My interview with actor Justin Rodriguez was simply nothing but inspiring. Hailing from New York, he’s forged his way into the film world and has no plans of stopping. His most recent project is the independent teen-drama Rich Kids where he plays the role of Steve. Eager to know more, we jumped right into his beginnings in the world’s greatest city.
What was it like growing up in New York?
Growing up in New York City was a really awesome experience. I feel like I grew up pretty fast living there. When you grow up in New York, you have to be very independent and strong-willed. I was taking the train at nine years old by myself!
The upside of growing up there is that I’ve never felt anything other than being fulfilled. I was free to express myself creatively. It was good to always feel comfortable in my own skin, which had a lot to do with my environment. Where I grew up, you’d always see the coolest, genuine people everyday on the street. I love New York City!
What made you want to become an actor?
I actually didn’t want to be an actor. It kind of just fell into me – I caught the acting bug. I wanted to be a physicist, actually. My major in college was physics. A friend of mine was taking an acting class and it looked like they were having so much fun. I decided, well, I’m going to just take an acting class as a fun elective.
As I was taking the class, the professor was doing a play outside of school, called The School for Scandal. I was told I was wanted to take part in the play, so I took the opportunity.
A lot of people I knew attending. Everyone told me I was very talented and that I should pursue it. Since I really enjoyed it, I switched gears and did.
How’d you get into film after doing theater?
One day this woman just kind of stumbled upon me when I used to work at Topshop. She told me I’d be awesome for a Puma commercial that she was shooting. I was definitely down for it. She took pictures of me at work actually and submitted them. We were shooting the commercial the very next week.
I used that commercial, submitted it to various agents, and they wanted to sign me. From there, I started doing film auditions. To build up my reel, I had the idea to start auditioning for student films. It all progressed from there.
Are there any particular films that inspire you?
Wes Anderson films are some of my favorites. I also really like films where there’s a female lead such as Cruel Intentions. Iconic movies like Fight Club and Pulp Fiction have iconic characters that can’t be recreated. Timeless characters. You can always embody and dress up as them for years to come.
I like the idea of making characters memorable long-term, kind of like Stranger Things right now. That’s the closest thing we have right now as the characters themselves are iconic.
Why was it important for you to become a part of Rich Kids?
There aren’t a lot of Latino stories out there. I feel like whatever stories we do have are pretty stereotypical. There are so many auditions I go to that are literally the same type of character. It’s like that for a lot of various of shows and film projects. It’s a shame that every Latina and Latino are written the same way.
It was different with Rich Kids. My first time reading the script, I know the characters are Latino, but they could also be any race. That’s what stood out most to me. I liked the idea that it was written by someone who was trying to give roles to Latinos. The director Laura Sommers isn’t Latino at all, she’s Caucasian. It was refreshing to work with someone who wants to give us a voice and chance to tell our story.
How was it seeing Rich Kids at the Phoenix Film Festival?
It was pretty cool. I didn’t know what to expect because I think as an actor you sometimes think of the worst. You just never know. You do the job and hope that everyone will be great. It was also one of those situations where it was weird seeing myself on screen. But as I watched, I was like, oh this is actually pretty good!
Everything exceeded my expectations, but not just because I’m in it. Watching my cast mates on screen, I was so impressed by their acting. You don’t really notice the little things when just shooting scenes. It was great and I loved every moment.
Was there anything you learned from your experience working on Rich Kids?
The most important thing I learned was all that goes into working on a film. It was my first major film. I’ve been on TV shows and such, but those experiences didn’t compare to this. We all worked 14 hour days and shot the film in about 11 days. We shot the entire movie working from sunup to sundown, taking naps in between.
I learned how to work and be apart of a family with people I’d never met before. After leaving New York, I lived in a random stranger’s house, and formed a bond. I put myself out of my comfort zone and just went for it. As you know, working on movies isn’t easy. After all the work, the finished product is so worth it.
Guest contributors are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Creative Allies Inc. or its affiliates.