Rudy Martinez is a ray of light in Hollywood. His killer smile, positive attitude and love for his craft has turned the heads of casting directors and fans alike. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he fell in love with acting at a early age and continued to pursue his passion professionally, earning a BFA in acting. After being signed with an agent during college, Martinez hit the ground running as soon as he graduated. While waiting for his agent to call with auditions that first summer, Martinez face painted at children’s birthday parties. He went on to book his very first professional acting job as a host job for the Disney Channel, where they flew him to Disney World to interview young celebrities and talk about the newest rides. Through the years, his resume grew with a plethora of noteworthy projects. He currently recurs on The CW’s “Jane The Virgin” as Rudy the P.A. and is best known as Marty on the NBC series “Heartbeat.” Additional acting credits include: ABC’s “Speechless,” Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie,” Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and the film “Senior Moment.”
2018 is shaping up to be his biggest year to date as he recently joined the cast of Netflix’s critically acclaimed dramedy, “Dear White People.” Based on the 2014 film of the same name, the series follows a diverse group of students at a predominantly white Ivy League college, who are navigating various forms of racial and other types of discrimination. Martinez plays the character Wesley Alvarez, who is a love interest for Lionel (DeRon Horton) in season 2, which premiered in May of 2018. With roles like these, Rudy Martinez will continue to light up the screen and raise the bar on each project for years to come. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this star on the rise to discuss his journey as an actor, the challenges he faced along the way and the projects closest to his heart.
How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?
Always knew that I wanted to be an actor, but I tried other practical things first! [laughs] I tried majoring in psychology when I was in college. Honestly, I think I just wanted to help people and I think I found a different way of doing that. I was always attracted to performing and telling stories, so I went that route instead. When I was in college, I got my first agent and started going out on auditions while I was in school.
Which early project impacted you most?
I think the stuff I did when I was hosting for Disney was a big game changer for me. Prior to that, I didn’t know if I would be successful in this business. That was the first audition that I went to where the casting director really liked me and called me back. The first project that I was hosting for them fell through, but they really wanted me to be a part of their team, so they brought me back to read for something else and that ended up working out! I ended up going to Disney World and interviewing various Disney Channel celebrities. That was a huge moment for me because it was a big crash course in being on camera and all the preparation involved. I was really thankful to be on a set and learn how everything works. It allows me to figure out who does what and get my bearings in that environment. From there, I was little bit more prepared when I started doing scripted work.
Who had the biggest impact on you in the early stages of your career?
My parents have always been so supportive! They never told me that acting wasn’t practical! I always kind of expected to have them say that to me at some point when I told them I was going to major in theater or pursue a career as an actor. They have always fully supported me and have always been happy to come see my projects whether they are in theater or on TV. They have been my biggest fans, so I have a big appreciation for their love and guidance!
You’ve been part of great projects. Was there a moment you felt like you came into your own as an actor?
After “Dear White People” came out in May, I’ve had some people contact me and tell me that they really appreciate my performance, particularly because it’s the only show that touches on a lot of social issues. I play an LGBT character on the show. So, I had a lot of people tell me it means a lot to them to see people like that represented on-screen, especially being in the Latino community where representation is very important to them. They’ve reached out and let me know that, so I think that’s the moment where I thought, “OK, this is exactly what I want to be doing!” I want to help people and represent characters that are important to them!
How did you get involved with “Dear White People” and what made it a role you were excited to take on?
I was a huge fan of the show before I auditioned for it. My manager got me an audition for it, I went to the audition and then I left town to attend a wedding in Portland. Of course, it’s always when you leave town that opportunities come! [laughs] I had to come back early because I knew it was a great part I did not want to miss out on it! I came back for the callback and then had a chemistry test with the actor that I play opposite of. Then I booked it! I was really excited because, in my opinion, it’s such an important show. It just speaks so frankly and candidly about the issues it tackles!
The show is well-written. What did you bring to your character that wasn’t on the original written page?
That’s a good question! One thing that I was really nervous about was that I wasn’t sure if the things I was doing would come across on camera. My character is written as being smart and fun but one of the things I tried for him was a little bit of vulnerability. He is in a romantic relationship with another character, Lionel who is played by DeRon Horton, and they are both on unsteady ground. They are not social butterflies and have not had these experiences yet, so it’s all very new to both of them! I tried to bring that vulnerability and uncertainty and I think it played!
You’re absolutely right! What has been the biggest challenge you faced with this role?
