The Furious 7 beauty stars in new film Milton's Secret as a teacher who lifts the spirits of a young boy as he's bullied by his fellow students, and the theme of the movie was something Rodriguez knew all too well.

After moving to Jersey City, New Jersey at the age of 17, she quickly became an easy target as the outsider among her peers in her rough neighbourhood.

"I was bullied as a kid, but I dealt with it a lot differently because I was at a different level growing up in Jersey City," Rodriguez told The Hollywood Reporter. "If you didn’t adapt, you die, or parts of your soul would be crushed. People were just really mean in Jersey City. I had to learn to fight really early."

Milton's Secret, adapted from the 2008 Eckhart Tolle novel of the same name, also stars Donald Sutherland and opened to mixed reviews at the Vancouver Film Festival last week (ends02Oct16).