Tall (5-foot-ten) and striking, sexy Canadian actress and former model Natasha Henstridge first made a name for herself as the beautiful but lethal alien in the 1995 hit film Species (1995) After another successful appearance in the sequel, the 27-year-old Henstridge has now returned yet again to outer space in the new sci-fi horror film from John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (2001).
But this time she's on the side of the good guys, starring as a tough Martian cop named Melanie Ballard. Set on a colonized Mars some 175 years into the future, the story starts off routinely enough when Ballard is sent to a remote mining site to bring James "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube), the planet's most notorious criminal, to justice.
Joining Ballard on the mission are Jericho (Jason Statham), the cocky young gun; Commander Helena Braddock (Pam Grier), the tough-as-nails veteran and Descanso (Liam Waite), the reliable soldier. But when the team arrives at the mine only to find bloodshed and devastation, they slowly realize the true horror of the situation - that an archaeological dig site has accidentally unleashed dormant evil Martian forces bent on wiping out all traces of the human aliens on their planet.
Natasha kicks some serious Martian butt in the film, but today, as she relaxes in her LA hotel room, she looks like she might even have some problems just getting across the room. In fact, as she staggers up to get another cup of coffee she wheezes a bit and grabs a chair to support herself.
No, she's not totally out of shape - she's just seven months pregnant (the father is her 'Ghosts' co-star and longtime boyfriend Liam Waite, 28) and feeling it. But even with her extra weight - 25 pounds of it so far, Natasha still looks amazing in black jeans and a blue top that complements her blue-gray eyes.
"I know, I shouldn't be drinking coffee," she laughs, "but it's decaf and I've been so good in every other way. "
Settled back into her chair, Natasha is ready to talk...
So what's it like playing the tough action chick?
Great fun. It's an action-packed movie, that's for sure, and it has a nice twist as on Mars, women are the tougher sex and the ones in control. And that's something I could definitely relate to, as in my world it's really a matriachal society anyway.
Perhaps women are not as strong as men physically, at least generally speaking, but I think they are a lot tougher.
In what ways?
They can take a lot more pain and emotional punishment, and they don't whine about illness so much. (laughs) When I compare myself to my fiance, oh my God! One sniffle and he's crying. And that's not even mentioning childbirth.
Is it true you joined 'Ghosts' at the last minute after Courtney Love dropped out?
Yes. In fact, I only came on a few days before shooting began, so I had no time to prepare. But Liam had already been cast months before, so he had been really busy training and doing all this hand-to-hand combat, and I kept hearing all his stories about boot camp, and thought, 'That sounds like fun. '
So how did you get ready?
I have martial arts skills. Plus, I used to beat up a lot of kids at school, so I already had it in me. And it was just so much fun to be part of a big action film where you're not the girl in the high heels and mini-skirt being dragged around by the guy who gets to be the action hero. Melanie is sort of the anti-hero in the story. She is just trying to do her job really. Then when all hell breaks loose, she ends up becoming the commanding officer and has to take over.
How tough was it?
Pretty tough! We were shooting at nights and there was a lot of weather and the physicality of the role and the movie itself was tough. We were carrying a good thirty pounds of stuff with the guns and the vests, and then I also did most of my own stunts. I figured, if you are going to do a movie like this, why bother if you are not going to do your own stunts? You'd be sitting around a lot, you know.
What do you think audiences are going to get out of this film? It's a great ride
Yeah, it's just a fast ride. I don't know if I would read into it much more than that really. I think for me it is just an action packed fast ride. If you are into the horror sci-fiction genre it gives you something to think about, but it's got a few laughs too.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
I feel like I've had some experiences with that, yeah. I hate to get into it too much because I always end up looking like a crazy person at the end of the day.
But you obviously believe.
I believe, yeah, very much so. But any of the ghosts that I ever saw didn't look like Marilyn Manson, as they do in 'Ghosts,' let me tell you. Not at all like downtown Hollywood or something.
