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Paul Rodriguez Jr.

Skateboarder Paul Rodriguez Jr. debuts on Selena: The Series

Legendary skateboarder P-Rod adds acting to resume with Selena: The Series on Netflix.

Paul Rodriguez Jr., known as P-Rod, has been a professional skateboarder for 18 years. A native of the San Fernando Valley, this Mexican-American athlete now adds actor to his list of achievements. He is also an investor, entrepreneur and business owner. 

Paul Rodriguez Jr. is a dedicated learner, thoughtful strategist and relentless worker. 

He has forged his own path, and it now includes acting. While he is the son of actor and comedian Paul Rodriguez, who presented his connections to P-Rod and encouraged him to act during childhood, Paul Rodriguez Jr. had other plans for himself.

He was going to be a professional skateboarder. P-Rod started skating at age 12. It took only a few years for him to go pro. He’s won every major competition, including the X Games and Street League Skateboarding. When asked about it, it’s difficult for Paul to summarize his skateboarding career to date. How could it not be? He is one of the most accomplished professional skaters in the history of the sport. 

P-Rod is already a legend in one field

In 2011, his industry peers, through Transworld Skateboarding’s 30th anniversary edition, named him as one of the 30 most influential skaters of all time. Paul Rodriguez Jr. was the only athlete in his 20s on the list of long-established legends of skateboarding he grew up loving. He recalls this honor as a career highlight.

A couple years ago, P-Rod suffered a major knee injury. He tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus all at once. This type of injury has led to many early retirements for professional skaters. Not for him. Today, P-Rod remains at the top of his game. He says he has many years left to give. 

His success in sports extends outside skateboarding. As a Nike athlete, Paul Rodriguez Jr. is one of only a few professionals who have the distinction of having 10 Nike signature shoes. Who are the others? They include NBA legend Michael Jordan, the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and Lakers champion LeBron James. Kobe personally congratulated Paul and joined him in London in 2012 to help launch Paul’s tenth Nike SB P-Rod shoe.

Photo courtesy of Nike SB.

Paul has had much success in bringing his dreams to life. He makes his first major acting debut as Roger Garcia, Los Dinos guitarist, in “Selena: The Series” this Friday on Netflix.

Paul Rodriguez Jr. visited with Our Esquina for a Q&A to discuss his new dream, becoming a full-time professional actor, through his experience on the cast of Netflix’s “Selena: The Series.” 

Our Esquina: You have an upcoming role we’ll all get to see starting Friday. On Netflix’s “Selena: The Series,” you play Roger Garcia. I know you’ve had acting experience before, but is it safe to say this is your major acting debut?

P-Rod: Definitely the biggest project I’ve been a part of. I did some independent films back in the day, but this is definitely the biggest platform, Netflix. It’s obviously a story about one of our beloved heroes in the Latin community, so it meant a whole lot to just get a role in that show. I just wanted to have some kind of association with it.

Acting lessons helped

Our Esquina: How did it come about? I imagine an audition, but what was the process behind that?

P-Rod: Yeah, so the last few years, I’ve actually been taking acting classes consistently. I got management for acting and have been going out on a lot of auditions. So, it was just an audition that came down the pipeline, and I told my manager. … Normally every time there’s an audition, I just say yes. Whether I think I’m good for the role or not, I pretty much have gone to every audition which is good because that’s what skateboarding to me is. You just gotta just try something a million times and eventually you’ll learn it or you land it. And so, after about a million auditions, and having only booked one other role, this one came along. And low and behold they booked me for it.

Our Esquina: You’re Mexican-American. Selena had a huge amount of success and influence in the Mexican-American community. In this role and throughout your career, how has your background influenced you as a professional athlete and now as an actor?

