Adam Rodriguez Interview
Adam Rodriguez appears as Cookie’s love interest on Fox’s smash hit series, Empire, and also stars in MAGIC MIKE XXL, reprising his role of Tito. We spoke with the actor about his various roles, his inspiration and what it was like taking off his clothes for the camera.
Were you approached by the producers of Empire to appear in the series or did you go through a traditional audition process? Can you share a little about the character you will be playing on the show?
I was actually approached by the producers of the show. Being offered a job you would have fought for is always a great feeling! Those are the moments you dream of enjoying when you start acting but in a funny way it actually adds a bit of extra pressure to show up on day one and make a splash. Fortunately for me, I LOVE extra pressure.
The character I’m playing is a concert promoter (and then some) named Laz Delgado. He’s an ambitious ex-NYPD cop who has moved into the world of entertainment. I don’t know where it’s all going, but I really hope that Laz gets to be something for Cookie that none of the other men in her life have been.
Appearing on Empire will reunite you with Taraji P. Henson, who you co-starred with in the Tyler Perry film “I Can Do Bad All By Myself”. What has that experience been like for you?
Yes, it will! We’ve remained good friends since doing “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” and working with Taraji again was one of the things I was most excited about when this opportunity presented itself. Taraji’s a down to earth person with a sense of humor and a spirit that is something special. I’m very proud of how courageous she has been in making career choices since I’ve known her and I couldn’t be happier about how well things are turning out for her. This is such a great time in her career and she has absolutely earned it! The time together on set has been full of laughs, mouthfuls of garlic hummus and some memorable scenes being played between “Laz” and the iconic “Cookie”.
In addition to your role in the long-running series CSI: Miami, you have played a number of characters who worked in law enforcement. Was it merely ironic that you ended up playing those roles or are you drawn to that kind of background?
I think that it was merely coincidental. The fact is, that most of the work I have done has been in television and so much of what we see on TV is centered around themes of law enforcement so those jobs come up quite often. Truth is, I’ve been fortunate enough to play a variety of characters with different occupations from a neurosurgeon to a male stripper. I think that because of how long CSI: Miami ran for, it seems like cops have been the majority of my career’s roles but that’s actually not true.
For many TV viewers, the first time they saw you on TV was either in the WB drama Felicity or the UPN series Roswell (after it moved over to that network from the WB). Can you talk about your experiences on either or both of those shows?
A Steven Bochco/David Milch series called Brooklyn South was actually my first regular TV gig. Felicity and Roswell both came a few years later and each had such a different audience than Brooklyn South. Felicity and Roswell were shows that kids my age were acting in and watched and it was such a different working environment because of that. With all three shows, you had show runners that are now legendary and I feel really lucky to have had the chance to work with them. I mean, Bochco’s track record in television is hard to top and Jason Katims has written some of the very best network television in the past fifteen years while J.J. Abrams has not only made a huge mark on TV but with huge success branched into film. I don’t often give it thought but it’s nice to know that all of these talented people decided to hire me at some point. Although, I haven’t heard from any of them since! Lol. As for my castmates in these shows (Felicity I was not a series regular on), I made great relationships and have enjoyed watching their careers unfold. I really love when I get to see or work with one of these cast members from the early days. It’s happened a few times with Brendan Fehr from Roswell (CSI: Miami and The Night Shift).
Can you talk about making the transition from being a full-time stock broker to being an actor?
The transition was quite easy. I pretty much quit being a stock broker before I got started. After a few months of working in the office, studying for my required tests (Series 7 and 63) and cold calling potential clients, I was sitting in a big group after a Friday workday and watching a motivational speaker do his schtick when I found myself looking at the audience more than the entertainer and realized that I didn’t want my life to end up there. No one looked happy or healthy for that matter and while I was only doing this job as a means to an end (so that I could build a nest egg over a few years and then go out and not be a starving actor), I somehow knew enough to know that I’m sure other people began the rest of their lives doing something that was only supposed to be temporary so they could later pursue their real dream. And then later never comes. I was 19 about to turn 20 and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
You had the opportunity to write and direct two episodes of CSI: Miami. Do you want to pursue more writing or directing opportunities in the future?
I absolutely want to and have been pursuing more directing and writing opportunities. In fact, I am slated to direct upcoming episodes of Hawaii 5-0 and Scorpion after my stint on Empire. Writing and directing the two episodes of CSI: Miami were such a special experience. They were a chance to tell stories within a structure that was very familiar while having a completely new ability to guide every aspect of telling that story. As an actor, you have only the point of view of that character and you do as much as you can to convey something through that one person. As the writer and the director, I had the chance to say so much more because I had every character, the camera, the dialogue, set design, lighting, graphics, wardrobe and every other aspect of film making to make a statement through story. That was incredibly exciting. The other thing I loved was the opportunity to provide an experience for my fellow cast and crew that only someone who understood things from inside of the show could do. The cast and crew of the show gave me an incredible amount of support throughout those two episodes. They showed up so invigorated to give their best every day and I am so proud to have worked with them all.
Obviously the box office film Magic Mike and its sequel Magic Mike XXL has garnered you and the rest of the cast a lot of attention. Do you think this film will become like many others, becoming a franchise of many more movies in the future? And, if so, will you return as Tito?
Yes, taking off your clothes to show your well sculpted physique and a few well rehearsed (and some not so rehearsed) dance moves will definitely get you some attention (as long as you do it alongside Channing Tatum). The fun of doing these movies was one of the very set experiences of my work life and while I wish that there was a reason to do a dozen of them, I think that MMXXL might be the end of the Magic Mike run. That said, if I’m wrong and there was a reason to get the band back together again, I would absolutely be happy to return as Tito! I think there’s a good chance at seeing the gang do a movie about something new though. Hopefully, I’m right!
Since you will be appearing on Empire, will TV viewers see you back on the summer drama The Night Shift?
I had a great time playing Dr. Joey Chavez! Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah were great to collaborate with and I think that character had a ton of stuff yet to be explored so going back to the Night Shift would be fun but I guess we’ll have to wait and see what’s in store.
What is your dream project that you would like to work on someday?
Not exactly sure what it’s called or what it’s about but something that gives me an opportunity to be all of the things I ever wanted to be, including perfectly flawed and universally received. And of course I would be starring opposite Al Pacino and Meryl Streep.
You play guitar and write music, do you see yourself recording any time in the future?
I’m very slowly working recording something but it’s really just for me. I’m not at the point of competence with either playing, writing or singing that anyone should hear me except me.
If you could spend a few hours with one person who has inspired you, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tough choice. Don’t think I can choose between Ghandi and Jimi Hendrix. They both changed the world in ways that were not rooted in ego. Only in results.
Which TV shows are you currently watching?
Currently re-watching The Wire for the fourth time, enjoying season two of Ray Donovan and just finished both Grace and Frankie and Luther on Netflix. Can’t wait for the second season of Empire though!