John Wick: Chapter 4 follows the titular anti-hero as he follows a new lead to take on the High Table itself. However, his plans take a dangerous turn when the High Table sends a dangerous new adversary after his allies, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont. With those closest to him becoming targets and other friends becoming foes, John Wick may have his most difficult fight yet.
Chad Stahelski returns as director of John Wick: Chapter 4 with a script penned by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch. Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and the late Lance Reddick reprise their roles in John Wick: Chapter 4. Joining the John Wick universe are the legendary Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, and Clancy Brown.
Screen Rant spoke with Natalia Tena about John Wick: Chapter 4. She discussed Stahelski’s directing style, working with Reeves, and how she prepared for her role as Katia. Tena also shared her hopes to be a part of the new Harry Potter remake series in a different role.
Natalia Tena on John Wick: Chapter 4
Screen Rant: You are so good in this movie. I binged the first three John Wick movies before watching the fourth. All of it’s so good. I loved your character.
Natalia Tena: Oh, I’ve watched them quite a few times. I think I watched them as they came out. And then, you know how everyone in the pandemic binge watched? It’s like, “Okay, let’s do the John Wick today.” I did all of those, then I got this call in 2021 (that) he wanted to meet me. I was like, “What?” So, that was amazing. I think I’d watched them not that long before I’d actually got the meeting, and I was like, “That’s so weird.” I can’t believe that kind of synergy.
What about joining the franchise after being a fan did you find most surprising?
Natalia Tena: I was surprised I didn’t get to do any action. I had the meeting with him, which wasn’t an audition; just a meeting. Chad is one of the loveliest men. I cannot recommend him enough as a director at all; he is wonderful. What surprised me is when he talked about the character and told me about her. I was fully expecting to be killing a lot of people with my hands, and I didn’t. I was like, “Oh that’s very…okay.” She’s the matriarch, and she lets other people do some killing for her.
I was curious, what about this role when you read it and heard about it made you say, “Okay, I have to play with this person?”
Natalia Tena: Chad’s just immense energy, his eyes, and him talking to me. I remember at the time, I was going through some pretty bad personal stuff. I did this meeting. I didn’t even know afterwards, so I called my agent and was like, “I don’t understand what that was. Was that an audition? Have I got a job?” But I just kind of went through it, and he made me feel so confident myself. He was like, “Nat, do that. Behind you. That’s your face.” And he was like, “I like actors, and I just put them up on the wall, and I just hope that they come.” I was like, “Okay.” And he was just so giving and lovely.
He basically explained this woman and was like, “She is the matriarch of the Roma underground in Berlin. And she’s John Wick’s…” We couldn’t work it out, whether it’s his niece or his cousin. We kind of talked about, but essentially it’s extended family. In my mind, the last time she saw him, she was maybe 18 at a really weird family Christmas. I don’t know what that looks like, but that’s the last time she saw him. She’s the matriarch. Her dad died. She’s grieving, and he comes in, and he needs something from her.
All these words that he was describing using, I was like, “Yes, yes, yes.” And then he left them in. I was like, “I don’t know if I’ve got it.” Then my agent was like maybe a month later, he’s like, “They finally got back to us. They definitely want you to do that. There’s no script.” I was like, “I don’t care. I’m just doing it.” There’s no way I’m not this character. I was surprised I didn’t get to kill any humans.
Yeah, that is surprising in the John Wick franchise to have a character that doesn’t kill people. What makes Chad’s directing style stand out from other directors that you’ve worked with?
Natalia Tena: Obviously, on a personality level, that’s one thing as well, but on a directing technical level. What I found amazing now thinking back on it is it was the first week of filming, I was in the very, very beginning. So I was just in a Berlin kind of block. And we started it in June 2001. He just felt really calm. That’s the thing I noticed the most. This man clearly has had everything worked out.
In fact, I asked him at one of the premieres, “How long did it take to do the Parisian around the roundabout.?” It was so much less than I thought. I think he said like two weeks, but he planned it for months. So I think that’s how I got a sense of t. Usually the beginning of a film, first week, people are trying to as a puzzle work together as a team. A lot of people just naturally, because they don’t know each other yet, is dropping balls. The day overruns all that s–t. None of that happened with him.
Maybe it’s cause they worked together, and he probably picks a lot of the same team, but (it) just felt like everything’s a well-oiled machine. He could just sit next to me, just chat to me, and make me feel really comfortable and safe in his set. Which is quite rare for something of that level of expense.
Yeah, those action pieces are insane. I can’t believe that he was like, “It’s all good.” Can you talk to me a little bit about working with Keanu both as a scene partner and with him being like a leader on set?