P-Rod: My mom (Laura Martinez) is second generation, but my dad was born there (Paul Rodriguez was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa). I’m a mix of generations, partially second generation and third generation. How has it played a role in my life? Well, I’ve always been proud of my heritage, my culture and my background. I was also fortunate enough to be born here in Southern California in the San Fernando Valley. I was raised in a super eclectic neighborhood. I had a Korean family living next to me, a Jewish family, a Japanese family and Black families. You had a mix of everybody, so at first, I actually didn’t even think about it. All my friends at school, everybody was different. It just seemed completely normal. 

When I started skateboarding, I just saw all different kids doing it. It looked interesting and I wanted to partake in it. I didn’t start realizing the effect on the fact that I was Mexican-American until I started making a name for myself. Kids, other Mexican kids, would come to our demos or signings or contests and see me and tell me how because I’m Mexican, I inspired them to start skating. They could relate and they wanted to be just like me. That’s when I started realizing the impact it had on the community and that’s when I realized well, this is a big responsibility.

Family vibe with cast

Our Esquina: One of the interesting parts of this show is that the producer (Jaime Dávila, Campanario Entertainment) and a lot of the cast and crew are Latinx making this your first experience working amongst predominantly Latinxs. Did you learn anything about yourself or what was your favorite part about this experience?

P-Rod: The culture is very, very family-like on the set. On this particular set, it was such a family vibe. Everybody hung out with and were buddies with the crew, the cast. Everybody commingled and everything until COVID-19 hit, of course. But up until that point everybody did. Every Friday night, we would all go out to this bar Ricky’s out there in Rosarito Beach and just hang out and unwind after the long week of work. The whole cast and crew would come and hang, it was very familial. I got to learn a lot of Spanish, they help me work on my Spanish. 

What else did I learn? I think our hard-working ethics that we have as Hispanics really shone through a lot there. There were some long days and early mornings. And you know, I think we didn’t quite have the budget that other Netflix shows would have, so we had to do a lot more with a lot less and make it all work. I’m confident that the whole show will come out looking like we had the biggest budget ever. It was really amazing from the costume department making all the costumes, trying to recreate all of them from scratch, to the set designers that had to recreate all these music award sets and the house. They made her whole neighborhood. They made a whole street with her house. The neighbor’s house and the whole street was made to look just like it was when she grew up. It was really amazing to see all the departments working together, the attention to detail and how on point they were with it. It was really awesome. 

Selena: The Series
Selena: The Series, courtesy Netflix.

Our Esquina: So you mentioned Rosarito Beach. You were filming in Baja?

P-Rod: There’s a big studio there. They film a lot of movies. It was actually built back in ‘94 or ‘95 to film Titanic. James Cameron had that whole studio built, and they filmed Titanic there, the whole movie. They filmed a lot of “The Walking Dead.” Master and Commander with Russell Crowe was filmed there. So many other movies were filmed there that I don’t even know. I think some Planet of the Apes stuff was shot there. It’s a movie studio there in Rosarito Beach that I had no idea even existed. 

Young Los Dinos

Our Esquina: Your character Roger Garcia was part of the early years of Los Dinos. Can you give us an idea of what we can look forward to when we watch you on “Selena: The Series” starting this Friday?

P-Rod: You’re going to see a lot of ‘80s and big ‘80s outfits. My character, my guy, they kind of had him a little bit more like a “Rico Suave” kind of dude. He dressed in really tight clothes. He really tried to show himself off I guess, so that was fun to get used to. He was, as you know, the guitar player of the band one of the original guitar players of the band. You’re going to see him like he was probably 19 and they first brought him into the band. He left the band when he was 23. So, he was young. He was really young, the whole band was young. So you’re going to see a lot of the ‘80s nostalgia during my time on the show.

Our Esquina: This may open a lot of doors for you, being on a Netflix show. A lot of people are looking forward to watching “Selena: The Series.” What are your goals for acting? What kinds of projects do you hope to be a part of?

