May 4, 2006 -- The death of tough girl ex-cop Ana-Lucia Cortez on "Lost" Wednesday night may have surprised some, but Michelle Rodriguez said the early exit had been planned for the character since the series' beginning.
"I feel bad," she said, "because I didn't tell the other cast members."
Although Rodriguez, 27, says she had gotten comfortable working on the show, she said she couldn't see herself staying.
"I'm blossoming and becoming a woman," she said, "and if I stay on the show, I wouldn't have the opportunity to become a woman. I'm not done playing chicks who kick a--, but I'm evolving from warrior princess to Cleopatra."
Her character was not, she says, killed off because of her drunken-driving conviction, as some people have speculated.
The other character killed off in Wednesday night's episode was Libby, played by Cynthia Watros. Watros was also charged with drunken driving. The two were driving separate cars but were both pulled over on Dec. 1, 2005.
"I planned on leaving this season anyway," Rodriguez said. "I told them, I wanna go in and go out with bang. I didn't know when it was gonna happen. They actually wanted to give the story line some time. They wanted to give it until the middle of next year. But I was ready to go."
Rodriguez says she has mixed feelings about leaving Hawaii, where "Lost" is filmed.
"My allergies in Hawaii are seasonal, and that's been hard to be on steroids [for allergies], so it will be nice to be away from that. But it sucks to leave such a beautiful place that's given me so much growth. I see God when I look out the window."
Last week, Rodriguez spent three days in jail in Oahu, serving a sentence for drunken driving. She chose the jail time and a $500 fine instead of taking an option that would have allowed her to avoid incarceration if she performed 240 hours of community service.
She described her time in jail, where she shared a dorm space with 60 other female inmates, as "interesting" because it exposed her to different kinds of people.
"They knew of the show," Rodriguez said, "and they weren't necessarily fans of it. They were more fans of what I represent to them. I was the hard-knock-life girl. The girl who made it somewhere."
She said her off-screen troubles had been a "learning experience," but she's handling it.
"It's like, 'Time to grow up, kiddo,'" Rodriguez said she had told herself. "You're not a little rug rat anymore."
ABC News' Liz Borod Wright and Lara Naaman contributed to this report.