You know, I’ve never really played romance before because I normally don’t get cast in those separate roles. I have an ease with playing the geeky guy, the office tech guy or the sidekick. I love playing these type of parts because I can really play at the comedy. This role is a stretch for me because I had never played the love interest. I think the biggest challenge was accepting that part of me and realizing that I could play a romantic role.
What is your typical process for bringing a new character to life?
The first thing that I do is journal as the character. I write down everything that is given to me in the script but from my point of view to get the details out like what I do and what I’m passionate about. When it comes to what’s not in the script, I fill in the blanks and make it up. Then I just kind of free write as the character because I think the most important thing is to develop an inner monologue for the character. I like to figure out who they are and what they’re passionate about so that if someone asks you a question as your character, you can easily improvise your line as the character. It gets your groove and that way when the cameras roll, there is not a lot of guesswork and you know what the character is feeling and what they’re going through.
Recently, you’ve been a part of another unique project — “Wood Boy Dog Fish.” I watched the trailer for it and was blown away by this project. Tell us all about it!
To start, it’s a puppetry piece but it also has elements of mask and is kind of a hyper-theater performance piece! It’s out there but it has a great story and a great team of people working behind it to bring it to life. There’s a part of me that is still that artsy theater kid, so when I was auditioning for TV and film, I was also looking for a project that would allow me to do some puppetry and work on that scale. I found this great company called Rogue Artists Ensemble. They do all the things that are right up my alley. I saw an audition for this play and I knew that I wanted to be in it, so I got into competitive mode! I auditioned, and I got the part! Theater is so much different than TV and film. This piece lasted for six weeks and we were doing it every weekend, so it really took a lot of stamina. You have to stay in shape and stay on top of your game. Also, the show doesn’t have legs unless people are marketing the show themselves. You have to get your family to come, invite your friends out and have them spread the word. In that way, theater is very different from TV and film, so you have to give it life on your own.
Is theater something you see yourself doing more of in the future?
I really try to pick and choose theater pieces that really speak to me, so it’s definitely something I want to be a part of but I’m a little more selective with the things that I take on. Like I said, it does take all of you and you have to be passionate and pour all of yourself into it!
We’re living in a great age when it comes to projects on film and television. Is there a role you are anxious to play?
That’s another good question. I really love comedy. Some of my favorite shows are the really subtle comedies; the single camera stuff with no laugh track. One my favorite shows right now is “Barry” on HBO. I love it because it’s dark, subtle and funny. I would love to be involved with a comedy like that!
It’s definitely not easy to make a career for yourself in the entertainment industry. Where do you look for inspiration?
Right now, I’m doing this thing where I’m trying to watch movies that everyone has seen or recommended to me but that I have never seen before. I’m working my way backwards and finding some inspiring work by some great actors. I find myself saying, “I can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie!” [laughs] I might see a movie that Meryl Streep won an Oscar for and say, “Wow! She really was great in that. You can see she poured her heart and soul into it!” That’s what really inspires me! Acting is truly about pouring your heart and soul into a character, which then raises the level of the project.
Looking back on everything you created, I’m sure you see a lot of milestones. How have you evolved as an actor?
It is an evolution! One the things that I’ve been able to accomplish is being vulnerable and open as an actor. Coming from a theater background, I sometimes have the tendency to push too hard and to have a very presentational style of acting in the beginning. Now my work feels much more subtle. I think that’s something that comes from continuing to take classes. Acting is never over, and you never finish learning! You have to keep taking classes to get to that point. Not just acting classes, it’s improvisation classes, dance, commercial or anything else that could help you express what’s inside of you! You just never know what new ability you will unlock.
You are also involved with the Actors Equity Association, which does great work. As someone who is on the front lines in the industry, are you seeing change?
Yeah, I am! Actors Equity does so many great things for actors. I always knew that diversity in theater, film and TV was going to be a long game and a lot of hard work but it’s definitely better today than it was five years ago. I’m so pleased to see so many people of color have made it into the Academy, along with so many writers of color who have come up and written big projects. I’m very pleased with how it’s coming along!
We can look to you and the career you are building as an inspiration. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?
Oh gosh! For me, the best thing I’ve learned is to treat everyone with respect. It’s such a small world and you work with everybody. From one project to the next, you’re going to be working with the same talented crew members and writers. Everybody comes back into your life! Be happy, thankful and humble. Learn everybody’s name and don’t burn any bridges! [laughs]
Thanks for your time today, Rudy! I don’t know if you hear it enough, but you are doing great work and it’s inspiring! Keep up the great work and I’m sure we will cross paths again in the future!
Thank you so much! It was my pleasure!