You’re so often complimented on your appearance. What’s a time you’ve felt insecure?
Pretty much every day on a movie set I feel a little bit insecure. Because I don’t want to disappoint the director or myself, so I’m always trying to do the best I can. I don’t know if it’s insecurity as much as just wanting to rise to the occasion and not let the filmmaker down or myself.
What did you think of Sandra Bullock accepting her Razzie award? You’ve been nominated for three.
I think it’s funny. It just shows how subjective everything is, and it also shows how you can be a great actor or actress and give a great performance, and it’s really about, at the end of the day, the way that they edit it together and promote the film.
You think the way your performance comes out has a lot to do with editing?
A lot of it has to do with editing, yeah.
Is there one you can look back on that you wish would have come out differently?
Um, yeah. Pretty much every one. [Laughs] It’s totally different when you work with great filmmakers, though, because they understand the nuances of a performance and they capture just another level. They’re not just throwing the movie together based on studio notes. They’re really looking at the characters and their motivation and the overall story. It’s a lot more complicated.
What’s something “Machete” shows of you that you haven’t done before?
Well, I’ve never played a Latin character in a film before. [Ed. Note: Alba’s father is Mexican-American.] Typically in the movies that I’ve read … Latin characters are very stereotypical. Very one-note. She can only be overtly sexy or she can only be this down-and-out maid or someone who isn’t necessarily as intelligent as other characters of different races or doesn’t have a great job. And to me, I couldn’t relate to it because the Latino women that I grew up with were all independent, they work hard, they raise their family, they are intelligent, sophisticated.
We asked readers for questions I should ask, and roughly half of them were if you would marry them. How do you feel about polygamy?
[Laughs] Um, I’m not really into polygamy, personally. It’s not really my bag of chips.
How many marriage proposals do you get per day? Have they gone up or down since you actually got married in 2008?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I guess I’ve had a few on Twitter. That’s kind of the only time I hear of marriage proposals. They’re silly; I mean, if it’s over Twitter and it’s someone I’ve never even met before, it’s kind of funny.
Someone said you should hide your looks, a la Charlize Theron in “Monster,” for people to pay attention to your acting ability. What do you think of that?
I think a lot of actresses have a difficult time being seen as anything more than the girl in the movie. And very few have broken the mold. It’s just a lack of material that is written for women, frankly.
You told Cosmopolitan you don’t consider yourself a great-looking person. What would have to change for you to feel that way?
I truly don’t put a lot of energy into it. I don’t think about it. For me it’s more important that I’m healthy and everything works and I can be a functioning person for my kid. And I’m grateful that, like I said, I have my health; that’s a big deal.
If someone is talking about you as an actress, what would you want them to say?
I don’t know. I don’t really care too much about what people think. Isn’t that terrible?
It seems like you do, though, and that you’re frustrated that people see actresses just for physical appearance and not for their abilities. What would you hope people would say about you as an actress?
“That was a good performance.” Or not. It’s so subjective. I don’t really put too much on it to be quite honest with you. And I don’t really care what people think. I love doing what I do. I feel so blessed that I get to do this for a living, and it sure beats a desk job because I would probably go crazy if I didn’t do anything creative with my time.
Your character in “Machete” has to be a little bit of a badass. How much of a badass do you consider yourself in real life?
In day-to-day life, [laughs] I don’t know. I think any working mom is a badass, frankly. Because it’s hard. And any woman who does it, or a father, any working father that is hands-on as a father and any working mom that’s hands-on as a mom, and also provides and works, it’s tough, it’s a tough balancing act. I think that’s the greatest challenge and that makes you the most badass person.
How much do you feel people fear you on the street as a result of that?
[Laughs] I don’t know if people fear me on the street. [Laughs]
They don’t say, “Watch out, working mom!”?
[Laughs] I say, “Watch out, working mom!” Even stay-at-home moms, they’re super badass. Anyone who understands that there’s a child that’s going to transcend you and is going to live longer than you and the real mark that you make, your legacy, is really how well you raise your kid and what you leave them with.
At home my fiancée does the laundry and I wash the dishes. How does the division of labor work at your house?
Well, I like to cook so it’s nice if one cooks, the other cleans. … As long as it’s equal and the work is divided up evenly, I think you’ll have a happy household. If it’s all on one person, it’s not so fun.
What’s your specialty as a cook?
I can kind of throw down almost anything. I’ve cooked Thai food, Italian; I like Mexican food, traditional American food. I’ve been grilling a lot because it’s the summer. I just got a pizza oven built, so I’m going to have to perfect my pizza bread recipe. I’m working on that one. You have to make a really good dough. The dough I think is the most important; not too thick, not too thin, a little crispy, doughy on the inside. But that takes years to perfect. So I’m working on that. And then you can put on any topping you want and it’s kind of the best thing ever.
As a California girl, how accurate do you find Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”?
I don’t know. I can’t really relate to that so much. I was never one of those California girls. [Laughs] I was kind of the teenager that wore black and kept to myself and didn’t have a ton of friends. I wasn’t like the hot cheerleader, smiley girl.
Surely this summer you must’ve melted some people’s Popsicles.
[Laughs] Well, I think the heat in California does that just fine. [Laughs]
On Chicago, where she filmed some of “Little Fockers”: “I love the steak. There’s great bars. I like taking a walk around in the city. I’ve been to some dive bars and then I’ve been to some nice restaurants, but I really couldn’t tell you any specifics. I just try out different things.”
The most interesting role she’s played: “The Killer Inside Me”
Favorite kinds of movies: Action and comedy
If she could work with anyone: James Cameron, Luc Besson, Robert Rodriguez, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro
Why her chosen superpower would be invisibility: “They can just move under the radar, and you can see people for who they really are instead of for the front that they put up.”
Her guilty pleasure: Getting a massage
TV addiction: “I Survived”