Empire Spotlight: Adria Arjona Is Hitting The Target

Empire Spotlight – Adria Arjona

by Iana Murray |
Published on

The Hit Man star takes aim as her career levels up

Adria Arjona knows just how scary it can be to meet your heroes. One of her all-time favourite movies is School Of Rock, and when she first met Richard Linklater, not even the relative safety of a Zoom call could save her. “My hands were sweaty,” she admits to Empire. “I was really trying to play it cool and that lasted for about ten minutes.”

Empire Spotlight – Adria Arjona

After a series of supporting turns in genre fare (Pacific Rim: Uprising, Good Omens), crime dramas (True Detective), and recently as the forthright Bix in Andor, the 31-year-old actor is stepping into fresh territory with Linklater’s romcom HitMan. Alongside Glen Powell, she stars as Madison, a housewife with a controlling husband who falls for the contract killer (Powell) she hires to take him out. The only problem: her new boyfriend is actually working undercover for the police as a fake hitman.

Arjona’s interest in acting was first fostered by another one of her heroes: Gena Rowlands, the trailblazing actor and key collaborator of John Cassavetes. “I admire her spontaneity,” Arjona explains. “I try my best to recreate it, but I don’t even get to her ankles. Maybe one day when I’m 80 years old, I’ll get to four per cent of Gena Rowlands’ capacity.” Her desire to act motivated her to move to New York when she was 18, where she worked double shifts as a waitress while studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre And Film Institute. Two years later she started landing small TV roles, before her breakthrough gig as Taylor Kitsch’s harried partner Emily on the second season of True Detective.

"We created a space for us to play and be weird and sexy and funny."

It was Hit Man, however, that allowed for the spontaneity she was so drawn to, particularly when it came to her partnership with Powell. “It was supposed to be a one-hour meeting,” she says of the first time they sat down together. “We ended up talking for five hours.” The pair’s spark is the film’s driving force, and Arjona found freedom in their collaboration: “Chemistry comes from trust, and I think from our first meeting I just knew I could trust [Glen]. We created a space for us to play and be weird and sexy and funny.”

Empire Spotlight – Adria Arjona

Madison is literal galaxies apart from Arjona’s current stint as the driven mechanic Bix in Andor, but the actor’s recent trajectory suggests she has an appetite for women who refuse to go down without a fight. The second season of the Star Wars spin-off — which has just finished shooting — joins Bix after she’s been brutally tortured at the hands of the Imperial Guard, and is now on the lam. “I think [creator] Tony Gilroy’s writing is so smart that wherever people think my character’s journey is going to go, it’s ten times more complex than what people imagine,” she teases.

Following Hit Man, Arjona’s next big-screen venture will be alongside Channing Tatum in Zoë Kravitz’s directorial debut Blink Twice, a psychological thriller that has pivoted from a somewhat racier title. “The movie will always be called ‘Pussy Island’ in my heart,” Arjona says sincerely. The film centres on the power struggle between a cocktail waitress and a tech mogul (Tatum) on his remote island. Arjona believes it will cement Kravitz’s name as a filmmaker: “I think people are going to be really surprised by her ability as a director.”

As for her own career, Arjona continues to pick the roles which most move and excite her. “I wish I was more of a strategic actor when it comes to making choices,” she explains. “But I’m just more excited by the women that I get to embody.” Spontaneity, boldness... the spirit of Gena Rowlands lives on.

Between Scenes – Spotlight

The Podcast: Smartless

“It’s hilarious, and no-one has better chemistry than [hosts] Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett.”

The Album: Cowboy Carter – Beyoncé

Cowboy Carter – Beyonce

“I think it’s so inspirational for Beyoncé to break all barriers and create this album. I think it makes her so much cooler. She’s amazing.”

The Book: The Incredible And Sad Tale Of Innocent Eréndira And Her Heartless Grandmother – Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Gabriel García Márquez is my dad’s favourite writer and has become mine as I’ve grown older. This is one of his works that not a lot of people know about. When I read it, it broke my heart.”

Hit Man is in selected UK cinemas from 24 May and on Netflix from 7 June.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of Empire. Photography by Maggie Shannon, shot exclusively for Empire in Los Angeles.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us