Vincent Rodriguez III – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) About a month ago, I recorded my part for the new cast recording of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. I was in the ensemble of that and had a few featured lines and solos. I recorded them in LA with Steven Schwartz as my producer and music director.
Q) Please tell us how Josh Chan on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was originally described to you?
A) I read the breakdown and it said, “Asian Male, late 20’s, early 30’s.” The part was actually for “Josh Chang” and it was really the description that they had written as this affable, charming, chill SoCal kind of dude. Then, it mentioned that he was the object of Rebecca Bunch’s affection to the point where she would move across the country for him. At the very end of the breakdown it said, “Please submit any musical talents as well: singing, musical instruments, etc.” So, I got really excited, but for a while I had it in my head that they wanted Josh Chang to accompany himself on guitar while rapping. That was me actually combining something I had from two auditions prior where I had to do that. I went in for this Broadway musical called Holler If You Hear Me, which was a Tupac Shakur musical. I went in for a role that required me to accompany myself on guitar while singing and rapping. I had to perform the song “Thug Mansion.” I thought it was totally up my alley, but it wasn’t the first time I had been asked to rap. I had to listen to the song and I play the guitar, but I’m pretty novice. I can strum some chords and play with some rehearsal, but I listened to the guitar part of the song and it was so hard! I thought there was no way I’d be ready for the audition. I prepared and learned all the material except for the guitar so two nights before the audition I went on YouTube (which was what it advised in the breakdown). There was no sheet music, but in two hours I transcribed my “lyric sheet” for the song with highlighter and weird markings I had learned from Shakespeare class to figure out a strum pattern for the song. I figured it out, did a great job at the audition and they called me back. Unfortunately, I was already in Here Lies Love at the Public Theatre where I understudied a guy who played guitar and had the final song in the show. It was just so funny to me that I’d have to perform “Thug Mansion” again. I thought I was so random that I’d probably never have to do that again. So, when the audition for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” came up, for some reason in my head I thought the last part of the breakdown said I must accompany myself on the guitar while singing and rapping. So, that was exactly what I did for my audition…I rapped and sung “Thug Mansion” on my guitar. Rachel [Bloom] admitted to me that after she saw my audition she called Aline [Brosh McKenna] and said, “You have to watch this video! This is Josh. I found him. This is him.”
Q) Was Josh based on someone from Rachel’s real life?
A) He was supposed to be an Asian male because it was based off a crush that Rachel Bloom had when she was younger in SoCal. She was into this guy and she would find out when he shift at work was and try to be in the area at that time just so she could bump into him. When they found out I was Filipino, “Josh Chang” became “Josh Chan” because they found out Chan is a surname from the Philippines. I’m first generation since I was the first of my family not born in The Philippines. I’m what they call “Mestizo.” Josh Chang became Josh Chan.
Q) Are there any similarities between you and your character?
A) There are a lot of similarities to Josh and me. I told them I could skateboard. So, at the audition I asked Aline why she had picked “Josh Chan” instead of “Josh Smith” she said her and Rachel grew up in Southern California and saw all kinds of surfer dudes and some of them were Asian. That was what they grew up with and I grew up in the “West Covina of San Francisco.” There was a strip mall near my house and in high school and junior high it was all Latino, Asian and Black. White was a minority. In my clique of friends there was only one white guy. There are just a lot of similarities to my upbringing and Josh’s. So, this was a little too coincidental. Of course, I told them a lot more about myself and they used it as fuel for Josh. It was very serendipitous to a degree. I’m not used to breakdowns really describing me and I really felt this role really described me. I thought, “I think I’m this person. I feel like I know who Josh is. I went to school with Josh. I was best friends with Josh. I am Josh.” Now on the show, it’s kind of neat because parts of Josh remind me of guys I went to high school with. It is just an exaggerated version of myself.
Q) What have been some of your favorite music numbers filmed on the show?
A) “The Sexy Getting Ready Song” is pretty amazing. I was actually quite jealous of “Settle For Me” because my background is in musical theater and my very first job out of college was 42nd Street. I was a union actor and I toured with the First National Tour, which was a big deal because it was still on Broadway. That was where my inspiration had stemmed from, watching Gene Kelly dance and this era of Broadway musical comedy. 42nd Street was kind of the epitome of a Broadway show with all of the tap dancing. So, the “Settle For Me” song would have been so fun for me to do because I love that era. “White Christmas” and “Settle For Me” live in the same kind of world. So, it would have been cool to do it. What is kind of neat is that we just finished working with Kenny Ortega. Getting to talk to him about his work on Newsies was just a dream. We didn’t really have any dance numbers in the episode we filmed with him, but we loved having him on set and loved working with him. “The Sexy Getting Ready” song is pretty hilarious and catchy. I love it and it’s just straight up entertaining. My “Boy Band” song was pretty fun to do. I have always wanted to do a Boy Band number. My school didn’t provide any hip-hop training so while I was in school learning dance, theater, acting and singing I would watch NSYNC concerts. Of course, NSYNC was my favorite because they were better dancers than Backstreet Boys. Sorry Backstreet Boys! I would emulate NSYNC’s style and practice the choreography in my living room. That’s how I supplemented my dance training in school because I wanted more. I wanted to be a professional actor on Broadway. My father wanted me to be a business man so he gave me a huge ultimatum and I wasn’t even done with my first year of school. It was such a ridiculous ultimatum and I was too young to know what I was capable of or what was possible really. So, I got freaked out and went into overdrive in school, hence the NYSNC performances and Bob Fosse DVDs. That’s what I did in my off time, which wasn’t much. But I was cast in every musical in school and I was always up front. It was just so ironic that all that past stuff brings me to this. So, to be given the gift of the “Boy Band” of Four Joshes by Rachel Bloom was so freaking cool.
