In End of Watch, Natalie Martinez plays the wife of L.A. police officer Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as he and his partner Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) get wrapped up in a mob plot. But that didn’t stop the actress from bonding with the boys. “I love boys. I had such a good time with them in the sense that they just crack jokes all the time,” Martinez told Uinterview exclusively. “They’re fun. It was cool, though, because when we come on set, it feels like they’re protective over us… Anna Kendrick was Jake Gyllenhaal’s love interest. So they were a little protective over us.”

Born and raised in Miami, Fla., Martinez had dabbled in modeling while growing up but had given up those plans to work in healthcare as a neonatal nurse. However, in 2001, at the suggestion of her mother, she won a job as a spokesmodel for J.Lo, the fashion line of Jennifer Lopez. From there, she launched into an acting career, starring on shows such as Fashion House, Saints and Sinners and Detroit 1-8-7. Her film debut was in 2008’s Death Race, opposite Jason Statham.

While filming Watch, Martinez, 28, felt the gravity of the subject matter. “You feel you know [police officers] a little bit more,” she told Uinterview. “It makes it a little bit more personal because you know what they’re like at the homefront. We see these guys riding around all the time, but we forget that they’re husbands, fathers, they’re brothers, they’re sons. And they have that family that they go back home to.”

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Q: Hi Natalie, This is Siobhan from New York. With this being such an edgy, urban action movie, what was it like off and on set dealing with the predominantly male cast? - Siobhan Goddard

I love it. I love boys. I had such a good time with them in the sense they just crack jokes all the time. They’re fun. It was cool, though, because when we come on set, it feels like they’re protective over us. I play Michael Pena’s wife; Anna Kendrick was Jake Gyllenhaal’s love interest. So they were a little protective over us. It was fun; it was just fun to be there with such a great cast and people who just got along so great.

Q: Thanks. How important was it to you that the role of policemen’s families were highlighted? - Siobhan Goddard

I think it’s really important. It gives them a human characteristic to the character. You feel you know them a little bit more. It makes it a little bit more personal, because you know what they’re like at the homefront. We see these guys riding around all the time, but we forget that they’re husbands, fathers, they’re brothers, they’re sons. And they have that family that they go back home to. It was really important because we always see these guys like the man with the badge and protecting and serving and all these things and we never really get to see them in the homefront, or trying to get married or having a baby for the first time. It just kind of humanizes them a little bit.

Q: Is it hard to return to your life after playing an intense role? - Uinterview

Well you know what, it was kind of hard because this experience was so different than shooting regular movies. I went and shot another movie after this and it was such a completely different experience because End of Watch, we had a lot of freedom in the sense where there wasn’t just a camera setup, we had hand handheld cameras, chest cameras, we had like POV cameras. There were cameras everywhere. You were very loose with what you were doing. You didn’t care about your mark, you didn’t care about turning around or doing this, because you didn’t know who was seeing what, when they were seeing it. And you were very involved in your characters, especially spending so much time with these people — like Michael Pena and I spent so much time together — that when you leave it’s kind of like you miss your friends, you miss going to work and playing. It was a lot of fun.