Tell us about your background. Aren't you Canadian, from Newfoundland originally?
I was born in Newfoundland, and moved when I was 4 to northern Alberta.
So you don't really remember Newfoundland?
I go back all the time. My parents have a really strong connection to there and their parents still live there and that kind of thing. I'm thinking about buying a place there. It's gorgeous.
So what did you inherit from your parents? From your mom?
I inherited from my mother a very nurturing side of my personality I think, and some of her looks. People say we look a lot alike, I don't see it or feel it, but a lot of other people say that. I think the nurturing side I definitely got from her and as I get a little older I realize I do have an emotional side that is quite a bit like her.
But I would say that 80 percent of my character comes from my father. I'm much more like my father. He is very strong, super strong, very motivated. I get my athletic ability from my father. Actually I get a lot of good and bad points from my dad.
Were you tall as a kid?
Yeah. It sucks being a tall girl growing up. (laughs)
You get a lot of teasing.
Yeah, you do, but. ..
But you've had the last laugh.
Yeah exactly. It builds character.
So you were a model originally?
Yeah. I left home at 14, went to Paris, did the whole modelling thing for a few years.
That must have been great. Did you know anyone in Paris?
No. I had this contest that I had won. I'd won this 'look of the year' contest, was first runner up, and moved over to Paris. I didn't really know anyone, but I had an agency there and that kind of thing.
Did you speak French?
So you were thrown in the deep end.
Yeah, I knew very very little. We learned a little bit in school, nothing really. Yeah, I was thrown in the deep end. It was really a big culture shock.
When did you stop modeling?
Well, I went from Paris to New York and lived in New York for a few years and did a lot of tv commercials there. I always loved to do tv commercials. I had a really good experience, everytime I'd go on auditions for commercials I would get them. So I thought, hmm, we're on to something here. And I used to do theatre when I was younger too so I'd always loved to act and I was a bit of a show off, bit of a ham. So I finally went out and did some auditions in New York and Species (1995) was one of the first I did, so I really lucked out.
So did you quit modeling then?
It was right then and there. As soon as I booked the movie I packed up my apartment in New York, moved to LA and said I'm gonna give it a shot.
Obviously there's a big stigma against ex-models acting and one can understand why.
Very much so because there are some really bad model/actors out there. You see that a lot, see a lot of models trying to act that are really bad so you can understand it a little bit, but we often forget some of the great models that act, like Isabella Rossellini. You forget that they were ever models, that's the thing.
So have you run up against that attitude, or is it ok?
Not really, it's not too bad actually. Yeah, I just give 'em a high kick on the chin and away we go! (laughs)
Weren't you married before your career took off?
I was married very briefly.
World record brief?
Almost. Not the 2-weeker or anything like that. We were married for a year legally, but we split up after about 5 months.
What went wrong?
What was wrong was that we never should have gotten married, that was part of the problem. I don't know what I was doing, I really don't. It was just a weird time, I was being young, caught up in a lot of things that were going on and wasn't thinking as clearly as I should have been.
Are you still friends?
We don't see each other much anymore, no
So now you are pregnant again. Are you married again?
No, no I'm engaged. That's fine, I've been engaged for four years now. (laughs) So, yeah, a long engagement. I'm starting to think about things a little more carefully.
Are you frightened to get married again?
I think there is a little bit of that, yeah, but we are planning on getting married, but we are not in a hurry. We have a little boy together, Tristan, and now another on the way and so we are pretty much married.
Do you like being pregnant?
Yeah, I don't mind it actually at all. I mean, the beginning is tough for me, I get really sick, but after that it is pretty amazing.
How many pounds have you put on now?
So far 25. Got a couple of months left. I put on about 40 pounds the last time and I'll probably put on about the same this time. I'm not your typical hollywood size 3 girl who puts on 15 lbs when she gets pregnant at all. I'm the first to admit it.
How do you lose it all afterward?
