Freddy Rodríguez – Mediation (short)

January 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the first film to come from his new production company Top Rebel, actor/producer Freddy Rodríguez (TV’s “Six Feet Under”) plays Roman Lindo, a man who finds himself in the middle of a ruthless divorce with his equally hateful wife Victoria (Marley Shelton). In an attempt to settle their differences peacefully, the couple decides to meet face to face in the presence of a court-appointed mediator before things get uglier. Unfortunately for everyone involved in this short dark comedy by director/writer Francisco Lorite, the worse is yet to come once Roman and Victoria lock eyes for what might be the last time.

What do you hope to prove with the creation of your new production company Top Rebel?

I like to call our first project, “Mediation,” to come out of this production company a “mini-feature.” It’s a calling card. It’s the type of project we want to create in this company. We want to show that we can bring a certain level of quality to the stuff we put out.

I like the term “mini-feature” you just used. “Mediation” is, of course, a short film, but it sounds like you want it to be more than that.

I think that was always the intention – for the film to have a beginning, middle and end. We wanted to show how we could execute a film. I think our intentions for making the film are different from other people making short films. We wanted people to walk out of a theater feeling like they had just seen a [feature] film.

Is part if the reason you started the company also because you felt there was a need in this industry to create roles that just are not being developed or given to Latino actors like you?

Absolutely, I think that is part of it. I think I’ve been really fortunate and very blessed throughout the years. I think for half my career I’ve played other ethnicities besides Latino. I wanted to continue that in [Top Rebel] and create more of those regular characters. I’ve always been an advocate of that and I think the company will continue that tradition.

I’m sure you know, there are a small handful of go-to young Latino actors in their mid to late 30s today that end up filling that demographic a studio might be looking for. I mean, I’m talking about actors like you, Michael Peña, Jay Hernandez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Jacob Vargas. Do you feel lucky that your name probably comes up in these conversations and that the pool is small or do you think a few more options would be nice?

I’m grateful to be part of that group of actors. Of course, it would always be a much better situation to have more options. There are many more talented Latino actors out there than the names you just mentioned. I’m sure there are. I hope that through [Top Rebel] we can create more characters and give those types of actors a chance.

You’ve battled zombies in “Planet Terror” and Al Queda terrorists in “Seal Team Six.” Was going head to head with an angry ex-wife in “Mediation” even more daunting?

(Laughs) It was a change of pace. Listen, at this point in my career I’m just trying to play different characters and be a part of different types of projects as an artist. It was fun to do all of those. It’s fun to explore all those worlds.

Do you consider “Mediation” just a fun, stylish movie where divorce is at the center of the narrative or would you like it to say something deeper with the film about relationships that come to an end?

I think that’s a question you should ask the director. As an actor, I read it and loved it and wanted to sink my teeth into it.

I know you’re happily married now, but can you remember any bad break ups you’ve experienced in your lifetime – maybe not to the extent of the characters in “Mediation” – and how those affected you at the time?

No, I’ve been married 18 years so I haven’t had too many of those. (Laughs) I’ve had the complete opposite experience of “Mediation.”

We’ve been talking for about 10 minutes now, which means, if I do my math correctly, about 46 couples have gotten divorced in the U.S. Those numbers are based on recent statistics that says a divorce happens every 13 seconds in this country. Do those kinds of statistics surprise you or is it something you think we’ve all grown accustomed to?

I think it’s something we’ve all grown accustomed to. It’s what we see as normal. I don’t want to date myself here, but I’m old school. I’m still married. The divorce rate in my family is very low. We see marriage in a different light. We try to cherish the sanctity in that more. It’s unfortunate where our society is at today.

Nothing Like the Holidays

December 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Freddy Rodriguez, John Leguizamo, Alfred Molina
Directed by: Alfred De Villa (“ Washington Heights ”)
Written by: Alison Swan (debut) and Rick Najera (debut)

While the number of slapstick Christmas comedies usually go off the charts this time of year as much as Santa’s cholesterol, the Christmas family dramedy is the other holiday sub-genre that usually demands screen time in December.

