It’s fitting that Jordana Brewster, a star of the action-packed street-racing film franchise The Fast and the Furious, is zooming down a Texas highway in her car as we speak. The 32-year-old actress appears alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Paul Walker in the movie’s sixth installment (which opens in theaters May 24), but through mid-April, she’s in Southfork, Texas, shooting the second season of the hit TNT show Dallas, a continuation of the original series centered on the oil-rich Ewing family.

Born in Panama to a Brazilian model mother and an American investment banker father whose work took the family around the world, Brewster lived in London and Brazil before moving to New York City at age 10. (She speaks perfect English and Portuguese.) There, she was able to pursue what she calls “the pipe dream of becoming an actress in movies and on TV,” inspired by a childhood in Rio de Janeiro watching telenovelas. She took an acting class at Manhattan’s prestigious Convent of the Sacred Heart, entered a student showcase, landed an agent, and won parts on the soaps All My Children and As the World Turns. But it was her breakout lead role in director Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty that sealed her fate as a sought-after working actress; Annie Leibovitz photographed her in Miami for the cover of Vanity Fair’s 2000 Hollywood Issue, pushing her career into overdrive. With dozens of credits to date, she’s as convincing as a hot, nerdy doctor type in shows such as Chuck (it doesn’t hurt that she has an English degree from Yale) as she is the sexy getaway driver in four Fast and the Furious flicks.

“I’m happy to have started out in the business really young, when you have a harder shell and bounce back a lot faster,” says the brainy brunette, who lives in the Hollywood Hills with two dogs and her husband, producer Andrew Form, whom she met on the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. “I wasn’t considering what I would do if I didn’t get a role. I just wanted it so badly that I had a one-track mind.”

OCEAN DRIVE: Brazilians are taking over Miami—their economy is booming, so they’re buying up all the real estate around here, and Portuguese is spoken everywhere. What do you think of your homeland’s big close-up?
JORDANA BREWSTER:
I’m really excited about it and think it’s been a long time coming. I love that we have the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. The country is the zeitgeist right now.

You lived in Rio for four years. What were the highlights?
One of the best things about Brazil is the beaches, and we used to go to Angra dos Reis—about two hours outside of Rio—when I was a kid. We had a boat, and we’d island-hop. It was amazing, and I can’t imagine being in Brazil without the beach culture. It must be like Miami.

The Fast and the Furious is such a successful franchise, and you have appeared in four installments. Which was the most fun to film?
The last one, because I finally got to do some action. I was able to run around, jump, and be on wires with [costar] Paul [Walker].

How dangerous was shooting?
I had a stunt double who was really good, but I did do some of my own. [Director] Justin [Lin] is kind of hard-core. He’s from the independent film world and wants the real shot. There’s one scene where I’m running with a baby, and it’s not a doll! I was so afraid I’d shake the baby too much. And shooting in Puerto Rico, I tore my hand open and had to go to the ER. First we just Super Glued it, but I realized that was just not a good idea.

Wait—you Super Glued your hand?
Yeah. There’s this thing called Nu Skin, which is basically like Super Glue. They’re like, “You might not need stitches, let’s just try this.” And I said, “Sure, I’m cool.” And then I thought better of that, went to the hospital, and got about five stitches.

How did you rip your hand open?
We were jumping from metal roof to metal roof in what was supposed to be the favelas of Rio. Some roofs had really jagged metal edges, and when I was hopping from one to the other, my hand got stuck. It just tore open. There’s one shot in the movie that Justin didn’t take out, which I’m so proud of, where I have bloody gauze and everything, and you can see it.

What’s the craziest fan experience you’ve had?
I get a lot of “You look like that chick from The Faculty” and “You look a lot like Jordana Brewster.” That always makes me feel like kind of a dork, because what do you say to that? Yesterday, I was in the bathroom at a Starbucks, and this girl goes, “You look familiar.” And I was like, “Okay….” It’s so awkward, because you don’t want to just say, “Oh, that’s because I’m on TV.” But I did once see a tattoo of my face on a guy’s forearm in a photo on Twitter. That’s commitment!

That’s creepy. Is there anything about being a celebrity that particularly peeves you?
I think camera phones are kind of a pain in the ass. Someone will think you’re rude if you’re just not into taking a picture that day, and then the next thing you know, it ends up on Twitter. There’s this instant access to people that’s a little bit scary. I was on a plane last week coming in from LA and someone tweeted, “I see you Jordana Brewster! Respond to me!” I was like, “Oh my gosh, what do I do?” The ability to talk to your fans is really great, but it’s scary to think about everything that’s uploaded to the Internet. I’m really, really happy that this didn’t exist when I was clubbing in my 20s, because that would have been a disaster.

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
I would give myself bigger boobs.

That should be easy to do in this day and age!
It’s easy to do, sure, but I’m just really scared of surgery. If I could just wake up and have bigger boobs, that would be fun. Shallow but honest. Emotionally, I work on myself constantly, so I’m okay on that end.

Have you had any cosmetic surgery?
I haven’t started yet, but I’m definitely not against it. If there are tools out there, why not use them? On the other hand, I really need my forehead for acting. I need to be able to crease it and express myself, so I don’t think I’d go crazy on the Botox. And I’ve read studies that say it can both inhibit your ability to empathize with people or—because you’re not frowning so much—make you happier in general. So it can go either way.

Would you consider yourself low- or high-maintenance?
I think I’m pretty low-maintenance. When you have to be in hair and makeup practically every day, it’s fun to go without. Sometimes people say to me, “I really appreciate that you have no makeup on and that you’re wearing your glasses.” And I tell them, “This isn’t exactly a choice on my part; I’m just being lazy!” But it’s fun to use a stylist for events. It takes the pressure off me, and I really enjoy it.

Which designers do you like for the red carpet?
I love Carolina Herrera, Chanel, Giambattista Valli, and Naeem Khan.

Naeem Khan has a home here in Miami. Aren’t his dresses fantastic?
Oh my God. And his wife, Ranjana, is so amazing, too. I’ve worn many of his dresses, and I love her jewelry. I went to his show in New York at Fashion Week last year, and it was a blast. I love how his designs can be romantic and feminine on one hand and extremely sexy on the other.

What do you think makes a good actor great?
You need to be willing to let go of self-consciousness—just leave it at the door. Two years ago, I went to an acting class for comedy because I thought, I don’t know how to do that, but I want to know how to do that. So I got into a class with 20 people and rehearsed every night. You have to be willing to evolve and grow. You can never be stuck.

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