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Adam Rodriguez: American Actor, Screenwriter & Director Talks to Miami Living

Adam Rodriguez is definitely a familiar face. The 45-year-old New York native has starred in a number of TV series [CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds, Jane the Virgin] and movies [I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL] over the last twenty years. The stockbroker-turned-actor is also a screenwriter, who has written for CSI: Miami, and director, who has directed episodes of Criminal Minds and CSI: Miami.

Presently, the father of three is starring in the Showtime series, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels as Raul Vega, the eldest of the Vega children. Created by John Logan, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is a fantasy-horror-drama (a spin-off of Penny Dreadful) set in Los Angeles during the 1930s --50 years after the original series. The new series premiered in April and also features Natalie Dormer and Daniel Zovatto.

How did you find out about the role of Raul Vega?

Adam Rodriguez: I was sent a script by an agent and I fell in love with it. It was so rich with life --conflict, mystery, romance, danger, and full of examples of how mankind can’t help but try to destroy himself in the name of progress.

Tell us about Raul; where did you draw inspiration for this character?

AR: Raul is introduced as a fighter. He is passionate about all the right things and is willing to put himself on the line for them. He believes in standing up to anyone who abuses their power. And then he begins to learn that fighting has many forms, some much more effective than others. He evolves. I drew inspiration from what John Logan put on the page to be picked up. And then, I continued to shape Raul from there. I drew inspiration from the headlines of today, where the same injustices are perpetrated upon marginalized people. I drew from my own experiences and from the experiences of other well-written characters in literature. I read a few Steinbeck novels that were informative and moving. I read a lot of the history of Los Angeles from the early settlers up until the time period of the show which is set in 1938. I put myself in the mind of someone with Raul’s family history and imagined that, like me, he wanted way more than what the world was offering him. And then, I let him live in the space that was so beautifully created by all of the talented artists who created, designed, imagined, decorated, costumed, lighted, etc. the world of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.

How did you emerge into the world of acting? Was acting something you had wanted to do since childhood?

AR: I always loved stories as a child, in books, on television, the stage, the movie theatre or hearing friends and family members recount incidents from their lives. I always loved a good story, but I never considered acting as a profession until I was nineteen. I had explored taking acting classes and taken headshots, but it wasn’t until I was doing a scene in a theatre arts class I was in at a local community college that I felt it inside of me. I encountered some truth in a moment that left me feeling 100% sure that being an actor was what I wanted to be. I wanted to move people the way other storytellers had moved me and I was absolutely sure of it.

Who has influenced your journey along the way?

AR: Too many people to count and in too many different ways! There are those artists whose work rang some bell of truth inside of me and inspired me to want to do the same for others through my art and through my actions outside of art and simply as a man. Also, anyone who ever took a chance on me when other people might not have seen what they did. My father was a big believer in me and he introduced me to a man named Bill Clark, who introduced me to a man named David Milch. Bill was an NYPD Detective who became a consultant and then a writer and executive producer on NYPD Blue. He had been in the Army with my father. David Milch is a tremendously talented writer who changed the face of the network with Steven Bochco. Aside from being talented, David is incredibly generous. He gave me a chance to audition for a new show he was writing and producing with Bill. Long story short, I worked my ass off to prepare and I got the job. That was my first TV series called Brooklyn South. It began my career. I’d say those three guys had an influence on my journey.

What are some of the challenges and benefits of playing so many different types of roles?

AR: The challenge is mostly about playing the same kind of roles. Getting to play different characters is always the thing you’re hoping to do and the work or challenges that come along with doing that is always the most fun you’ll have. I really believe the things you have to work hardest for are always the most rewarding. Mind you, there is a distinct difference between working hard to make something work, and working hard at something that works on its own. Either way, it’s up to us all to figure it out and that’s my favorite part.

How have you grown as an actor throughout your different roles?

AR: I’ve gained experience, both technical and creative, through each and every job because it’s what I am striving to do each time --to grow. And I am working to do the same, even more so, as a person moving through this world. As I have grown and evolved as a person, I have become a better actor. I have come to understand myself in a deeper way and I can therefore bring something deeper to a character. I can use that character to say the things I want to say, to connect, to teach, and hopefully to leave some lasting effect that ripples out into the world.

How are you working on self-improvement right now? What are some of your personal goals?

AR: I’m working on self-improvement every minute of every day. I don’t ever want to take a break from self-improvement. Even when I’m doing something that might not be leading me in that direction, those are the moments when focus has to kick in and you have to right yourself. And righting yourself is the first step to self-improvement. Dedicating myself to my wife and kids gives endless opportunities all day long to be my best self so that I lead the way for them. And my favorite moments are when that effort continues to be motivated by my family leading the way for me in a given moment. Most especially when it’s the kids teaching you about something you thought you were teaching them about. Those moments are the most precious for me. They assure me that I am doing my job well. My personal goals are to give my family the very best of me, my time, and my experience in order for them to go further than me in every way.

What’s next for you in terms of your career? Is there a role you’d really like to play?

AR: I’m hoping there’s more Penny Dreadful: City of Angels to play in. I’m so connected to Raul and I really want to spend more time exploring what he’s capable of saying in this world of 1938 Los Angeles. I think he’s an extremely important voice that speaks to then and now and he’s the role I’d like to play for a while longer.

How are you staying positive with the current COVID-19 situation? Have you picked up any new hobbies?

AR: No new hobbies. I’m still trying to improve at the old ones! I do my best to pick up the guitar as often as possible, but with three small children [one is only six weeks old], it has been a challenge to find the time or the energy. But when I do, I cherish it. It means more to me now than ever when I get the time to play.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

AR: I have a sick sense of humor.

Words by Briana Dodson • Photo Credit: John Arsenault

Watch Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Sundays on Showtime

and follow Adam on Instagram @adamrodriguez and Twitter @_Adam_Rodriguez.


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