P-Rod: Well, my goal is, as time goes on, to transition into a full-time working actor. In a perfect world, I’d love to be in any of those type of Marvel or superhero-type movies. I’d love to do action films and I’d love to just continue to evolve and grow as an actor. After studying it for the last three or so years and seeing what it really takes, to take on some of these really serious roles, really dramatic roles and really dark roles. What some of these actors out there can do, I don’t think most of us really respect what they can do. If you haven’t studied acting, because it’s easy to see somebody do it and think “I could do that,” but what I found about acting is that these actors have to create these characters off the page from scratch. They have to make this person come to life, become a real living, breathing human. The character, whether it’s a Sci-Fi character or it’s an imaginary character that we don’t have real references to go off, these actors really do what they can do in these roles is extremely impressive. 

So I’d love to continue to evolve and be able to learn how to go further and further in that direction to become like a real actor’s actor. That’s going to take a real dedication and lifetime dedication. So that would be the goal. In terms of transitioning from skateboarding to acting, I still definitely have a lot of work to do and I still have a lot of gas in the tank left for skateboarding, so I’m also just having fun studying, trying to learn the craft while I’m still enjoying and loving skating.

I just kind of fly by the seat of my pants. I’m really led by passion. So, wherever my heart and my mind is that in that moment that’s where I’m totally consumed by it. Since studying acting bounces back and forth with skating, in many ways I’m still just starting. In late 2016, early 2017, I started going to acting classes just because I knew that’s eventually what I wanted to do. So, I thought, “let me just start learning the craft.” 

Well, I’m still active and skating, so I would go once a week and put up some scenes with classmates. It didn’t take too much time. It takes more time to read, to take notes and really get into scripts and try and develop characters, but I found it works really good. Good because skating is such a hard, physical sport. So, with all that working out and skating that I do a lot of times, my body is sore. So, in the evenings at night to unwind and relax, that’s what I like to do. I’ll read through scripts or if I have a scene that I’m going to put up in class with a partner work on that. On days off when I’m not being physical, I still have something to keep my mind and my passion I can work on too while I recover and get ready to go back to skating. Skating and acting, those kind of help each other out.

Hoping to add more Latinx representation

Our Esquina: You mentioned you would like to do a Marvel movie, an action movie, which brings me to the last question about acting. We read a lot about the lack of representation in the entertainment industry, particularly amongst Latinxs. It’s meaningful and matters to kids to see actors who look like them in the role of a superhero, for example. As it pertains to our various Latinx communities, what kinds of stories do you hope are told and that you’d be interested in as an actor?

P-Rod: I think this one has been told, but I always had a fascination with Pancho Villa and his story and everything. That would be an awesome role to play. That’d be really cool, a really strong historical Hispanic figure, somebody who really stood for something. There are some really good stories out there, and we’ve had some really amazing Hispanic actors out there that have done a really great job. I’d like to see a lot more for sure. A lot more outside of the standard gangster, the cholo or the narco that are often the opportunities for Latino actors. Just real human stories. There are endless stories.

Our Esquina: You’re someone who’s done so much. You have several different careers going on at the same time. Who are your biggest influences? Why did you decide to act and why was it important for you to build out your businesses and create this multi-career life for yourself?

P-Rod: The answer to why I decided to start acting is actually, it was my first dream from when I was a kid. As you know, my father is a comedian and actor. So, when I was a little kid I used to go on TV sets and movie sets with him and watch them shoot and film. As a kid, I was always around actors and famous people, and it really inspired me. It was something that I wanted to do from early on. As I got a little older, my dad and my mom, the people around them would say, “Hey, you know, we should get your son an agent and manager and send him out on auditions.” 

When I was a little kid, I used to go out on auditions for commercials and things like that. I think that young, I just liked the idea of already being on a show or movie and being on a set doing it. I didn’t necessarily have the understanding of the work ethic and going through the audition process. I was so uncomfortable on auditions and shy. The studying and the actual developing of the craft side of it, for me, at that age was mind-numbing. It was just not for me. 

