Age and Hometown: “Older than I look!”; New York, NY
Current Role: A Broadway debut performance as Veronica, the drug-using true love of recovering alcoholic Jackie (Bobby Cannavale) in Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf**ker With the Hat.
Funny Girl: The live-wire Rodriguez was raised in a non-Gossip Girl area of Manhattan's Upper East Side. “I grew up in a broken home, working class,” she says. “My paternal grandmother raised me and my brother; my father was with us, and my mother lived in Jersey.” Rodriguez coped by developing a quick wit that has served her well as an actress. “When you have a tough childhood, you either cry or make a joke,” she says. Tapped for a local TV sketch show based on her personality, “I had no idea what I was doing,” she admits. “I had this epiphany: I wanted to act, and I knew I needed to study.” A two-year program at William Esper Studio led to TV guest spots, movies such as Miami Vice and membership in LAByrinth Theatre Company.
LAB Results: Rising LAByrinth playwright Guirgis recognized a kindred spirit in Rodriguez, who has now acted in four of his plays. “He writes about the underbelly, in language that could be offensive out of context," she says of Guirgis' operatic use of profanity. "But his characters are really smart, and you end up having hope for them. In its own realm, his writing is poetic.” Though her name isn't on the marquee, Rodriguez is a star of Motherf**er as Bobby Cannavale's fast-talking addict girlfriend. “I've been in complete denial,” she says of making her Broadway debut, having feared that a "name" actress might nab the role she developed for several years. But Guirgis fought for his muse, and now Rodriguez says, “It's priceless to be part of the line of amazing actors who have worked on these streets.”
It's Raining Men: Motherf**cker is the latest project in which Rodriguez finds herself surrounded by tough guys. “I love being 'that chick,'” she says. “I love being super-tough, but if I need to put on a dress and do my hair and makeup, I can do that too.” Broadway co-star Chris Rock “is a really good guy," she says. "He came with no entourage and wants to be one of us.” Cannavale, she adds admiringly, “is a force. He's grown so much, and he comes to the work from such a fully excited, fully free place." Away from the theater, Rodriguez maintains a bi-coastal life and relationship with playwright Brett C. Leonard. “There are times when I’m not busy and pulling my hair and going, ‘Why am I still doing this?’ But [acting] is it for me. I have incredible friends. Life is good.”