Nicholas Rodriguez discusses Nick’s violent beating on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, the brewing Nick/Fish/Kyle triangle, and why he came out as an actor in his first TV role. Soap Opera Digest: You have an impressive background in musical theater. Have you done any television other than ONE LIFE TO LIVE?
Nicholas Rodriguez: No, I haven’t. This is the first thing for me. It’s a nice introduction to the whole world. I come from the opera and the theater world, so it’s nice to get to explore it [this way].
Digest: And how did it happen that you made your TV debut in daytime?
Rodriguez: My first television audition was for ONE LIFE TO LIVE, for the role of Schuyler. I didn’t get it, but I got to meet Frank [Valentini, executive producer] and Ron [Carlivati, head writer] and when this role came up in June , they brought me in for an audition.
Digest: What were you told about the character?
Rodriguez: He was being brought on to get in between Kyle and Fish, and the only description of him was a “guy who works out at the gym a lot.” There wasn’t much there on the page. I think they were just leaving a little room to see what was going to happen there. From the very beginning with Brett [Claywell, Kyle] and Scott [Evans, Fish], we all agreed that we didn’t want to make it some clichéd, gay storyline and wanted to make them real, fleshed-out people. And that’s how they continued to write it. Suddenly, Nick got a job — he’s a teacher — and they added this whole gay advocacy thing, so it’s all a big blessing.Digest: He became very driven and fearless when they gave him a political agenda. I was curious as to why he chose to walk away when those thugs first harassed Amelia and Nick in Angel Square.
Rodriguez: There’s definitely a fighter inside Nick, just like there’s definitely a fighter inside of me. I really tried to tap into what I would do in this situation and they were pretty big about letting that happen. And I think there’s all types of activism and all types of ways to achieve an end, but it’s those non-violent people who I’ve always looked up to as role models, like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. I think the way to go with Nick Chavez is he fights with his brain and he fights with his words.
Digest: Those were very difficult scenes to watch when he was being attacked. Were they hard to play?
Rodriguez: Yeah, those were really hard to do, but the mood on set was so incredibly respectful. We didn’t want to offend one person who has ever been through something this traumatic by having it look cheesy. We really wanted to go for realism. And I was happy with it.
Digest: How did you react when you learned that Nick was going to try to use his recovery to get in between Kyle and Fish?
Rodriguez: When I got some of the scripts for what’s coming up, I thought, “No! He can’t do that! That’s not what he would do.” Nick is so personal to me, and it’s been interesting playing the stuff coming up and to keep him the grounded, real person that we know. For people who I’ve talked to who have gone through an emotional trauma, it’s very similar where there’s a gay bashing or a rape or anybody that’s been an assault victim; at some point, you somehow feel that you brought it on yourself. So anything that Nick does coming up that may be out of character thing for him, he’s doing out of desperation, out of fear. It’s not just the simple, “I miss my boyfriend and I have a heartache.” It’s a little bit more complex than that. So hopefully, that’s the way it’ll translate.
Digest: I understand that you’re an out actor. Did you have any reservations about coming out so early in your acting career?
Rodriguez: I think I might have had reservations about coming out if I was playing a different character; I may have had to think twice. But I didn’t have to. This is the role that I’ve been given and how could I not be an out actor and play a gay activist? It would be phony. I’m so proud to get to play this role and be myself at work. I know so many people who don’t feel like they can be themselves in their various jobs and I just can’t imagine that stress. So hopefully, we will be getting to a point where it doesn’t matter. Thank God for this show being so progressive.