Q) Were you familiar with Rachel at all before auditioning for the show?
A) I wasn’t. I heard about her. It was on the breakdown that she was starring in it, Executive Producer and writing it. It said she was a YouTube star. This was after my very first screening audition where I hadn’t met anyone yet. It was my very first audition and I’d gotten a call back. I researched her and found “Fuck me, Ray Bradbury” and “You Can Touch My Boobies.” I died! I thought they were so funny! “You Can Touch My Boobies” has been stuck in my head many times! It’s just so funny and is really good. I thought it was a legitimate so catchy and so good song. While I was watching the videos, I thought, “That Asian girl dancing next to Rachel looks familiar.” This was after I’d already told myself the video was good and Rachel was so funny and amazing. Everything about it seemed so cohesive. To me, looking back, it was like, “Of course you have your own show and you have all these music videos on your YouTube channel.” That made sense to me. It felt kismet! I am looking at the videos and thought, “Katie?” So, I went on Facebook and messaged my friend Katie who was my dance partner in the workshop of Waterfall. I asked her if she was in the videos and she went, “Oh yeah. I grew up with Rachel and I’m a friend of hers from childhood. I choreographed those two videos for her and was one of her dancers.” I went, “You’re not going to believe this, but I’m called back to play her ex-boyfriend on this TV Show.” Of course, she freaks out and then we’re both freaking out. She is contacting Rachel and they are freaking out. Rachel went to school at NYU so you would think in this small world we would know some of the same people. She went to school in New York and went off to LA so our circles just never crossed except for this one person. It was a random circumstance!
Q) What do you think it is about the show that has made it a fast favorite of viewers?
A) I think people have not seen this combination of comedy, improv, music, musical theater storytelling and overall ridiculousness and honesty. Any one of those things can be found on different shows. Like you can watch “Saturday Night Live” for sketch comedy and you can watch The Lonely Island videos for really funny songs that are sketch funny songs, but there is not really a story you are following. If you watch “South Park,” it’s not a sketch show, but a cartoon that is ridiculous, raunchy and has songs in it. They are written though by people who love musicals, just like “Family Guy.” This show just combines so many things. It’s written by two amazing writers and those two minds put together create this story that hasn’t really been told yet. There has been a lot of talk about the title being avant-garde, but I never thought of it that way. To me, I don’t read into the title, but then I’m biased because I know what story we are telling. We’re telling a very honest story and we’re going into the depth of the title – what “crazy” means and why love makes you crazy. That’s really what we are talking about. We did a press junket a month or two ago and we got asked what the craziest thing you have done for love. Each of us has been a crazy ex-girlfriend or had been with a crazy ex-girlfriend, but we had no problem sharing a story of what we did because we were infatuated with someone or obsessed with them. When we asked them the same question, you could see it on some of their faces that they specifically remembered something they did that was obsessive and you could tell they were embarrassed. I think as people watch the show, they are going to see that more people will feel that way because we are opening these characters and going into their individual levels or crazy. You find out how each of us is kind of a little broken and that there is something we haven’t quite worked through in our lives. I like to use Rebecca moving to West Covina as a pebble that gets dropped in a West Covina pond. Because of the ripple effect she has on all of us, we end up changing because she is there. She is quirky and crazy, but also really smart so she uses her lawyer skills to help her. She helped my girlfriend, Valencia, get a yoga studio, but she’s also crazy! She has issues with her mother, too. I think with any of those themes any one could latch on to and feel connected to her. Another thing that people don’t quite get yet, but maybe subconsciously get is that she is an anti-hero. You’re just not supposed to do anything that she does. Do the opposite of what she is doing! She’s not quite on the right track, but how many dudes like Greg (Santino Fontana) chase after girls who aren’t really into them? After he finds out she’s into me, it seems kind of weird for a bro to do. Each one of us you’ll discover is guilty of doing something that doesn’t make sense or can be construed as being crazy, but it just so happens our show is really focused on this one act of crazy by Rebecca who is my ex-grilfreind. I feel like down the line you’ll be able to see those aspects in each of our characters. Rebecca is just the one who gets things started.
Q) What can you tease is in store this season?
A) We have a Thanksgiving episode coming up and you are going to meet Josh’s family. We met his dad in the radiology lab, but Rebecca somehow gets invited to Thanksgiving at my house while my girlfriend is there. So, things get a little rocky, but it’s pretty neat to see his family. He’s Filipino so that has been really cool for me to be a part of. There has been a big deal about Asians being on TV, particularly Filipinos, and we’re playing ourselves. I have a Filipino family and you’ll get to see the Filipino culture in America. And we’re definitely Pilipino-American because there are definitely not just Filipino foods on the Thanksgiving table. Then, there will be some things we dive into like Josh’s relationship with Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) and the history behind what happened with Rebecca and Josh at camp. There are great things we are going to highlight and visit with these characters. The show gets crazier each episode and right when you think you get it we throw something else at you and curveball all around. It makes it so fun and fresh and new every time you watch. Rachel keeps writing these crazy and hilariously funny songs. The combination of that and the writing on the show as we are exploring these characters makes for really exciting television. I think people are starting to realize this isn’t like anything they’ve seen before and they are absolutely right. They’ve never seen television like this before and that’s why you have to watch it because you’ve never seen anything like this before.