Natalia Tena: Everything that everyone said he is a lovely man. He’s very sweet. Chad being very, very sensitive to everything he wanted me to come day early. And he wanted to show me everything. I met the dogs. We’ve got the reading and I thought, in my head, it was like a cast reading or maybe the Berlin (cast). No, no just me and Keanu Reeves. And him and the writer. He was just lovely.
We just played and we just hung out for a little bit. I hate the word cool, but he is a very cool, man. Very sweet, very soft. I think everyone there just has worked together before, so they are kind of an actual family. That’s what that’s the sense I got. And I was very, very welcomed into it.
I feel like that if anyone deserves the moniker of genuinely being cool. It is Keanu Reeves.
Natalia Tena: Yeah, I actually I was gonna tell him this, but I didn’t get the premiere. But just before the premieres, I was like, “Hey, let’s have a Keanu Reeves appreciation day.” And I was cooking some ground nut stew which takes a long time. Lot of peanut butter, lot of spice. We went through a few of them. Point Break, classic. Speed. classic. They’re just all wonderful.
When you’re working and crafting Katia’s backstory, what was a piece of it that made you go, “Okay, I understand this character?”
Natalia Tena: I find that I do all this homework; feeling this stuff. Then I go on set, and I always get really nervous before doing anything. But you go on set, and you realize that your work isn’t all the work. I’m like “Ah, I’ve done my work.” And then I go on set, and there’s costume, makeup, the situation, the extras and all of those things just make it happen on the day. I can’t really describe it. I’m Spanish, and the designer is Spanish. He’s awesome. He’s just a wild man, in terms of his ideas and creativity. He’s fabulous.
Chad sat with me on that day; I imagine he has a million things to do. It’s the first week, and he’s like, “I’m just gonna sit with you three hours and look to costumes.” As we built up this question in two days, I was like, “I don’t know about mannerisms. I feel like people hold a lot of things in their body physically that represent a lot of things.” I read a book called The Body Keeps Count, which is about trauma and where trauma is put. I don’t know about this costume, and then the script. I got her, but I don’t really know how to (express her). It sounds wishy washy.
I think one of the things you do really well as a performer is key into the physicality of a character where you transform into them. And I think that’s something that is one of my favorite things to see actors do because watching them in different movies, you’re like, “Okay, they feel like a different person.” I think you do a very good job with that.
Natalia Tena: That’s what I mean, it’s hair and makeup. They cut my hair. They straighten it. All of these things. I’m always very open to people, and in the next one I’m doing now, I said, “Cut my hair; do whatever you want to do.” Because for that month or two months or three months that you’re doing this job, every time you look in the mirror, you are that person.
I once had to do a job where I (had) bright pink hair. The character is very bubbly and very fun. She was a tattoo artist. You get that from the street because everyone sees you with pink hair that’s fun. And people smile at you in different ways. So you bounce back from that energy.
Is there a specific aspect of physicality that you really get into, like their walk or how they hold themselves, and really helps you?
Natalia Tena: It can be the walk. And again, a costume massively plays into that. She had these great heels and snakeskin waistcoat. Me and Paco were like, especially when we know Spanish terminology which I can’t really translate, but it’s all the rings and it’s just like, where the weight of your costume is, as well. The rings, lots of rings, load of tattoos, which were kind of semi permanent. And I was like, “Don’t bother take them off at the end of the week.” Because I was there for two weeks.
They had to retouch a few. They had to keep going on. But I love walking around Berlin at that time, and it was summer and just showing off all my tattoos. And again, that reaction from people like “That is a lot of…what’s happening…who is this person?” And, feeding off that reaction to throw it into work.
I love that. You said that you were surprised when you saw the ending because in the script that you read, there was a different ending. Do you remember what that was?
Natalia Tena: I don’t want you to misquote me in case I’m completely wrong. I feel like there was another death. Someone else died, and it kind of left it as a cliffhanger.
(Aren’t) they gonna do a spin off? But now following that story and those characters. Obviously, I knew someone was dead, but it’s like, “Oh, okay, so we’re still going to keep going with the High Table and other people that are trapped in this mafia.” And this cycle of hate.
Is there a specific aspect of Katia’s story that you would love to explore more?
Natalia Tena: I would have loved to have seen the Christmas of the Roma family. He’s like, “You’ve grown up.” And I’m like, “You’ve got old.” I feel like, when did they last all meat? Can you imagine very angry, resentful, gangsters filled with vodka and celebrating Christmas. I think that would be an interesting thing to do.
Everything’s fine until you have one too many drinks.
Natalia Tena: Everything’s fine, and then you get drunk with guns or knives. And it’s like, this is great. Cousin blah blah’s killed the chicken again, another person and the second cousin.
Is there another character or a corner of the John Wick universe that you were not able to play in that you really would want to?
