Taking a break from acting to focus on politics, Dawson concentrates her efforts on her organization, Voto Latino, whose mission is to encourage voter registration in the Latino community. "When you actually work with local organizations – that makes the biggest impact, and that's what I want to be a part of," she tells PEOPLE.
Dawson reteams with Will Smith in Seven Pounds, a drama about one man's quest to change the lives of seven strangers. The film receives mostly negative reviews, but critics are impressed by Dawson's performance. "She takes an underwritten character in an overblown movie and creates a real person, finding the grace notes and even elevating Smith out of ham-handedness," says MSNBC.
Dawson stars as Connie Hooper, a yardmaster tasked with stopping a runaway train, in the suspense thriller Unstoppable, which debuts at No. 2 at the box office. "He brings something very noble to the craft of acting," the actress says of costar Denzel Washington. "[He's] very old-school and just very, like, makes me want to just up my game a little bit."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Gene Young/Splash News Online; Merrick Morton/Columbia Pictures