Mia Xitlali
Actress Mia Xitlali portrays a strong, independent Latina girl who knew how to bring Max the dog and Justin together in the film "Max." Courtesy Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Mia Xitlali is one of the youngest stars in the upcoming family action adventure film, “Max.” Xitlali started acting when she was 8, after auditioning successfully for Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. After singing and reading for the directors, Xitlali was given the role of “Nagana” before even leaving the building! In addition, the multitalented actress practices Taiko drumming and American Kenpo, and is a self-proclaimed dog whisperer. Xitlali also starred in the short film “Selling Rosario,” plus PSA’s and a music video for Baby Einstein before landing the role of “Carmen” in the movie “Max.”

From Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures comes “Max,” a thrilling yet heartwarming movie directed by Boaz Yakin (“Remember the Titans”) about a precision-trained military dog, Max serves on the frontlines in Afghanistan alongside his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott . When things go terribly wrong, Max has to be shipped stateside, the only human he seems willing to connect with is Kyle’s teenage brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins). At first, he is resilient but with the help of a tough-talking young teen, Carmen (Mia Xitlali), who has a way with dogs, Justin begins to appreciate his canine companion. We had the chance to catch up with Mia and chat about making the movie and how she wants to be represented:

Latin Times: First off, tell us what it was like to work with a director like Boaz.

Mia Xitlali: It was so wonderful to get to work with him. He’s an amazing director. As soon as we all got there he got to know all the cast and crew; he made us feel very comfortable. It was very easy to follow his directions. It was an amazing experience working on set with him.

LT: And we’re assuming you have to be a dog person to be in this movie, correct?

MX: Oh, I’m a total dog person. I have two dogs of my own and I’m actually known as the ‘dog whisperer’ in my family.

LT: In terms of tricky family relationships, what advice would you give to parents who want to stay close to their teenage kids?

MX: Wow, that’s a hard one. I’d have to think about it. I guess it would be to always support them in whatever they want to do. I know that my parents are very supportive of me and that’s why I’ve come this far. So, if anything, I’d say, “yeah, support your kids.” They’ve all been teenagers as well so I’m pretty sure they get it too [LAUGHS].

LT: Your character in the film is a strong, outspoken Latina girl; so how important was it for you to really represent what that means?

MX: It was extremely important to me. I was so lucky to have landed the role being a Latina myself. Both my parents are Mexican which basically makes me 100% Mexican too, so I was able to play a character that actually came from my heritage too. It was really essential for me to portray her like the normal human being– just the way I am–I know I’m Mexican but I don’t walk around with a giant sombrero singing and dancing. We shouldn’t be stereotyped, and it’s like my character knew the stereotype and decided to not go with it.

LT: Other than this, what would be another dream role for you?

MX: I guess just an empowering, strong young woman who can do anything. Women are powerful and so I’d like to be that Latina actress who empowers other women. I want to either see more of them or be them.

LT: So, princess or superhero? Thriller or romantic comedy?

MX: I’m thinking superhero, and think I’d like more of an action-packed film.

LT: Tell us what comes next for you? What are you working on right now?

MX: Well, I have a short film coming up called “Selling Rosario” which has already been accepted in many international film festivals. And I’m also working on a play back in LA at Casa Boyle Heights called “Little Red.” So that’s pretty much what I’ll be doing.

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