Martha Higareda has been setting fire to Mexican cinema for years. Up next? Hollywood!
What better omen of Hollywood success is there than seeing LA for the first time during a quinceanera? Ever since that point, says Martha Higareda, “LA’s always been my city.” In fact, everything changed at age 15. It’s when Higareda, an advanced student, left her hometown of Villahermosa, Mexico, for university in Mexico City. The actress, who stars in Netflix’s newly released sci-fi thriller Altered Carbon, recalls taking her courses by day before studying acting at night—alongside her younger sister and mother, who had followed her to the big city (and who too are now professional actresses). “They make you kiss another person [in acting class], right? Well, my mom was sitting right there,” says Higareda, now 34. “In the front row!”
Perhaps Mom’s presence proved fruitful: After graduation, Higareda wasted little time in making a name for herself on-screen, starring, at 19, in the box-office hit Amar te duele. Hollywood breakthroughs came with Borderland (2007) and Street Kings (2008), around which time she began a decadelong back-and-forth between Mexico and LA, ultimately making the full-time move north of the border last year.
A gifted scriptwriter—a skill she honed at UCLA during the 2008 writers’ strike—Higareda is also enchanted with creating her own material, as she did with 2014’s Cásese quien pueda, the third-highest-grossing movie in Mexican history. How do you top that? Science fiction! (“I’m obsessed,” she says. “My dad used to give me all of Julio Verne’s books”—that’s Jules Verne, for gringos.) At least she’s gotten her first major taste of the genre with Altered Carbon, a futuristic dystopia in which human consciousness has been condensed onto implantable hard drives. Higareda’s Kristin Ortega, a police detective, has good reason to track the consciousness that’s been installed into co-star Joel Kinnaman’s wide frame.
As far as the consequences of immortality, Altered Carbon “explores the dark side,” Higareda says. But in her own real-life script, the future in La La Land is looking especially shiny at the moment.