By Cris Franco
Starring in A Chorus Line at the Hollywood Bowl July 29, 30, and 31st
Rising young actor, Krysta Rodriguez, just 32 this week, is the new breed of Latina performer, gracefully flowing from stage to screen, and from ethnically specific to mainstream roles with ease. Talented and wise beyond her years, with gorgeously-expressive eyes, I chatted with Ms. Rodriguez in Manhattan, the day before she was to fly out to L.A. to join the all-star cast of A Chorus Line at the Hollywood Bowl.
Cris Franco: I’m a big fan – caught your terrific performances in Spring Awakening and as Wednesday in Addams Family. What was it like co-starring with such heavy hitters as Bebe Neuwirth and the amazing Nathan Lane?
Krysta Rodriguez: You become their peer by working with them and both were nice to me; lovely and generous and fun.
CF: Congrats on being cast as the iconic Diana Morales in the Hollywood Bowl’s A Chorus Line. How would you describe Diana Morales?
KR: Diana has guts and self-esteem. At the end of the show the dancers talk about the difficulties of chorus life. But Morales steps up saying that this is the best we can do and we should not complain but be glad you’re in the best business in the world, and not worry too much. At the end of the day, it is the best profession in the world for performers….
CF: Is this really the best profession in the world?
KR: For me? Yes, it’s the only place I’d want to be.
CF: Were you one of those musical comedy kids who’ve always had musicals in their lives?
KR: Not really. When I was younger – all I knew is that I wanted to sing and I thought I might be a pop star. Around thirteen, is when I understood that being a musical performer was a “profession” that required very specific skills — so I started taking dancing, acting and took my singing more seriously.
CF: And today you’re a “triple threat.” Which is what you need to be for A Chorus Line, right?
KR: Surprisingly, A Chorus Line isn’t really a dance-heavy show – it’s more of an acting show. There’s maybe 40 minutes of dancing in the whole 2-hour show. The rest is standing, listening and each character communicating their needs and wants. The choreography is iconic and fun to do – but the acting is what gives the show its perspective.
CF: Yes, acting is the most intimate of all the arts. What are the challenges of performing in a venue as ginormous as the Hollywood Bowl?
KR: Well, the intimacy of a Chorus Line is going to be tough to accomplish in front of 18,000 viewers. But I guess it’ll raise the stakes even higher.
CF: What was your experience performing in In the Heights?
KR: Oh, you mean Lin’s show before “that other show?” [Hamilton] It was great to watch him come into his own as a writer. And, yes, he is as sweet as he seems. With his big puppy dog eyes. It was wonderful to see so many Latino characters on Broadway in Heights. We all know that we Latinos have not always been represented in a positive light. There are no knifes or guns in In the Heights. Lin’s given us an affirming and authentic look at our lives.
CF: Yeah, Miranda’s able to blend what’s great about our Old World culture – with what makes us contemporary Americans.
KR: Yes. Showing our cultural duality, foreign ancestry mixed with American values, is prominent in Lin’s characters.
CF: I love that you are a musical performer, representing us just by your sheer talent.
KR: Wow. Thanks. I’m grateful to the Broadway community for that. Having grown up in Southern California, and being a ‘Rodriguez’, folks automatically assume I’m Mexican — and not American. For a while I didn’t know if I’d fit into the Latino acting community because my family is very acculturated and I don’t speak fluent Spanish – and, well, you know. I worried other Latino actors would consider me a “fake” Latina but that wasn’t the case, especially in New York.
CF: Yes, my friend, Dan Guerrero, who worked for years on the east coast told me that he didn’t become a strictly “Latino” talent until he moved to Hollywood. Films and TV immediately label you ethnically. Whereas, for decades, Broadway only cares if you’ve got the chops to perform your role eight times a week. Theater is talent driven. Thank goodness. Hey, isn’t A Chorus Line’s Morales character Puerto Rican?
KR: Yes, she’s a Gomez and I am happy to play a dancer who’s proud to be part of the diverse Latino spectrum. Because we’re all different, we’re a ‘rainbow of brown’ as one writer described us.
CF: You’re on fire these days, working non-stop. Is acting success what you thought it would be?
KR: As soon as I knew this could be a career, I set out specific goals for my life — a vision of how I wanted it to be. I am proud of how it has come to be. I’m dedicated and specific about what I want to do. But on the other hand, it isn’t exactly how I thought it would be – how could it? The famous British playwright, Lucy Prebble, wrote that she knew she was a professional when “my mistress became my wife”. You have to love it enough to wake up with it every morning, and not just run away with it on the weekend. I’m in a long- term relationship with my career.
CF: Many young actors log onto Latin Heat.com to learn more about acting as a profession. In your teachings, what do you stress?
KR: If you know in your bones that this is what you have to do — then be completely dedicated to that. But if you aren’t totally committed, it won’t sustain you through the hard times. And if you can’t decide between being on Broadway or being a kindergarten teacher — teach kindergarten. Teaching is a noble profession and you can always do theatre on the weekends; you can maintain that excitement. Most importantly, know that not becoming a professional actor does not mean you are a failure. The training that goes into performing will aid you in any line of work. It will train you to think outside the box, be brave during presentations, know your body and so much more. It will never be a waste because learning to perform feeds your soul, your body and, ultimately, your community.
The lovely Ms. Rodriguez has been cast in a new NBC comedy premiering this February, Trial And Error, starring John Lithgow. She starts taping upon her return to Manhattan after A Chorus Line finishes its July 29, 30, and 31st run at the Hollywood Bowl.
A Chorus Line tickets & all show info: www.HollywoodBowl.com