This time I'm going to get a nutritionist and a trainer right after and start working out three times a week. But not obsessively, as you have a new baby and that is the priority, you know what I mean? But yeah, I'll change my eating, as right now I eat bread and all the kind of fun stuff that I want to eat and afterwards I'll start to be a little more careful about it.
So this is number two, do you want a big family?
Yeah, number two, I think two is good. Unless ten years down the road I change my mind and think, oh maybe I want to be a mother again. We'll see, but probably two.
So your fiance was in the movie with you?
Yeah, he played Descanso, one of the rookie cops. He just did a small role in it. He lost his head and his arm, literally. (laughs)
So that must be better if you can work together on something.
It's nice to be together sometimes at least. I mean, we spend a lot of time apart. So, yeah that was a nice advantage, a nice bonus to doing this movie.
So is the whole family on the set?
Yeah, we have our nanny, our son, and Liam is there on this kind of movie. Normally we are mostly split up, but he's in China right now, for instance, for the entire pregnancy and I'm here.
Sounds like he just took off while you are pregnant.
Yeah, that's what I'm starting to think! His agent called up and said, "we got a job" and he said, "How far away is it? China, ok I'll take it. Sounds good, I don't have to deal with all this!" (laughs)
Obviously one of the big problems in Hollywood is being a mother and trying to pursue a full-time career.
It's very, very difficult. It's difficult in the best of times without children. The being apart and being away and the hours and the inconsistencies, and when you have children who really respond much better to consistency and all the normalcies of home and that kind of thing and you are travelling around and trying to balance the two and find great nannies and good things for them to do in different cities and all that, it's very very difficult, very tough.
Something must give.
If you want them bad enough you work twice as hard and you make it work. For me it's very important.
If the China location comes up you may think, 'I don't want to be away for 3 months on the other side of the world. '
(In mock-bitter tones) Yeah, well he went, didn't he!
Yeah, he made his bed, he's gonna lie in it now! No, you just make choices and he feels right now that it is important to his career to do it, so that's what we deal with.
But in terms of your career would you think twice now about locations?
Well, you know for the last 2 1/2 years I've travelled all over the place with my son, South Africa, Vancouver, we've done it.
So he's probably used to it
Yeah, but they never really get used to it I think, or maybe it's just my son's personality. And it's going to be much much more difficult with 2 kids, so it's certainly gives you a lot more to think about that's for sure.
Where are you based?
What do you do when you are not traveling?
Right now I'm swimming a lot. Just to cool down. I take my son to school, I just have a very normal life. Take him to his little preschool 3 times a week, go out, visit friends, go to the parks, that kind of shit.
Should you be drinking coffee?
Decaf and I don't drink very much. I'm using it to warm up actually. I don't drink coffee now.
Do you smoke?
No. I smoke when I'm not pregnant occasionally.
Do you drink?
Not when I'm pregnant, nothing.
So you are a good mom.
Oh yeah. I would never smoke or drink, wouldn't think of it, not for a second. But when I'm not pregnant I love to have a little cigarette and a glass of wine in the evening.
When is your birthday?
So what is so great about being a Leo?
I think Leos are very empowered and very confident and go through life as very generous people. I think they are the best sign of the zodiac. For sure it was great having a birthday in the summertime.
What are your vices? Are you a shopaholic?
I do like to shop. At the moment I have moved into a much larger house and I'm decorating and everyday and everywhere that I go I see things that I've got to have. It doesn't matter, I go to the Catalina paint store, and I'm buying new paint colors for the house, whatever it is. I do like to shop I must say, but I really don't like that about myself. I hate that fact that I'm sort of a consumer. I don't like that about me, but I am that and I am aware of it and I'm not too outrageous. I used to be worse actually before I had Tristan
Things are going so well for you now, but you must have had some period when things were going badly. Was there ever a point in your life when you felt you couldn't go on?
No, I've been pretty fortunate in my life. I've had ups and downs like anybody, we've talked about the marriage already, but nothing too awful. I've got nothing to complain about.