BWW Interview: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND Star Vincent Rodriguez III Talks Hit Comedy & More
Actor, singer and dancer Vincent Rodriguez III is best known for his role of Josh Chan in The CW comedy-drama series CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND. The talented star is no stranger to musical theater, boasting such stage credits as 2014's off-Broadway's HERE LIES LOVE and regional productions of DISNEY'S THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. On the road Rodriguez has appeared in productions of Irving Berlin'S WHITE CHRISTMAS and PIPPIN as well as Roundabout Theatre Company's U.S. tour of ANYTHING GOES.
Yesterday, BWW exclusively premiered the actor performing in an original musical number from tonight's episode of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, airing at 8pm.ET on The CW. (Click here to watch the number!) Today, Rodriguez chats with BWW about the episode, his experience on the show, and what's on tap for his busy career!
Many fans may not be aware of your impressive musical theater background. When did you first decide to pursue that genre?
I think what made me decide to pursue musical theater was when I was around 11 or 12 years old, and I was at my cousin's house in Fremont. I saw on TV these boys that were all around the same age as me in what looked like A VERY OLD-timey New York setting - singing and dancing. The music was very catchy and it felt a lot like Disney. It was NEWSIES, directed by Kenny Ortega, who directed episode 109 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! I was instantly hooked. I remember after getting my very first CD player for a birthday, I immediately purchased the soundtrack to the movie GREASE. And shortly after, I found myself begging my parents to take me to see one of the professional touring shows in town, which was the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. I knew in my heart I wanted to do musical theater professionally. I just didn't know how to go about it or how to communicate that to my parents.
You served as assistant choreographer for two upcoming musical numbers on CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND. Can you talk a little bit about what we can look forward to and what inspired your choreography?
Yeah, for this week's episode, we have four new original songs, two of which are dance numbers that I got to assistant choreograph alongside our Emmy-awarding winning choreographer Kathryn Burns. One is a song and dance solo in a church, performed by me in the vein of Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain." The other dance is a sexy striptease inspired by Kander & Ebb a la "All That Jazz" from CHICAGO.
For the solo, my character Josh Chan has decided to join the seminary instead of marrying his bride-to-be, Rebecca Bunch. He sings a song called "Head In The Clouds" celebrating how awesome he thinks being a priest can be. This celebratory act is conveyed through a dance that takes him all over church, hanging off the side of pillars, splashing holy water and dancing on pews.
The group number is a sexy, fantasy striptease that our leading lady, Rebecca Bunch takes along her new love interest Nathaniel Plimpton III. These sexy dancers come out of the set and shadows to back up Rebecca in her plea to Nathaniel to give into their sexual desire for each other. And while she's doing this, our dancers are stripping her clothes off piece by piece and acting as an extension of her naughtiness. At one point they are literally supporting her in the air for upside down kisses and spread eagled shoulder straddles!
You mentioned Gene Kelly, who I understand is one of your idols. How has he inspired your career?
Gene is a man's man. He wasn't built like a typical dancer. He exuded this masculine and rugged quality while also embodying such grace and beauty with any dance he did. He was a dude who played sports but also could do chaine turns, fouettés and syncopated pullbacks. Seeing him gave me hope that I could be all those opposing things too.
My countless hours of watching and emulating him paid off. Upon graduating from my acting program at The Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Maria, CA, I went to my first tap audition. It was for the 1st national equity tour of 42ND STREET. I remember enthusiastically treating that audition as a celebration of all that I had learned from watching Gene on my VHS player. I even dressed up like him. To this day, the dance captain of that show, Jeremy Benton, has been a good friend of mine and still remembers that. He shared with me that even though I didn't have all the steps down, I did embody the style, which is something you can't teach in 24 hours of dance rehearsal. So he hired me and I toured with 42ND STREET for nine months before officially moving to New York to start my new life as a professional musical theatre performer.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND is so unique in that it brings Broadway-style production numbers to the small screen. Do you feel the show introduces audiences to musical theater who may otherwise not have been exposed to it?
I count my blessings every day for getting to play Josh in CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND. I spent 14 years in New York City trying to book a Broadway show and had gotten so close so many times but to no avail. So then to get this opportunity to utilize my musical theatre skill set that I've worked so hard to attain, plus help create a new character in a new show... it's truly is a dream come true. And one of its many blessings is knowing that there are thousands, if not millions of people who are watching our show, who don't normally like musicals. I think our show does a good job at making new fans of this style of story- telling.
What's in store for you character this season?
Josh is going through a hurricane of change and crossroads. He, like Rebecca, is still figuring out his life. And that process is a roller coaster ride which we'll get to watch this season. I can certainly relate to his level of challenges of change, adulthood and maturity. I feel like because I've already gone through a lot of what he has, it makes me more sympathetic and emotionally close to him while I'm filming his scenes.
What is it like to collaborate with the cast and creatives on this show?
Collaborating with this group of creatives has been an inspiration and highlight of my time with the show. I've too much to mention. On set alone, thanks to our wonderful, highly-experienced and friendly crew, I've learned so much about the art of film making. Every day on set I try to remain a sponge, trying to soak up all I can with hopes to one day direct, star in and/or executive produce my own show. Every day is like a Masterclass out here for me. I absolutely love it.
Where are you hoping to focus your career in the near future - TV, Film, Broadway?
I'm really focusing on opportunities in movies and television, embracing the comedic side of things but also mentally and physically preparing for prospective projects that are action and drama-based. I have a decade of martial arts experience which got me two black belts so I've spent the last year using my free time to train in stunt, action, weapons and acrobatics. I've recently gone through a fitness journey that has transformed my body in a way that I'm hoping will lead to more opportunities in action specific roles on the big screen. I love learning new things and being an advocate for self-growth. And here I am exercising exactly that!
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND airs Fridays at 8pm.ET on The CW!
Photo: Scott Everett White/The CW