Vincent Rodriguez III currently stars as Josh Chan on the critically-acclaimed Emmy and Golden Globe winning musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on the CW. Last year Out Magazine honored the actor by naming him one of the OUT 100, which recognizes extraordinary people from the LGBTQ community.
I caught up with Vincent in New York at this past weekend’s Flame Con, where he was a special guest at the premier LGBTQ comic-con.
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FOG!: You got your start performing musical theatre on stage. What were some of your first roles?
VRIII: Well, after graduation I got an offer for the first national tour of 42nd Street. I joined the ensemble starting in Sacramento, California after working at Starbucks. After doing that show for nine months, I moved to New York. I had my equity card, a dream, and a 60 pound duffel bag. But in New York, I auditioned for everything – Wicked, Beauty and the Beast, etc.
And when you were in New York, you got work off-Broadway?
Actually, I was on a trip, and I was poor so I didn’t pay for cell-phone roaming, and while I was out of range I apparently got two calls. So when I came back, my phone started pinging me voicemails. I had two offers for shows – Thoroughly Modern Millie and White Christmas.
I took White Christmas, which was in San Francisco (my hometown), and at the same time I worked 15 hours a week at the Starbucks across the street. But, then I went back to New York and did a whole bunch of regional theatre for a long time.
But always musicals, right?
Yes, I always did musical theatre because that’s how I knew I’d make money. Plays don’t pay as much, even though there’s a perception in the business between “actors” in plays and “performers” in musicals. I was fighting that perception when I started auditioning for the screen.
So, when you auditioned for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, how confident were you?
Well, it was here in New York City and it was my “screen test.” I had heard that in Los Angeles when you do a screen test it is very intimidating because it’s you and the people you’re up against sometimes. I didn’t have to do that. It was actually in a room I had been in so many times in New York. So I go in the room, and I’m looking around, and I’m like ‘that’s a white guy’ and that is an ‘Asian guy’ but he’s not really what’s described in the breakdown [as Josh Chan]. And I’m thinking, okay, I’m the only one that looks like me. What’s going on. This is really good, isn’t it?
So, you totally knew you had the role?
I had auditioned for stuff for so long, so I was in a very specific zone when I auditioned for Josh Chan. But it’s probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to a character being close to who I am, as described in the breakdown. I read the breakdown thinking, “hmmm, well that’s me“. That never happens anywhere. When I went in, I saw Rachel Bloom and we looked across the room and both felt we knew one another.
And that was it?
Well we did three different tests, and on the third one our director Marc Webb asked Rachel and I to create improv the beginning scene from the first episode where Josh and Rebecca reconnect in New York. Make up whatever you want, bring in Rachel, then go back into the script. Rachel’s done so much improv, but I was like “um, I do musical theatre” [throws hands up] “improv?” But it was somewhere in that realm that I did think I could possibly get this role.
You shot the pilot for Showtime though? Are we talking Twin Peaks type Showtime? How different was the show from the CW version?
We did, so that’s what the screen test was originally for. And it got dropped and it was months when we had no idea what was going to happen to the pilot. Rachel and Aline once pitched it seven times in one day and got seven rejections.
Eventually, Mark Pedowitz at The CW said he liked the show and asked to extend it to an hour format per episode. But he asked to turn down the adult content a bit.
Though, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show that pushes the envelope, at least in terms of what mainstream television represents. You have an openly gay character and now a Bi-Sexual character…
Not to sound ungrateful for that, but we need to normalize that stuff. It’s not weird. When I’m asked a question like that I want to just point out that it’s just current and what’s happening.
But there was never any pushback from anyone?
Correct. The show is reflective of what is happening today. So, the fact that we didn’t make a big deal out of White Josh being gay… if you rewatch that episode, you’ll notice he doesn’t “come out.” There’s no Gay Josh, it’s just not a big deal. It’s just a wonderful way to say [to audiences[ it’s completely normal. It’s not like finding a unicorn. But if you do find a unicorn, you better post that on Instagram.
What can we expect from Season Three of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and when does that premiere?
Friday, October 13th! Expect lots of surprises.