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Dascha Polanco: 'Bad' and 'good' are not that defined in Stallone's 'Samaritan' film

The Dominican American actor, widely known for portraying Daya in the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” talks about her role in the new superhero morality movie, released on Amazon Prime Video.
Image: Dascha Polanco
From left, Javon "Wanna" Walton and Dascha Polanco in 'Samaritan'.Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Sylvester Stallone’s new action thriller, “Samaritan,” tells a superhero story about morality. Two extraordinary brothers — one evil, one good — set out on opposing paths for revenge and forgiveness after their family is brutally murdered. 

And Dominican American actor Dascha Polanco, who plays a tough mom and Stallone’s neighbor in the film, says that viewers will find something personal and relatable in either brother because deep down inside, a person can be both of them.

“Is there really a good and a bad? Are you a consequence of your circumstances?” she asked during an interview with NBC News. “Within the bad, within the good, you kind of find something that you relate to.”

The movie, which launches globally on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, follows Polanco’s 13-year-old son (played by Javon Walton) who believes that his reclusive neighbor (played by Stallone) is one of the superhuman brothers named Samaritan.

Samaritan was reported dead two decades earlier, after an epic battle with his brother, Nemesis, in a fiery warehouse. And the city, undercut by crime, is divided with fans for both brothers. Some demand the vengeance of Nemesis, while others hope for the justice of Samaritan.

Polanco says that the movie is complex enough for viewers to see either brother as a hero or as a villain. But the line between good and bad isn’t always defined. 

And the actor — who is widely known for her character Dayanara “Daya” Diaz, an inmate in the Emmy Award-winning Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” — believes that this lack of definition can help people re-create themselves as heroes, even when they make mistakes and are seen as evil.

Image:  Dascha Polanco and Sylvester Stallone
From left, Dascha Polanco and Sylvester Stallone in 'Samaritan'.Daniel McFadden / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

“When you take that risk, I think that’s the hero within us. When you get back up, that’s the hero within us,” she said. “And that’s a power that we sometimes overlook and we don’t realize we have.” 

Polanco says that her real-life heroes are her parents. And when she looks back, she holds herself accountable to their sacrifices.

“I feel like there’s a baton passed on through generations. And my parents did their due diligence to bring me here,” she said, referring to her family’s migration from the Dominican Republic to the United States. “They did what they could with the tools that they had. And the baton was passed on to me. And those tools I’ll use for me and what I can. And I’ll pass that on to my kids.”

When asked about the values that drive heroes, Polanco admires those who overcome adversity and points to their resilience and tenacity as core principles that have also become part of her identity.

“I was born in the Dominican Republic. I’m proud to be Dominican. And I was raised here in America. And I’m proud to being able to have that opportunity,” she said. “But most importantly, I’m a warrior. I’m ready for all the battles that come my way.”

Polanco says that working with Stallone in “Samaritan” validated her as an actor. And like her son in the film, she was a big fan off-screen too.

“I looked up to Sylvester Stallone. He’s iconic. He’s a legend. And I saw his films,” she said. “So as a little girl, aspiring to be an actress and then becoming one and being able to work with him, was a full circle for me.”

And just like many heroes, Polanco says, her success on screen inspires her to do more for others.

“You can only be as great as [whom] you share your opportunities with."