“My teacher [said something] the other day, that I thought was brilliant: ‘comfortable is suburban,’” says Callie Hernandez. “What he really means is that comfortability in yourself is not interesting.”

The 21-year-old actress, who broke out in “La La Land” and “Alien: Covenant,” might be seated rather comfortably — reclining on the couch of her room in the Smyth hotel — but playing it safe is not exactly her forte. 

The Austin native enrolled at UT Austin at the age of 16, changing majors “every semester,” she says. “Then I studied abroad in Barcelona, dropped out of school, lived there, fell in love, didn’t want to come back, came back with my lover, went back to school, changed my major again.” Got all that? “I did a lot of circling. It’s just circling the thing you know you have to do. It’s like, ‘I don’t wanna look at it!’”

“It,” of course, being acting.

It would take a bit more for Hernandez to take the plunge. After losing her job, her apartment, her boyfriend, getting into a car accident, then finding a new apartment over the course of 24 hours, she knew she had to make a change. “I was sitting on this bed that wasn’t mine, and it just felt like my life wasn’t mine. It was the first time I’d asked myself, ‘OK, what do you want, Callie?’”

Callie Hernandez

Callie Hernandez 

The answer — acting — sprang from half-love of the craft and half-circumstance. “’I don’t have any money, I don’t have anywhere else to go, I don’t have anything else to do, I don’t have anywhere else to be. Why the f–k not?'” she recalls. “‘I can’t not do it.’”

Hernandez must have done something right. After a breakout role as Tracy, one of Emma Stone’s roommates in “La La Land,” she switches gears to sci-fi in a role alongside Michael Fassbender and Katherine Waterston in “Alien: Covenant,” which debuts on May 19.

“Ridley Scott offered me a job and I said yes, blindly,” she says. “I don’t even know what part I’m playing, I had no script, I had nothing to go off of.” 

After all the success of “La La Land,” there’s a lot riding on her next move. “I didn’t know it’d go that big,” she confesses of “La La Land.” “But I had a feeling, just the way everyone was moving through the process of filming it. It was so lucid at the time. That sounds so lame; you hear everyone [say], ‘we just knew it was gonna be a special movie!’ and you’re like, ‘There’s no f–king way!’”

Her career success is still taking time to sink in. “I remember calling my mom, and I was like, ‘I just feel like I’m kind of OK, or maybe I’m bored,’” she says. “And she was like, ‘I think you’re just happy.’”

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