Now the venomous vixen is ready to pick up where she left off when the show returns Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8/7CT on El Rey Network.
When the concept was initially pitched to her, with names like Robert Rodriguez and Mark Burnett on board, it was hard for her not to be interested. Catrina — real name Karlee Perez — is enjoying the creative freedom that comes with working on the series.
“Lucha Underground was like an answer to a prayer,” she said. “I was able to bring something I was already trained in for years. The acting aspect of it is something I’m extremely passionate about. These producers, not coming from the wrestling industry, understand entertainment. They understand movies, television and characters. Then you throw in wrestling and it was like a dream come true because I have been able to do both. These vignettes we do are like feature films and the best of the best production. They treat it as a TV show. To them, that is what it is. It’s how we shoot and film. It has all prepared me and made me ready for all the things coming my way. More opportunities are coming because of this, so I’m very grateful that this show has a mixture of both.”
Opportunity was not really given to the former diva known as Maxine during her run with WWE. Seeing a dead end there, the 29-year-old made the brave decision to leave of her own volition.
“I saw myself very much in a character role and acting and developing that part of my talent,” Catrina said. “They weren’t going to do that with me. It was a big reason why I left, and now I couldn’t be in a better position to show what I can do and evolve this character. She has evolved so much. I wouldn’t have been able to do that anywhere else.”
The move from WWE paid off, as Catrina emerged as a focal point of Lucha Underground inaugural season. She associated with the Disciples of Death and Mil Muertes and her involvement at ringside has led to numerous championships for her followers.
Catrina has this other-worldly power over Muertes in particular. The two developed an intriguing dynamic onscreen.
“I met him for the first time the week we started filming,” Catrina said. “The head writer Chris DeJoseph knew my work previously from WWE and put us together. It was a good match. We have natural chemistry. We both respect one another and are comfortable with each other. We have just grown stronger. It has been great what we have done so far in season two, which hasn’t aired yet. But people will see.”
Catrina is excited to be part of the creative process when it comes to her persona. She has taken an initial concept and made it her own.
“I’ve taken in consideration who our producers are,” she said. “A lot of Robert Rodriguez’s work, you can see it all over Lucha Underground. I’ve looked at what they have done with female characters in his films and in the past. They are all extremely strong women. He is OK putting the woman on the pedestal and letting her be the It woman. If you’re going to do that, you have to own it. So I’ve been inspired by his work and watched a lot of it. Catrina herself is a part of me. It’s an alter ego I’m able to pull out naturally. That’s all I wanted to do. Just be able to come off natural and authentic with a character that, even though the storylines are out there, people can somehow relate to her whether it’s man or woman. I’m able to release this alter ego that I hold inside.”
She can feel the trust the decision-makers and writers have in her abilities. Many popular elements of Catrina’s character came from the performer’s own input. This includes the “Rock of Death” and “Lick of Death,” which has drawn immediate attention.
“They pretty much handed me a paragraph of what they were looking for and told me to run with it,” she said. “Ever since the middle of season, once they have really listened to my ideas, they took a majority of them. I’m very thankful for that because they understand letting the artist or performer do what they do best and what they are comfortable doing. It seems to be working. They are happy with it. So the more they are happy, the more I get.”
Catrina is proud to be part of a time where women in professional wrestling are getting time to shine in different roles. The driven personality takes pride in her position within Lucha Underground.
“In professional wrestling and entertainment in general, there needed to be a change and a turn for woman in the industry,” she said.
“There weren’t woman put into the kind of role I’ve been blessed to be in with Catrina. Other companies, I know they are watching. Everyone watches each other, and I think they are taking what they see into consideration and helping boosting the women they have as well. That is important. We work just as hard as the men do. Our days are no shorter. We are in the same ring and have to do the same stuff. They should get the time that is deserved. For me, I don’t step foot in the ring really wrestling just because I put all my passion and time in the character aspect. I’m happy with that. I think everyone should give women more time, character and in-ring.”
Female talent on the roster like Sexy Star and Ivelisse not only compete against each other, but have been known to more than hold their own against some of the top men on the show. Catrina thinks the inter-gender matches are another part of what makes Lucha Underground the alternative within pro wrestling.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s the first time it has being done in this way, so why not? Why not do something new? Why do the women have to always be among themselves and have roll around cat fights? There are some bad ass women out there and bad ass characters. There are films and TV programs that show that, so why can’t we do the same? There are so many diverse women out there who have taken it to another level one-on-one versus men. These movies and shows are doing great with it. To me, it’s entertainment. We work as hard as the men, so why not go in there with them?”
Catrina’s work has impressed those outside pro wrestling. Reports were that the budding actress received callbacks for spots on Gotham and Orange is the New Black. Catrina took her Hollywood pursuit seriously by moving from Tampa to Los Angeles. She hopes to parlay her newfound notoriety into more shots at acting gigs with pilot season in full swing. Given Catrina’s goals, it’s no surprise a career inspiration is The Rock.
“Although he didn’t do a show like this, he developed a name in WWE and became big in Hollywood,” she said.
“Acting and wrestling do go hand-in-hand if you promote yourself and utilize it correctly. A lot of people in the wrestling industry just concentrate on the wrestling, and that’s great and amazing. But there are really few who really put their passion in the character aspect. That character aspect is acting 150 percent. This project has helped me. It has given me some great work for my agent and manager to put out there to casting directors.
“We get a lot of calls now. It’s such a genre of a character, too. So now when they tell the casting director, ‘Oh by the way, she was this professional wrestler for several years. So she can do her own stunts and fight scenes.’ It does help. It’s a huge plus in that industry if you can pull your own weight on that side of it too. So it’s only opening more doors for me.”
This femme fatale wants to set a positive example for women of all ages and all walks of life.
“I hate to meet or see young girls or woman my age or older that have gotten lost or taken the wrong turn in life,” she said.
“We all feel lost at times and feel like we can’t get out of the hole we are in. So if I can help motivate some of these woman to stay focused on goals and reaching those dreams they were told they couldn’t reach, it makes me feel good to help others. Then you feel like you are not alone. I like to put it out there.”
Moving forward Catrina is ecstatic about the second season of Lucha Underground finally premiering. With more television clearances, the signing of lucha megastar Rey Mysterio and an overall buzz in the air for the brand, the lady in black has high hopes for the next chapter of the series.
“We didn’t know if we could do better than last season,” she said.
“After season one I think we raised the bar. I’m very happy we raised it higher this season. Everyone is fully comfortable with their characters and who they are. Production takes it to another level. We are hands down the top product out there. So after this season people will really be on board.”
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Photos Courtesy: El Rey Network/Lucha Underground