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Playboy.com: In Death Race 3 you play Katrina Banks, the kick-ass, take no prisoners, gun-wielding ex-sniper who was dishonorably discharged from the military. So, how close to the character are you?
Phoenix: Very. If you knew the back story to Katrina, you would understand. She stands up for herself and does what's right when it's needed. Plus she has a great sense of humor. Exactly like me.
Playboy.com: Death Race 2 had you firing machine guns and climbing out of cars. What kind of training did you have to do for the action scenes?
Phoenix: I did a lot of stunt training with the stunt men, and the armorers had guns to use while we were training. All of it felt second nature to me; it was such a great experience to combine the hardcore aspect of fighting with guns and the agility needed to maneuver in and out of the car while racing in the road. Plus, being a ballet dancer helps with the suppleness I needed to do that.
Playboy.com: What was the scariest stunt you had to pull off?
Phoenix: The roundhouse kicks during the female fight scene. In training I clipped one of the women so hard on her cheek with my foot. I was so worried I would do it again while filming, it put extra pressure on me to get it right every time.
Playboy.com: You are an accomplished ballet dancer, yoga enthusiast and are trained in Muay Thai—is there anything your body can’t do?
Phoenix: I love being active and physical. The ballet training I had whilst growing up has given me amazing flexibility to this day; that’s why I enjoy yoga. I swim a lot, too, and recently took up surfing behind a boat; here in South Africa they call it skurfing.
Playboy.com: In DR3 you star alongside rather daunting actors Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames. Who do you think would win in a fight between the two? Who could you beat in a fight?
Phoenix: Definitely Danny. He was an accomplished boxer for years. Who could I beat? Danny Trejo for sure, but only because he has a soft spot for me; we go back a few years now. I am pretty sure he would let me win just to tell his friends that he got beat up by a girl. [laughs]
Playboy.com: You are often cast for characters that are not only physically gorgeous but also have an inner strength and intelligence. Do you make it a point of finding these roles or do they find you?
Phoenix: The roles I have taken so far have come to me independently, and it has been a great experience playing physically and mentally strong women. However, I have my eyes open for something a little more in depth regarding storyline: a romantic story, a drama, a psychological thriller.
Playboy.com: You and costar Luke Goss have an obvious chemistry in the movies; did you have to work at it or was it naturally there from the beginning?
Phoenix: It was naturally there from the beginning. Luke is a gentleman and a wonderful person all round. It has been a pleasure to work with him.
Playboy.com: You went to an all-girls boarding school growing up. Is it anything like the movies? Pillow fights leading to cat fights, leading to ripped clothes, leading to steamy shower make-out sessions?
Phoenix: Sorry to disappoint, but no, none of the above. We were far more interested in learning. [laughs]
Playboy.com: DR3 was filmed in South Africa; how was it filming at home?
Phoenix: It was great. I got to sleep in my own bed. The best part is that I could have my family visit the sets.
Playboy.com: You’re a qualified hypnotherapist. Have you ever used that skill for evil?
Phoenix: No. Only for good, now look into my eyes...
Playboy.com: What else can we look forward to seeing you in?
Phoenix: I have a film called Spud 2 coming out this year. We shot the first film two years ago and it did very well in South Africa. I had another film come out recently, a comedy called Mad Buddies alongside South Africa's funniest man, Leon Schuster, who called me every day until I said I would do the role. To date it is the highest-grossing film in S.A.
Playboy.com: Lightning Round. What is your favorite:
Drink: Carrot, beetroot, apple and ginger juice.
Food: Thai and Vietnamese food.
Shot: I don't drink alcohol.
Guilty pleasure: My boyfriend.
Most embarrassing moment: Ah, my life is full of adventures; I don’t see anything as embarrassing.
Awkward pickup line: A certain well-known actor, not knowing I am friends with his girlfriend, and he is trying to make a move. My boyfriend was standing just a few meters away watching it all happen. Very, very awkward.
Check out Tanit in action: Death Race 3 on Blu-Ray/DVD on January 22, 2013.