Jessica Alba Loves Making Action Movies Without Machismo

Jessica Alba doesn’t need to do this.

The “this” in question being kicking ass for nearly two hours in her Netflix movie Trigger Warning, playing a special forces commando who returns home when her father dies mysteriously and his business is put in jeopardy. Not too long ago, Alba was serving as the visionary behind her billion-dollar brainchild, The Honest Company, an eco-friendly brand that’s tailor made for the ingredient-aware crowd.

But in April, Alba took a step back from her duties as Chief Creative Officer of the company and, just a few months later, she’s back on our screens doing what made her famous decades ago. To hear her explain the decision to launch her own production company and partner with the minds behind John Wick and Sicario to make a female-fronted action flick that pays homage to the gritty, knuckle bruisers of the ’80s is to hear an artist successfully navigating the business side of Hollywood. She’s no-nonsense about the stories she wants to see made – ones that are more diverse and grounded in authenticity – and the morale she wants to cultivate on set. The testosterone can go, and so can the unwillingness to collaborate and compromise – two abilities she honed while running her company for 12 years.

UPROXX chatted with Alba about her new approach to moviemaking, how her Netflix film helped her heal from a devastating loss, and the one request she had for the John Wick stunt guys.

It’s been five years since you’ve starred in a film. Why did you want to jump back into things now, and with this movie?

I just thought this would be really fun to do, to be honest. I love doing action. I think it’s so fun to watch a gritty action movie, and this is kind of a throwback. The producers, they did John Wick and they also did Sicario, so I knew they knew how to do these elevated action movies, and I was like, ‘What is one that we could create that feels really authentic?’ We’re paving our own way and owning our own lane and being able to do it through this feminine lens. We brought in a woman writer, the director’s a woman, and a lot of the department heads were women. The DP was a woman, the onset producers are women, so the set felt really different from the normal kind of machismo type set. There really wasn’t any of that. That nonsense would not fly on this set. It felt, not easy, but manageable in a different way.

Is it like riding a bike? Do the moves just come back to you once you start doing the choreography?

It was humbling in the beginning just because my body wasn’t physically there, so that took a bit, it was like two months of training. Learning the knife skills was a new challenge for me and that was fun. I’ve never really fought with knives like that. I’ll add that to the list of the things that I can do now.

Your character really loves her knives.

I think the hand-to-hand combat, with her taking down these bigger guys, it made it more realistic. It would’ve been a little harder without the knife, frankly.

How has the industry, and your approach to movie-making, changed since the beginning of your career?

Yeah, I mean a lot is different, which is great. There are so many more opportunities with all the streamers for diversity and for different representation to come forward, which is so nice. I feel also more comfortable in standing in my truth and saying what I won’t do. If this doesn’t feel right, I have no problem with saying no because ultimately, I know it’s going to be me up there or it’s going to be me on location having to do the thing, day in and day out, and I have to really feel connected to it.

Speaking of, what about this movie convinced you it was worth dedicating that kind of time to?

I think that strong connection to family is something I could relate to very much. I just happened to be, around this time, grieving my grandfather who was a father figure of mine. So it was kind of cathartic going through that. I’d never really experienced a loss that close to me before. So that storyline really made sense.

Were there any stunts that made you nervous on the day?

I had so much trust and faith in the stunt team. They worked out all of the choreography before I even got there and they made sure that I was going to look cool. I was like, ‘I just want to look badass. I don’t want to look like weak sauce over here or else it’s not believable. The audience will sniff it out.’

Is there a parallel between running your own business and being a producer on the set of a film? Does one help you understand the other?

The thing is about business is, even if it is your company and your vision, ultimately you have to have a great team in order for anything to get done. And I think very much in Hollywood, you need a great team in order for anything to get done. It’s about building bridges, it’s about relationships and making connections, people just wanting to be seen and feel respected and also, they don’t want to be micromanaged. That was something early in my business life that did a lot of: micromanaging. I had to learn how to pull back and trust people. That’s hard to do because I felt like my business was my baby. And in a lot of ways on the set, you have to allow people to kind of take the reins and be the experts in what they’re hired there to do and trust ’em. It’s not always going to be perfect, people are going to make mistakes but you got to keep it moving.

‘Trigger Warning’ is now streaming on Netflix.