Clark Collis
February 28, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

Make no mistake: Eva Green didn’t shy away from the role of James Bond paramour Vesper Lynd in 2006’s Casino Royale. She was just keenly aware that playing 007’s love interest didn’t guarantee career longevity. “The role was lovely,” recalls Green, 33. “She wasn’t just an arse or boobs. She had a soul. But it was like, ‘Oh my God, people are going to perceive me as a Bond girl,’ all that s—.”

Turns out she needn’t have worried. The actress has been much employed in the years since cozying up to Daniel Craig (most memorably as a Johnny Depp-tormenting witch in 2012’s Dark Shadows), and now she is set to cut a blood-drenched swath through 300: Rise of an Empire (rated R, out March 7), the sequel, ahem, sidequel to Zack Snyder’s 2007 swords-and-sandals blockbuster. Directed by Noam Murro, the film features Green as Artemisia, the berserkly homicidal Persian navy commander whose attempt to conquer the Athenians coincides with the first movie’s attack on the Spartans by Persian god-king Xerxes. “It’s fun to play a bitch,” she says. “Let it all out!”

The way Green tells it, her appearance in the film is a tribute to the power of positive thinking. “A few months before I got the offer on 300, Gladiator was on TV,” she explains. “I said to my mum, ‘You know what? I want to be him. I want to be a man.’ When I got that offer, it was like, ‘Yeah, kick some ass!'”

It’s unlikely that viewers will confuse her with a man as she swaggers around in bondage gear-cum-warrior duds — and her sex scene with Rise of an Empire‘s Athenian hero Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) pushes the boundaries of erotic roughhousing to a breaking point and beyond. “You can’t really call that a love scene,” she says. “I see it more as a fight scene. It’s far from being vanilla sex, that’s for sure.”

Green’s next project doesn’t sound all that vanilla either. The actress spoke with EW from Dublin, where she is filming Showtime’s 19th-century-set horror series Penny Dreadful, which costars Josh Hartnett and debuts on May 11. “Although my character seems very smooth on the surface, she has all these demons inside her,” she says. Metaphorical or actual demons? “Both.”

Hell’s teeth, lady, don’t you ever hanker to appear in a nice romantic comedy? “People have a tendency to put you in a box,” she says with a sigh. “You know — dark hair, femme fatale, whatever. But I hope people have enough imagination. Now would be the time to do a comedy. I think I might end up in a cuckoo home very soon.”

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