Last year, “This Christmas” featured an African American family reuniting for the holidays after four years. In 2005, Sarah Jessica Parker met “The Family Stone” and experienced all their dysfunctional love. This year, Christmas gets a little Latin flare Puerto Rican-style with “Nothing Like the Holidays.” The film follows the Rodriguez family from the Humboldt Park area in Chicago as they come together in what might be the final Christmas they spend together as a family.

The reason: Anna Rodriguez (Elizabeth Pena) has announced over dinner that she has decided to divorce her children’s father Edy (Alfred Molina) after 36 years of marriage. She has reason to believe he has been having an affair. No one takes the news lightly including Mauricio (John Leguizamo), one of the Rodriguez boys, who has become a successful lawyer in New York, and his sister Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), a struggling actress living in Los Angeles.

Freddy Rodriguez (“Grindhouse”) plays Jesse, another Rodriguez brother, back home from Iraq. He thinks his parents are adult enough to make their own decisions. His mind isn’t really focused on his mom and dad’s problems, especially since he has a handful of his own. He has returned home to find his ex-girlfriend Marissa (Melonie Diaz), whom he still loves, has moved on with her life. He is also still haunted by the death of one of his friends in the military.

It’s not only Jesse, however, who has issues. Everyone has something going on in his or her trying life and debut screenwriters Alison Swan and Rick Najera tangle it all together in a cinematic version of stale fruitcake. While storylines that focus on Jesse and his hardships give the film a more serious tone than your average family head-butting session, there’s not much time to build on his character since the script seems sculpted from the blueprint of a tiresome telenovela. Instead, secondary stories like Maruicio and his wife Sarah (Debra Messing) arguing about the best time to have a baby, and issues that revolve around Ozzy (Jay Hernandez), a family friend and ex-gang member who is bothered that the guy who killed his brother years ago has been released from prison and is now hanging out in the old neighborhood.

The scene-stealer of the film is Luis Guzman (“Waiting”), who plays the family’s kooky electronics-loving uncle, but he and Freddy Rodriguez (one of the most talented young Latino actors working today) can’t raise the film above the usual stereotypical family dramedy we get every year. It might be in different packaging this time around, but a pair of socks is a pair of socks no matter how colorful the gift-wrapping.

Bottle Shock

August 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman
Directed by: Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”)
Written by: Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”) and Jody Savin (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”)

It’s always inspiring when a studio picks up a film based on a little-known event that happened years ago. It’s less encouraging, however, when that story is adapted into a human-interest narrative that you would find buried in the back of the food section in any local community newspaper.

That’s how little regard “Bottle Shock” seems to have for it true-life and triumphant tale of Chardonnay. Directed and co-written by Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”), the story featured is “The Judgment of Paris,” a blind wine tasting competition held in Paris in 1976 where a panel of French judges surprisingly chose the vintage wines of California’s Napa Valley over those of their home country. The contest is said to have put California on the map as a respected wine producer since the French were always regarded as the best winemakers in the world.

Alan Rickman (“Love Actually”) plays Steven Spurrier, an English wine aficionado living in Paris who travels to California to find the best wines to compete against the French favorites. One of the wineries he visits is owned by Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), who has no interest in finding out if his wines can beat the best the French have to offer. His son Bo (Chris Pine), however, believes in the family business although he’d much rather be corkscrewing the summer intern (Rachel Taylor) than butting heads with his old man about issues of the past. Freddy Rodriguez (“Bobby”) rounds out the cast as Gustavo Brambila, a winery worker with an impressive palate, who’s passionate about making his own sweet nectar.

In terms of films about wine, “Bottle Shock” is not even close to being on the same menu as something like 2004’s Academy Award-nominated film “Sideways.” While an exciting history lesson about “The Judgment of Paris” would have been highly desired, what’s sadly missing from “Shock” is a developed set of characters and relationships we can become emotionally invested in. Instead, meaningless drama in the chateau knocks the film’s pacing off track and some rather dull moments in Napa ruin the overall beauty of the countryside.

