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The Transformation Of Rosa Salazar From Childhood To Brand New Cherry Flavor

Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion's limited noir revenge series "Brand New Cherry Flavor" on Netflix has garnered praise from critics and audiences alike. Actor Rosa Salazar's portrayal of the show's betrayed but motivated lead, Lisa Nova, is amongst the most compelling elements of the series and helped fuel its instant and consistent growth in popularity. 

But well before Salazar was seeking revenge through the assistance of the dark arts, she was already a busy and in-demand actor who popped up frequently in television roles — in everything from police procedurals to horror series to comedy shorts to primetime dramas — while also landing a number of roles in feature films as well as television movies and streaming channel limited productions. Salazar has never allowed herself to be pigeonholed (no easy feat in Hollywood), and over the course of her 11-year career in acting, she's lent her talents to a number of roles as wildly different from her character in "Brand New Cherry Flavor" as they are from one another. 

Salazar started in well-known television series

After landing a small but pivotal role as a reluctant informant in a "Law and Order: Los Angeles" episode titled "Zuma Canyon," Rosa Salazar was swiftly cast in the role of nursing student Maria in Season 1 of "American Horror Story." Her character — a wide-eyed and studious ingenue — was a far cry from the indignant gang member she'd played on "Law & Order" and an even further cry from her character in "Brand New Cherry Flavor." 

Salazar's appearances in CollegeHumor's videos — including one in a popular Beyoncé parody called "Stoner Countdown" — only added to her apparent range and helped establish her as an actor who could pull off a variety of aesthetics and personas convincingly and with sustained conviction. Writer Caroline Framke speaks to this distinguishing ability with regard to Salazar's depiction of Nova in "Brand New Cherry Flavor": "Even when the series loses track of who Lisa is as a character," she writes, "Salazar rarely does. No matter how hyperbolic a scene gets, she imbues every one of them with vivid emotion that almost — almost — grounds the show's self-consciously weird reality."

Of course, fans of the NBC series "Parenthood" have known this about Salazar since way back in 2011, when, after starring in "AHS: Murder House," she landed the recurring role of young mother Zoe DeHaven in creator Jason Katim's award-winning show. As Zoe, the actor was given the difficult task of navigating the emotional rollercoaster of her character's initial willingness —and, later, unwillingness — to give up her baby for adoption.

Rosa Salazar embraced sci-fi in a major way

One might say that Rosa Salazar's leap from television to feature film in 2015 was a bit of a (sorry, so sorry ...) divergence for the young actor, who donned a pixie mohawk, partially shaved head, and canvas of tattoos for her role as the badass Lynn in Robert Schwentke's "The Divergent Series: Insurgent."  The film kick-started a few of her contemporaries' careers as well, including Ansel Elgort ("Baby Driver") and Shailene Woodley ("Big Little Lies"). 

Taking a hard left turn for her next project, Salazar starred opposite "Happy Endings" vet Adam Pally in Charles Hood's "Night Owls," where she was able to flex her comedic chops once again as the volatile ex-lover of Pally's boss. That same year, Salazar starred as (again, badass) Brenda in director Wes Ball's adaption of "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," a role she reprised three years later in "Maze Runner: The Death Cure." Although in between the two YA adaptation films Salazar made a brief return to television with her role as Rosa in FXX's "Man Seeking Woman," Brenda wouldn't be the last character that required her to put on her brawling boots and defy the odds. 

Rosa Salazar got her biggest makeover yet for Alita: Battle Angel

After starring in the phenomenon that was Netflix's "Bird Box," Rosa Salazar ditched the long hair (but not the character's determination and defiance) to star in yet another genre-bending sci-fi flick. As the cyborg hero of "Alita: Battle Angel," Salazar had big shoes — or, rather, big eyes — to fill. For a lesser actor, having one's biggest performance enhanced or altered by CGI might prove counterproductive to one's career. For Salazar, however, a combination of advances in special effects technology and the filmmakers' decision to use Salazar's own eyes to achieve the ultimate look resulted in one of her most memorable performances to date. 

The effects used on Salazar's eyes are groundbreaking, producer Jon Landau told Vulture, because they work in conjunction with Salazar's performance. Echoing Landau's sentiments, FX supervisor Eric Saindon said, "You always could feel the emotion through the eyes, because it's Rosa's emotion on the CG character." 

Though the actor underwent a fully animated makeover for the experimental TV series "Undone," the emotion Saindon references is every bit as present in her layered portrayal of the character Alma. That's because creators used a technique called rotoscoping wherein actual images of the actor are traced over to create the animation. 

After a four-arc dalliance with the TV series "B Positive," it was finally time for audiences to see Salazar give dimension to the mesmerizing, unnerving, revenge-bent kitten vomiter Lisa Nova in Netflix's "Brand New Cherry Flavor." The series — a kind of mash-up of noir, dark comedy, and horror — is a near-perfect vehicle for showcasing Salazar's wide-ranging experience, aesthetics, and talents.