American actress Michelle Rodriguez – coming to New Zealand this month to film James Cameron’s latest big movie – has to be home in time for Christmas so she can go to jail.

Rodriguez, 29, best known for her tough-girl roles in television series Lost, and the film Girlfight, has been sentenced to six months in jail for violating her probation from previous drink-driving and hit-and-run offenses.

Her other main film roles have been The Fast and the Furious and Blue Crush but the show business newspaper Variety recently reported that Academy Award-winning filmmaker Cameron had added Rodriguez to his cast for the science fiction film Avatar.

She is joining Australian actor Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Wes Studi, CCH Pounder and Stephen Lang.

The cast are already filming in the United States but are about to move to Wellington, close to Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, which is supervising the film’s visual effects.

The science fiction epic has been written by Cameron about a former Marine who finds himself thrust into hostilities on an alien planet. As an avatar, a human mind in an alien body, he is an invader who joins the indigenous races’ resistance fight after falling in love with a local girl and eventually leads the indigenous race in a battle for survival.

Rodriguez was ordered to jail by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge after she admitted failing to complete community service obligations. The probation violation stems from a 2004 plea of no contest – the equivalent of guilty – to three traffic offences in Los Angeles.

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