I was a very physical kid and so, I fell in love with … different sports like karate, physical things. Also, I didn’t realize until older how to articulate it. But also, I didn’t like the idea of having an advantage in acting. Your dad is somebody who’s in the industry, can get you an agent, no problem, and get you a manager, no problem. And eventually that might help you get roles easier. I didn’t like the idea of having it like that.

Thank God I found an avenue with skateboarding, which had nothing to do with anything from that world. It felt really good to be able to do that and make it in skateboarding. So, now I know that I can make it now that I’ve made it on my own. Everything I’ve done in the acting world so far has been without any assistance. It’s just been going on auditions just like anybody else. Me being known in skateboarding doesn’t impress any of these producers or casting directors whatsoever. They could not care less. I like the idea of just starting over again and going for it.

Primitive Skateboarding brand and beyond

Our Esquina: I know you have Primitive (skateboarding brand) and you have a passion for real estate. Can you share with me a little bit about the businesses that you’re involved in, what drives you there and what you enjoy most about that part of your career?

P-Rod: Becoming a professional skateboarder, obviously, we weren’t compensated like other athletes like baseball, football, basketball or traditional athletes. We’re not, we’re not paid anywhere close to that. I always had a dream of being wealthy, to be straight up. I always wanted to be wealthy and I knew that also skateboarding had a time limit. You can’t do it forever. Anything athletic has a window. I knew that at some point, you have to retire as an athlete. You’re relatively young by the time you retire.

I understood that I didn’t graduate high school, I didn’t go to college and I don’t have the discipline of getting up and working a 9-to-5 or taking orders from someone. I knew that if I had to do that after living this life of skateboarding, traveling the world, making my own schedule doing what I want, I would fall into a big depression having to go into this conformed world. 

So, I decided young to start learning or at least, you know, poking my nose into business and investing. Primitive happened to come up pretty early on in my Nike career and we started the sneaker store. I was lucky. I had the connection with Nike, and Nike really helped us to open the shop. It was a store first and we did that and then it kind of built into its own kind of clothing and skate brand and now it’s really become something powerful. 

I like to invest in real estate. I like to invest in multifamily real estate and in storage facilities. I do some stock market stuff. I work with my financial planner. I always had the goal to live life on my own terms. So that’s the idea behind trying to be an entrepreneur and investing, just I want to live life on my own terms bottom line.

Our Esquina: It seems you have an understanding of how generational wealth works then. Obviously, you’re building something for yourself, but you know that inevitably what you do is going to benefit your daughter (Heaven Rodriguez) and your family.

P-Rod: You know how you think of the early industrialists like your Rockefellers and your Carnegies and these types of families, the Rothschilds and they just have money generation after generation. It would be cool to be a Hispanic, a Mexican family with that kind of generational wealth. Maybe that’s the next goal, you know, build an empire. We’ll see what happens.

P-Rod loves “Dreaming of You”

Our Esquina: A quick, fun question. What’s your favorite Selena song?

P-Rod: It gets me every time, “Dreaming of You.” So sweet, it brings me to tears, it’s just such a sweet song. 

Our Esquina: Is there anything that you wish more people knew about you?

P-Rod: I’m grateful. I get a lot of love from my fans. Nobody’s perfect, we all make mistakes. I just hopefully will continue to live as a good example. Hopefully, I can be a good role model to kids and show that with faith, hard work and focus, anything’s possible. 

Do the work. Let’s all give them a reason to pay attention. Make yourself undeniable. Your work, your talent and your gifts will speak for you. I want kids to know, especially as a Mexican-American, that you can do anything you want. Whatever your situation is, you can find a way. Sometimes I think we don’t know how powerful we can be. When really tapped in, when you really are fired up internally, there is really not much that can be done to stop you.

Featured art courtesy of Selena: The Series, by Sara Khalid.

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