Natalia Tena: I made friends with the actor, George, who is at the very beginning. He’s a wonderful man. I would have loved to have gone to the desert. In fact, they told me that those shoot days were actually at the end. They only shoot at night. John Wick all of that is like shoots, which, over time, I mean, even after two weeks was grueling. I can’t imagine what it must be like three months of just being kind of a vampire. But being in the desert and doing that kind of universe I think would have been great. Also being able to ride a horse and a camel or something would have been really… I’ve never shot something like that. So, that would have been a great exercise.
What makes Katia stand out for you from other leaders within the John Wick universe?
Natalia Tena: I wouldn’t know how to answer that. I feel that’s an audience question. I personally think all the side characters that come in and out (are) what makes John Wick amazing.
It’s just visual art and martial arts. It’s amazing. But what makes it really great, other than all the incredible stunts and how this man Chad and Keanu, both of them from the experience of doing Matrix and all of that created a new wonderful world is these little side characters. We’re interested in that. What is this underworld? What is the Continental hotel? And I love the fact that the John Wick for that they do they do Japan.
It’s some of the most impressive world-building I’ve ever seen in an action franchise.
Natalia Tena: I very much agree. All these little characters that are on the outside of special and, and they build up this world with a lot of violence. And it’s all about dogs. I understand. I’ve got dogs lying there past hour as well.
Yeah, I will say in that first movie, where he’s like, “I have to kill everyone now.” I was like, “That’s fair. I agree.”
Natalia Tena: 100%. Yeah, go for it. Good luck. You can crowd fund for it. Let’s go.
What is something you learned on this project that you want to take into your future work?
Natalia Tena: I was really nervous about doing this job because of the scale of it, but also because I’d just done a series before that. We’d all gone and lived there. I’d met all the actors. Chad, Keanu Reeves, and all the people I met before that were lovely. But there was an element of the unknown in it. First day, I got in and had to speak Russian as well. I had to learn Russian, and I could feel myself getting debilitating anxiety.
And then on the day, I just breathed into her. I’ve done this a bit on stage, but I’ve never really done it on on a film set to that degree. Maybe I took something that I’d loved from stage on to set, but that’s where I maybe transfered that knowledge to there. Remembering the status of your character, even though you have your own personal status.
Before the scene was about to go and we did the big scene with him hanging. All these actors, by the way, some of whom can speak Russian. My self doubt was like, “Ah, your shit.” And I was just like, “No, my status is better than everyone in this room.” And I kind of really simulated that to be able to not have a minor panic attack on the first day.
I get that. I love that. I almost feel like having to learn Russian feels like more training than the action sequences.
Natalia Tena: That was my oral stunt. I had an oral stunt which was that. Weirdly that can very much help because I find that having an accent or a language is almost like the physicality. It’s another layer of like, that’s where you’re coming from. It’s other platform to kind of bounce off and be.
Katia is bringing this grief, and I love how you infuse that into the performance, which made her more dangerous. Because I always feel that can be one of those hairpin triggers where you started off wrong, and you’re just you’re done. Can you talk about tapping into that?
Natalia Tena: I was having a kind of very bad personal moment at the time, and that definitely helped. You’re completely right, in the sense of when people are grieving they’re nihilistic. Every time I’ve grieved, a lot of bad decisions come from that grief. That’s why, apparently, they say that you shouldn’t make any big life choice within six months, or a year.
Whatever it is, don’t move country or change your job or sell your house for six months. Just wait. I feel like she’s a woman in a man’s mafia world, and it’s all patriarchal, isn’t it? And she’s grieving. So, you’re completely right. That’s what makes it dangerous. She doesn’t care. That level of grief where your grieving so much like, “I will just kill everyone.”
To switch gears very quickly for my last question, Tonks is one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter universe. There are reports that they will do a television series rebooting that world. Was there a storyline of Tonks that you guys didn’t get to because of the movie format?
Natalia Tena: Loads! Loads! Have you read the books? Obviously, you know that there’s bits missing.
And actually, when I found out about the HBO thing, I think there’s that initial thing as an actor where you’re like, “Oh, don’t remake something…” But then I was like, “No, it’s gonna be amazing!” I got really excited about it. And then I was like, “Do you think I’m old enough now to play one of the teachers? How can I get another gig on this amazing project?” So, I’m definitely putting that to my agent.
I hope we do. I think that would be awesome.
Natalia Tena: Be a teacher. Oh, come on.
About John Wick: Chapter 4
Following the events of Parabellum, John Wick has found a new path to defeating the High Table and is taking the fight to them. But before he can try to earn his freedom, a powerful new enemy will turn even more people against Wick, including one of his oldest and most dangerous friends.
Check out our other John Wick: Chapter 4 interviews:
John Wick: Chapter 4 is on Digital now. It will be available on 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD, & On Demand on June 13 from Lionsgate.