Jai Rodriguez, who made a name for himself
on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, is showcasing his
comedic and dramatic acting skills this summer for the sunny
South Florida audience. After many years on the
Broadway stages of New York
and making several guest appearances on popular television
shows, Jai is currently headlining the 2011 Summer Shorts
Theatre Festival. The festival, which will be in the
Carnival Studio Theater at
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
through June 26 and at the
Broward Center in
Fort Lauderdale from June 30-July 3, features nine
short plays with Jai along with several other actors and also
features four late-night performances of Rodriguez' solo show
Dirty Little Secrets. Jai recently spoke with
Mark’s List about the upcoming Summer Shorts Festival, expanding
his acting chops and shedding his Queer Eye image.
You will be in
South Florida for the
entire month of June for the Summer Shorts. What can we expect?
Well I’m very excited to be down in
this summer. I’m very much looking forward to it. With the
“Summer Shorts” you can expect several short plays that range
anywhere from five to 20 minutes. Each of the short plays are
different and are very funny comedies, and I also get to
work with other actors. Dirty Little Secrets is my solo
show with music and stories about all kinds of things that I get
to dish the dirt on.
How does performing in several
different plays at one time help expand your range as an actor?
It’s just a continuation of what I’ve
been doing the past several years. I’ve starred on
Broadway with Rent and The Producers and have also
guest starred on shows like Nip/Tuck. I also recently did
a guest appearance on Kathy Bates’ new show Murphy’s Law.
It was a very meaty role. It’s one of the biggest acting roles
I’ve ever taken on. I finally got to show on television what
most New Your City theatre audiences already knew I could do.
(Photo by Adam Bouska)
was it like working with Kathy Bates on the show?
Just from the table read alone she was
very professional and welcoming to the guest stars. When you’re
around a legend like that and someone’s who has been in the
business so long, it’s a great experience. I wouldn’t say hi to
her first—I would always wait for her to talk to me first. But
she was very warm, interesting and complex.
With playing gay roles early on or
your role on Queer Eye, did you ever think you would be
pigeonholed as just being able to play one type of role?
I don’t think if you make a gay film
or if you star in a gay film you should be pigeonholed or how
people see you forever. I think it’s ridiculous. But it
does happen. That’s what makes it harder for gay actors to come
out. They still have bills to pay and have to find work.
It’s easy to say that certain actors should do the right thing
and come out, but they are the ones that need to have a career.
What do you look for the most when
choosing a role?
Well in the last year and half I’ve
really been looking at more and more scripts, and I am shocked
at the diversity of roles that are available for gay actors.
You don’t have to be the punch line anymore—you don’t have to be
a cliché. The character might just happen to be gay and
have nothing to do with the story line. But at the same time,
I’m not going in for the roles for they guy who jumps out of a
plane and lands on a bus. That’s just not really in my
skill set. I mainly look for roles that will stretch me
and challenge me as a person. But one thing I did learn from
Kathy Griffin is that you should never turn down work.
It’s a very competitive market.
Has it been hard to shed your image
from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy? Is that something
you hope to continuously break away from as you move forward in
In the past couple of years I haven’t
asked about it as much. I’ve had beard or stubble for the last
few years, so I kind of look different. I also have a lot
of tattoos now. I definitely walk into the room now with a
familiar presence but they might not be able to pinpoint me as
“the guy from Queer Eye”. In the scripted community it
really hasn’t come up in the last year-and-a-half. It’s
not really a show that’s on people’s radar anymore. They
will remember it if you talk about it, but it really hasn’t
affected my scripted work—thank God! For me now, it’s all about
presenting who I’m trying to play as soon as I walk in the room.
You can buy tickets
to the Summer Shorts Festival at the
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and