Vincent Rodriguez III, who portrays Josh Chan on the CW hit Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, has surprised many viewers with his abilities as a singer and a dancer. But what many viewers don’t realize is that prior to his success with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Vincent was cast in productions of 42nd Street, Anything Goes, and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. A true triple threat –- quadruple, if one were to count martial arts or playing instruments -– Vincent studied at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts before hitting the road to perform in musicals.
After more than a decade as a New Yorker, Vincent relocated to the West Coast last year for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. A rare episodic TV series with original music, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – which received nominations at this year’s People’s Choice Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, and Golden Globe Awards – features compositions by Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, many of which turned into YouTube-bound music videos. Vincent’s Josh character has been the subject of most of these songs, including “I Hope Josh Comes To My Party,” “I’m So Happy That Josh Is So Happy,” “I’m Going On A Date With Josh’s Friend,” and “That Text Was Not Meant For Josh.”
Vincent tackled some questions for Downtown about the journey and hard work that came before becoming Josh Chan. His “last words” were great for children and adults alike. For more info on all things related to Vincent Rodriguez III, click on over to www.vrodrigueziii.com or find him on Twitter via the handle @VRodriguezIII.
Having grown up in California, what was it that brought you to New York?
Vincent Rodriguez III: Since high school I had dreamed of moving to New York City to audition for Broadway shows. Then after graduating from my acting conservatory, I booked the first national tour of 42nd Street and upon closing the show, instead of going back to San Francisco where I was based out of, I took the option of going back to New York City with the rest of the cast.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood in New York?
V: Easy -– Hell’s Kitchen. It has everything, and most importantly, it’s near the Broadway theaters and places to audition. No matter where I ever lived in New York City in my 12 years there, I spent most of my time in Hell’s Kitchen auditioning, taking class, on my laptop at a coffee shop, planning my next career move, or if I was lucky, rehearsing or performing a show.
What was the first play you ever saw live in New York?
V: The first musical I ever saw in New York City was Chicago. First straight play I ever saw in NYC, I don’t remember.
Do you have a favorite New York venue to see performances at?
V: I don’t actually. It was never about the theater to me. It was always about the show and how it could transport me to some other world for two and a half hours.
Is there anything you miss about living in New York? Does work ever bring you back east?
V: I miss my friends and the vibe of the city and how anything could happen. One audition or one phone call could change your life. That was always exciting to me. I just moved to L.A. in August to film Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and so far I haven’t needed to head back to New York City for work. I’ve spent so many years there, so I’m looking forward to focusing on what L.A. has to offer for a while.
Being a theater actor, it almost seems mandatory to be a “triple threat.” Was that something you became naturally? Or did you have to set out to learn how to dance or sing?
V: Yes and no. When I was dancing in shows in high school, I was told I was a natural but should take dance class to actually learn technique. When I finally did take my first dance class, I had already achieved my second black belt in the martial arts; first was in Shotokan, second was in Tae Kwon Do. Dance felt like a non-violent martial art to me. Most dance styles felt natural to my body except ballet. I still say to this day, ballet was the hardest thing I had ever trained in. Ever. My ballet training gave me a foundation for all dance styles. It was the best physical investment for me but also the most painful.
How did you wind up teaching acting? Is that something you’ve had to give up due to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend taking off?
V: After graduating the acting program at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, I immediately went on tour with 42nd Street. During one of the layoffs, I asked my conservatory director if he’d like me to come visit and teach some of what I had learned and he said yes. This lead to me speaking and teaching at my former high school and theater training programs in the Bay Area. I had always loved teaching.
When I was training for my second black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I was required to teach lower-ranked students as part of my training. It didn’t matter about their age. At one point when I was 15 years old, I found myself teaching a 40-something year old green belt his forms and reviewing basics. I love teaching and always try to do it whenever I’m not filming or doing a show.
V: I think actors should learn as much as they can. Some people are more natural than others, but ultimately I think all actors should train professionally. I actually didn’t train as intensely as I had wanted when I was a kid. I don’t think you need to be a “child” actor to be a successful actor as an adult. Some great actors started training much later in their life. I was once told, “It doesn’t matter where you train, but how you use the training you have.” I totally agree with that. Add some tenacity, curiosity, thick skin and a passion for what you do, then I think you’re more likely to find success.
When the opportunity to audition for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came up, was that the decided name of the show? Or at least, did you know the name of it?
V: Yeah, it was always Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. No, I didn’t know anything about it. It was quite new.
When people confuse you for Josh Chan, is that something you enjoy? How do you two compare?
V: Most people who recognize me out in public, never confuse me for Josh. Online, though, that’s a different story. Some people message or tweet me as if I am Josh and get mad at me for the things I do or don’t do on the show. In my head I’m thinking, “Dude, I didn’t write this stuff. They made me do it.” (laughs)
Josh and I definitely have a many similarities. Sometimes the parallels are scarily spot-on. I think we are very different since to me, mentally, Josh is more like a younger version of me. The most obvious difference is I think I’m way more ambitious and tenacious than Josh is. (laughs)
Besides Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, do you have any other roles or appearances coming up that you can talk about?
V: No roles as of yet, but I will be attending CAAM Fest 2016 in San Francisco on Mar. 13 to speak on a panel.
When you’re not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?
V: I can be pretty domestic some times. I enjoy cooking, grocery-shopping, folding laundry, running errands, working out, dancing, playing pool. A mix of being a homebody, workaholic, and social butterfly.
Hobbies aside, is there something that you wish more people knew about you?
V: I was gonna say teaching, but you asked me about that so now people know. (laughs) When I was kid doing martial arts, I thought I wanted do martial arts films. Obviously a lot has changed since then. But I still would love to play a superhero and have superpowers and fight off a bunch of bad guys. My fingers are still crossed for that one.
Finally, Vincent, any last words for the kids?
V: Kids? Like literally for children? Learn an instrument or two. Take singing lessons. Dance classes. Acting classes. Martial arts. Something that feeds you artistically and physically. You’d be surprised how it can fuel your academic pursuits and simply enrich your life. It’s not about being the best or making it your profession. It’s about discovering things about yourself, through your artistic outlets. Also, don’t’ dream small. Dream big. You never know if those dreams will actually come true one day.
-by Darren Paltrowitz