Passions are integral components to an individual’s life and personality. Sometimes, passions must be categorized based on the level of the passion’s importance to the individual or even completely eliminated due to a loss of interest. However, there are some cases where an individual can balance their passions and meld them together in their careers. Christina Ochoa is able to balance her passion for acting and science perfectly to the point where she doesn’t have to give up one for the other.
Ochoa stars in TNT’s Animal Kingdom, Syfy’s Blood Drive, and the upcoming CW show Valor. While acting, she puts time, effort, and research into her distinctly powerful and intelligent characters, especially with her newest character in Valor, Nora, the first female special ops helicopter pilot who is thrust into the dark world of military and government secrets. Her second passion is her love for science. Ochoa has done spectacular work in science communication with her podcast Know Brainer, and gives back with the work she has done for the non-profit Earth’s Oceans Foundation. Through her own discipline and hard-work, Ochoa shows how focusing on multiple passions can be so rewarding.
Cliché: How and when did you find your passion for acting?
Christina Ochoa: I fell in love with acting after an amateur theater class a few years ago. I was convinced it would help my public speaking and ended up hooked. Soon enough, I was in the conservatory in Madrid and planning my move to LA.
You’ve played the complex drug dealer, Renn Randall, in the hit TNT drama Animal Kingdom and the determined femme fatale street racer, Grace d’Argento, in Syfy’s dark comedy Blood Drive. Do you have any memorable moments with other actors from one or both of these shows?
Playing Renn was the first time I got to truly dive deep into a role. Ben (Robson) and I worked the relationship backstory before shooting, and it certainly helped diffuse any nerves before some of the more intimate scenes. I’ve been very lucky to work with pretty amazing co-stars. Colin Cunningham was incredible to watch because he takes beautiful risks.
When going out for a role, what qualities or characteristics do you look for in a character?
If I read the script and I “hear” their voice can’t really predict a character’s responses, I’m very drawn. It presents a challenge and allows me to work on the internal machinations of these women to figure them out.
Can you tell us about your character Nora and the plot in your upcoming CW drama Valor?
Nora Madani is the first female special ops helicopter pilot in the 186th unit, the Shadow Raiders (based on the real 160th unit, the Nightstalkers).
Did you have to take part in any military training or research before taking on the role of Nora?
I did a lot of research, read as much as I could (biographies/books like Shoot Like a Girl, Ashley’s War, and Black Hawk Down), but what was most instrumental were the conversations with female vets, two of whom are writers on the show, and our technical advisor, Dan Laguna.
What first made you interested in taking on the character of Nora?
The script. It was one of the strongest I’ve read in a very long time. Leave it up to a playwright (Kyle Jarrow) to craft such a wonderfully fledged character with a woven story and conflict that defies all tropes. I fell in love with her immediately.
Is this role similar or different to other characters you have portrayed?
I’ve been very lucky to be cast in roles of strong, powerful, intelligent, and confident women. Renn, Grace, and Nora are all women I admire in some way, despite their coping mechanisms or their faults. They own their mistakes and they are all fighters.
How was it working with the rest of the cast? Did you have any fun moments with them?
We are so lucky to have such a fun and supportive cast. We all strive to do the best job we can. Matt and I are also figuring out how to convince the network to let us get our pilot licenses, so we can really fly these Black Hawks! Fingers crossed.
Your great uncle Severo Ochoa was a Nobel Prize winner and your father Victor Ochoa is a famous sculptor. Were you raised in a both scientific and artistic environment?
Yes. Those are both very strong influences in my life and my career choices.
You have been able to uniquely balance your love of science and acting very well. You are a science communicator, you’re a contributing member of Mensa, you’ve been part of the Los Angeles Committee Society for Science & the Public, and the host of your own podcast, Know Brainer. How do you combine your two passions together in your daily life?
They fluctuate; I work more in sci-comm when I’m on hiatus and focus more on punctual philanthropic work while I’m shooting…but I’m always happy to be a part of something striving to make an impact. Both entertainment and STEM do it in their own way.
You host a private monthly event known as Science Soiree, an event that brings together important figures in both the film industry and the scientific community to discuss science ideas, concepts, and topics. How important is it for both the film industry and the scientific community to come together to talk about developments in science?
The film industry has such a strong impact in society, in youth, and in inspiring individuals to care about the current state of the world. The more we infuse our content with meaningful substantive messages, the better for everyone.
Do you believe women should have a greater role in scientific research, topics, and discussion?
Women (and minorities) already do have an incredibly important role in STEM. Most, unfortunately, just haven’t been recognized or have struggled with being undermined because of it. Now is definitely the perfect time to encourage the newer generations across the board to move into these fields, so highlighting varied role models is key.
You are part of the non-profit organization Earth’s Oceans Foundation, which focuses on the protection of the world’s oceans and its natural resources. What should people be made aware of when it comes to the protection of the world’s oceans and how can they help?
Doing what you can to support sustainable fisheries and less plastic/pollutants is very important. Global warming, human impact, and lack of education are the biggest concerns. We need to get scientists and conscientious individuals who care into office. Impacting legislation and policy-making is the one thing that can make the biggest difference on a global scale.
What advice would you give anyone who wanted to follow both a career in acting and science but were a little unsure of taking it on?
Find a platform to make the world a better place. Whatever that is, whatever the job, use your skills to grow, to learn, and to then impact others with it. Usually when you believe in things bigger than yourself and have a cause, discipline, hard work, and passion all flow relatively easily, and with that combination, there’s very little one can’t tackle.
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Actress Christina Ochoa Talks Her Passion for Acting and Science: photographer: Quavondo, stylist: Yesenia Cuevas, hair: Aviva Perea, makeup: Vera Steimberg