By Sarah Mosqueda
Adam Rodriguez is 100 percent that guy.
That guy can be an actor, writer, director, husband or father; he is always trying to give each role 100 percent.
“The best way to learn is by giving a 100 percent of yourself, whether that is in a relationship you are in, your job or as a parent,” says Rodriguez. “The only way to really learn from something is by committing yourself to it. Because if you are only putting half of yourself in, I am sorry, I know it’s cliché, but that is all you are going to get out of it…”
Rodriguez says dedicating himself fully to his acting career, to the advancement of Latinos in Hollywood and to his family is how he’s allowed himself to learn, grow and find success.
“When I learned to give that same 100 percent of myself, I wanted to give it to everything,” he pauses and then amends, “actually maybe I want to give my family more. Maybe I give them 110 percent,” he laughs.
Where it all Started
Rodriguez was born in Yonkers, New York, to a Puerto Rican/Cuban family. His father, Ramon Rodriguez, serves as an executive at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and helped him advance his acting career early on.
“I moved to LA when I was 21,” says Rodriguez, “I had been doing some extra work and working in theater, trying to find my way into the business for about three years. My father had been in the military with a guy who ended up as a technical advisor for a show called NYPD Blue.”
Through a series of events, his father got in touch with his connection, Bill Clark, which led to an audition for Rodriguez.
“He gave me an opportunity that might have taken me a few more years to get. I will always be grateful to him for that. I got a show called Brooklyn South, and that was really the beginning of my career.”
He followed Brooklyn South with roles on Roswell, Felicity, Law & Order and eventually CSI: Miami, where he joined the main cast and even had the opportunity to write and direct an episode. He has appeared in Jane the Virgin and Empire. In 2016, he took on the role of Luke Alvez on Criminal Minds, where he stayed until the show ended this year.
“I was there for three seasons and I had a great time with that group,” he says. “We really bonded and we all really understood how lucky we were to be there.”
Rodriguez hasn’t only made his mark in television. He has appeared in music videos like Jennifer Lopez’s “If You Had My Love” and films including Magic Mike XXL and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.
“I loved playing the character of Sandino in Tyler Perry’s movie,” he says, “I felt like he had something really important to say.”
Penny Dreadful: A Game-Changing Role
This past spring, Rodriguez stars as Raul Vega on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, a supernatural crime drama set in 1938 Los Angeles. The show focuses on the political and social tension, the rise of radio evangelism, and the powerful forces that attempt to pull a Mexican-American family apart.
Starring on the show is a game-changer for Rodriguez. He feels a kinship with the character of Raul. “I really believe in everything Raul believes in,” says Rodriguez.
Of Penny Dreadful, Rodriguez stated, in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith, “This is the most incredible production I’ve ever worked out. There are some important themes that people really need to pay attention to right now more than ever.”
“This show takes place in 1938 and here we are 92 years later and we’re dealing with all the same challenges without having made very much progress in almost 100 years,” Rodriguez continued. “We’re dealing with compromising people who we believe have lesser value than us and we come up with every reason under the sun to decide why they have lesser value. They have a different socioeconomic class, different skin color, different ethnic origin, you name it. We do that as human beings, and it makes it easy to really dehumanize people and move them out of the way for whatever we think out grand cause is.”
Creating Space for Latinos
Aligning himself with characters with a message is important to Rodriguez. And getting involved in writing and directing, like he did on CSI: Miami and later Criminal Minds, is one way he is making an effort to create space for Latinos in Hollywood.
“I think that we [Latinos] have to increase our presence on the creative side,” he says. “We have to grow writers and directors and executives and people that become people of influence within the system. We can’t expect a business that is not run by us to all of sudden decide they want to include us. We have to do the work to get in there and make ourselves important.”
And Rodriguez says we have to support each other.
“When we do get into those positions of power, when we are creating the content we want to see; we have to show up to consume it,” he says, “We have to show up for ourselves. For instance, a show like Penny Dreadful comes out, we have to show up and watch it.”
Rodriguez says the show as a whole is tackling big and timely issues.
“I really love that the show is addressing some things that were very relevant in the news cycle before COVID hit in terms of who we want to consider to be American,” says Rodriguez. “And how you are treated when you are considered not to be American, even though you very well may be… I was really happy to participate in telling this story.”
Another role Rodriguez has flourished in is fatherhood.
“Becoming a husband and father more than any other event, has changed my life,” he says.
He has three children with his wife, Grace Gail. Their newest addition, Bridgemont Bernard Rodriguez, was born on March 16, 2020 amid California’s stay-at-home order because of COVID-19. While Rodriguez admits it hasn’t been easy, it has afforded him more family time.
“I am sure it is a thing in many cultures, but I know it is a thing in Latin cultures, where you stay in for the first 30 days with a new baby. So, we would have been doing some version of that anyways,” he says. “I have enjoyed this time tremendously. I don’t know that I will ever get this much time to be with my family and have no one expecting me anywhere else…I have really chosen to look for the silver lining.”
Growing through Positivity
Looking for the positive angle is one way Rodriguez has been able grow.
“I have learned something in every single job. Some of things that I have been in that were bad, that I wouldn’t consider high quality that I have been a part of, I have learned plenty doing those,” he says. “And I have learned plenty doing things that I thought were extraordinary. The challenge of constantly working to get better and never letting the ego get in the way of me learning – that is a challenge to me every day.”
Which he says goes back to giving it all you’ve got.
“You are not going to get the full lesson out of it unless you are giving 100 percent of yourself.”