINAS has spent her entire life yearning for a connection with her mother, who died during childbirth at the remote St. Amelia’s Mission on the muddy banks of the Rio Grande. Desperate to know where she came from, Gabby has been pressing her father, JOSE SALINAS, for details, but the man refuses to tell his daughter anything more than her mother was a poor immigrant from Nicaragua and that he’s a foster kid fr om Santa Fe. As Gabby uses the Internet to search for information on her maternal heritage, she sets in motion a series of events that upends her world. She learns her father is not a foster kid from Santa Fe and her late mother was never from Nicaragua. In fact, her mother may not be dead at all, but alive, in hiding, and in mortal danger. As Gabby reels from learning her entire life is a lie, she still continues her pursuit of the truth. Despite many trials and obstacles, and determined and dangerous opponents, Gabby Salinas finally gains the connection with her mother that she has always desired.
Did it just mention “determined and dangerous opponents?” Will I be able to fight in this movie and demonstrate my passion for the martial arts through film? I had 101 questions running in and out of my mind, but all that engulfed my thoughts was the day of the auditions.
Months had passed and audition day finally came! I auditioned against several established Los Angeles actresses, as well as many talented local actresses on April 1, 2008, and a week and a half=2 0later, the paper I had been waiting for was finally posted. The cast list! I remember feeling butterflies migrating to every nerve ending in my body making me feel as though my excitement was endless. I felt my heart race seeing my name posted on the door: Linda Marie Bustamante as Gabby. I remember staring at the door that had the cast list and thinking to myself, “I did it!” At that moment, I realized I had an opportunity of a lifetime.
I was honored to get the lead role and to be working alongside Valley native, Valente Rodriguez, best known for his role as “Ernie” on The George Lopez Show. Rodriguez played Jose Salinas, my father, in the movie. If anyone has experienced nerves that just make you shiver/tremble, well, don’t feel bad; I felt that sensation of nerves the first day of filming. Those “nerves” engulfed my whole being knowing that the first scene of the day was going to be with Valente. I remember Valente going over his lines before we started filming and saw him coming toward me and he asked me, “How are you doing? Are you nervous?” I told him, “I have to be honest… I am nervous.” He responded warmly, “Don’t be nervous, I am here for y ou if you need help… Let’s go over our lines.” At that instant, all my nervousness seemed to fade away. With a more confident outlook towards my role and ability, I was focused and ready to start the first day of filming. During the duration of the filming, I was also able to work with Estephania Lebaron from The Alamo and Harley Jane Kozak from Parenthood. Lebaron played the role of Sister Carmella and Kozak played the role of Church Lady. To be able to work with these veteran actors really instilled in me an understanding of how actors prepared, rehearsed and performed, which I valued greatly.
One particular scene hit me hard with reality. It was four days until filming was over. In this scene, I find out that my life might be a complete lie, and I am devastated and sad knowing everything I was ever told might not be true, that my whole life could be a lie. What was so significant about this scene were the emotions that I was portraying as Gabby became mine.
At that moment, feeling devastated and sad, I realized that this whole experience was about to end. I was no longer going to hear those infamous words from director David Carren, “That’s a keeper!” a saying we would hear when a scene came out exactly the way he envisioned it. I was no longer going to be able to run lines with my fellow cast or fall asleep with my script at hand making sure I was fully prepared for the following day’s scenes. Nor was I going to hear the cast and crew call my little sister, “Little Bustamante”, who played a minor role in the film. Whether the memories were small or big, I cherished each day as if it were my last. I knew that the time would go by fast, but for some reason, that day, it hit me hard. The emotions were real, not as my character, “Gabby”, but as Linda Marie Bustamante. After I was done with that scene, I remember looking up, looking at all the cast and crew, seeing everyone smile and laugh, just having a good time, and I remember capturing a mental photo of the passion we all shared, a time in our lives when we became a family. Each person gave me a part of themselves, whether it was saying, “Good morning Linda,” a smile, or just lending a helping hand, that, to me, meant everything.
The last day of shooting came and all I could think of was, “I am finally starting to see the seed of my dream begin to bloom.” In this film, I was able to showcase the martial arts in a positive way as well as embody this wonderful character that David Carren and Jack Stanley envisioned. What an honor! I truly believe with the help of David Carren, Jack Stanley, Marian Monta, the cast and crew and my loving family, my dream is starting to become a reality.
You can write me at: LindaBustamante@worldblackbelt.com