When last we saw “Resident Evil” heroine Alice, things weren’t looking too rosy.
She had died in a crash, been resurrected by scientists in a lab and appeared to be turning into some sort of mutant/robot — quite possibly an evil one — under the control of the soulless Umbrella Corporation. On top of that, most of the world’s population had been infected by the T-Virus outbreak and was rapidly transforming into bloodthirsty zombies.
But help is on the way, and it’s coming from an unexpected source.
R&B songstress Ashanti agreed that it was a little odd when series overseer Paul W.S. Anderson approached the sci-fi rookie with “Resident Evil: Extinction,” the upcoming third movie in the series.
“It was very funny,” she said. “But I had done a ’Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ [episode], which was somewhat similar in the sense that I played a demon and I had to stab someone. There was blood and everything!”
“Blood and everything” would seem to be the operative words in these video game-based movies, which have so far terrified fans with undead dogs, the 9-foot-tall bio-weapon Nemesis and enough zombies to suck the brains out of a Mensa meeting. The 25-year-old Ashanti, whose movie career was helped along this year by the comedy “John Tucker Must Die” (see “Ashanti Insists Film About Killing Her Ex Is Actually ’Light’ And ’Fun’ “ ), will be joined by returning stars Milla Jovovich and Mike Epps.
“Milla is totally different from all of us,” Ashanti said of the action-loving co-star who has brought Alice to life. “She’s way more skilled [during the action scenes]. She knows what she’s up against, and she’s the vet. It’s not too intimidating, because you expect it and you’re like, ’OK, she has that covered.’ ”
“Extinction” picks up with Alice and smartass cabdriver L.J. (Epps) riding a pimped-out school bus across the wasteland once known as the United States. Desperate for help anywhere they can get it, the duo recruit no-nonsense tough girl Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and Ashanti’s character, a firepowered Florence Nightingale named Nurse Betty.
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“Betty drives a really cool ambulance with these huge spiked-out razorblades on the tires to keep all the undead monsters away,” the singer/actress said. “Basically she tries to nurse up whoever gets bit.”
Ashanti said she got to perform some pretty intense stunts on the Mexico sets, but contrary to rumor, her character does not pilot the high-powered helicopter linked to one of the film’s most high-concept action sequences. “No, I’m actually not flying the chopper,” she said. “I drive the ambulance. But there’s a couple of stunts going back and forth with the bus.”
Nurse Betty also gets to wield some weaponry. “I would have to say [the best part] was being able to shoot the 9-millimeter,” she grinned. “That was something so liberating to me — I’d never done anything like that before. At first I was a little bit leery, and I was like, ’OK, I’ve got to be really careful.’
“Although it had blank bullets, the gun was heavy and it made a loud noise,” she continued. “But I got into it really quick, I must say. The trainer was like, ’All right, Ashanti, you got it,’ and I was like, ’Pop! Pop! Pop!’ ”
The ammo wasn’t the only thing creating sparks: Between action sequences, Nurse Betty gets to play doctor with Epps’ comic-relief cabby. “She and Mike Epps kind of develop a rapport, a little relationship,” she revealed. “There’s a lot of care going on between the two.”
With all the zombie-munching that goes on throughout the “Resident Evil” flicks, Nurse Betty’s ability to bring back the undead should introduce a unique twist — and a very welcome one for Epps’ apparently imperiled bite victim. But does Nurse Betty become a patient herself?
Ashanti stopped short of revealing her fate, but she admits that when she received the horror script, she couldn’t help but pray that her character would get a great death scene.
“You want the most screen time, but you also want the most challenging role to get a chance to demonstrate your skills and your talents,” she said. “So if that involves a death scene, it’s like, ’How can I go out in victory?’ If you don’t die, you obviously want to stay on the screen as long as possible. So it’s a combination of both.”
Live or die, at the end of “Extinction,” things probably won’t be much better off for Alice, her still-living friends or the world around them. Anderson has expressed a desire to make the series into a tetralogy, and a fourth “Resident Evil” film would have a whole universe of apocalyptic video games, graphic novels and fan fiction to inspire it.
“We are the minority, the survivors,” Ashanti explained of the ongoing saga in the third film and beyond. “We’re looking for survivors, and we’re trying to get to Alaska because we hear that’s where the survivors go. The world is covered in zombies, we’re running out of food, there’s no water and there’s a lot of people dying. It’s all about just surviving.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Resident Evil: Extinction.”
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