Freddy Rodriguez – Nothing Like the Holidays

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

It’s Christmas 1982 in Chicago, Ill. and seven-year-old Freddy Rodriguez is singing Puerto Rican folk songs and dancing salsa and meringue with his cousins. It might not be the traditional holiday celebration most people in the U.S. are accustomed to, but for Rodriguez, a first generation Puerto Rican living in America, it’s everything he knew.

“One big thing to do during the holiday season was a thing called paranda, which is the equivalent to Christmas caroling,” said Rodriguez, who stars in the new family dramedy Nothing Like the Holidays. “I remember as a young kid we would go from house to house singing, but we would do it a little different. They’d invite us in and feed us and the men would drink and the women would play instruments and clap. It was really a good time when I was a kid.”

In Nothing Like the Holidays, Rodriguez hopes to capture some of the unique aspects of a Puerto Rican Christmas while telling the story of the, ironically, Rodriguez family, who live near Humboldt Park in west Chicago. Rodriguez plays Jesse, a soldier coming home for the holidays from overseas. As with any family, the Rodriguez’s find themselves having to work through some rough patches during their Christmas reunion. Along with the same surname, Rodriguez says his real family and his movie family have a few other similarities.

“I think every family is slightly dysfunctional if I were to make any comparisons,” Rodriguez said. “The other similarity would be that this family truly loves each other and really enjoys the time they have together during the holidays. I come from a very big extended family and Christmas is a big deal for us.”

Rodriguez’s yearly celebration, he said, would start on Christmas Eve when everyone would “party all day and all night up until midnight” and then open presents. Coming from a family of “modest means,” Rodriguez never expected to get everything he wanted for Christmas, but was satisfied with the love that his family gave him “that made up” for the lack of pricey gifts.

As he grew older, Rodriguez said he watched the family dynamic go through different phases around the holiday season as cousins grew up, became too cool to hang out with the rest of the family on Christmas, and then got married and had their own kids.

“I think when you become a teenage you go though a cynical period and don’t want to do all the traditional stuff,” Rodriguez said. “Then you become an adult and want to be more involved. Now, I have kids and all of my brothers have kids and Christmas has taken a whole new meaning for us. I think we all become kids again and want to vicariously relive that part of our lives.”

Aside from possibly donning a Santa hat this Christmas, Rodriguez, who has been in the film industry for 20 years, will try on another one he has never worn before. Along with starring in Nothing Like the Holidays, Rodriguez is credited as an executive producer, something he has thought about doing for a while.

“In some of my other films, I found myself doing what producers do without knowing that’s what produces do,” said Rodriguez, who has starred in such films as Poseidon and Bobby. “I think I’ve always had a knack for trying to put things together. When this opportunity came up it… gave me a chance to help. It was something that was natural for me. I just took it to the next level.”

Part of Rodriguez’s job as an executive producer was to attract talent and assist in creating a well-rounded and mostly Latino cast. To do this, he began to make calls to actors he had worked with in the past and those he admired. The first actor who made his list was John Leguizamo, who Rodriguez had acting alongside in 1997’s The Pest. For comic relief, he turned to Luis Guzman, who he shared the screen with in 2005’s Dreamer. Rodriguez also helped cast British actor Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) as his Puerto Rican father.

“I think Alfred was a thought I had just because I was such a gigantic fan of his,” Rodriguez said. “The guy was wonderful and I knew he could pull it off. It wasn’t about who the flavor of the month was or who’s on the cover of the Enquirer. I just wanted good people involved in the film.”

That’s really all Rodriguez has been looking for since his film career started rolling in the mid-90s. With early roles in films like A Walk in the Clouds and Dead Presidents opening new opportunities for him, Rodriguez soon became a household name when he earned a regular spot in 2001 on the popular HBO series Six Feet Under where he played Federico Diaz, an embalmer at a family-run mortuary. It was during this time on the small screen when he realized what he wanted to accomplish in the industry.

“I wanted to be a leading man and I wanted to be able to hold my own against actors like Christian Bale (Harsh Times) or play an action hero in a Robert Rodriguez movie (Planet Terror),” Rodriguez said. “I think I learned whatever you put your mind to you can do it. Here I am now, in a major American film that revolves around a Latin family. A lot of things I feel I’ve set out to do, I’ve achieved. I’ve learned that anything is possible.”