Actress Diany Rodriguez stars in two completely different roles this month.
Rodriguez is best known as Weecha, the no-nonsense new bodyguard for Raymond “Red” Reddington on the NBC series The Blacklist.
She also appears in the Netflix rom-com The Valet where she portrays Natalie, a bike shop owner and community activist fighting against gentrification. This role, Rodriguez says, is closest to herself of any she has played.
Rodriguez recently took the time to talk about these two roles, as well as her transition from theater to film and her community activism, in an exclusive interview with TV Fanatic.
Her transformation into Weecha was quick as she earned the role within four days of auditioning.
Weecha and her healer sister, Mierce, nursed Red back to health during the two years he was missing after the murder of Elizabeth Keen in season 8 of The Blacklist.
As an ex-military assassin, Weecha marks a significant change from Dembe, Red’s former bodyguard and confidante, who became an FBI agent after Red’s disappearance and is now part of the Blacklist Task Force.
“Weecha only speaks when she needs to speak, which means most of the time when she speaks, people listen,” Rodriguez explained.
“She’s a best friend, a confidante, a sister, and many other things to Red Reddington. She’s become his world in the two years since Season 8 ended, and she takes that role very seriously.”
Like Dembe before her, Rodriguez agreed that too much of Weecha’s job is to protect Reddington from his destructive impulses.
“Percentage [her job] probably 80 percent protecting Red from himself,” she said.
Walking in, Rodriguez wasn’t aware that she would be working primarily with James Spader, who plays Red.
“So I just wanted to work with one of the most iconic actors of our generation,” she said.
“And there was this other group of people who had to work together, and James. I described it to family and friends as it was the loneliest and scariest but almost the most exciting and thrilling time of my life so far.”
Since Weecha has little involvement with the task force, Rodriguez stated that she hadn’t formed an opinion of her.
“She also understands that loving Red or working with Red is very complicated,” she continued.
“She’s curious about Aram. She knows Red cares about Dembe. The rest of them? As long as you don’t try to assassinate Red, we’re fine. I have no opinion of you as a person. As long as you serve a purpose in Red’s life, I will let you live.”
Rodriguez was pleased with the response she received from such an experienced cast.
“As a person who’s full of anxiety every day, it was scary for me because the shortest tenure for any other castmate was three years,” she recalled. “So everyone had pretty well-established relationships with each other.
“But it was also a very nice surprise that everyone was consistently nice and welcoming in a way I wasn’t expecting.”
Weecha was badly injured in an explosion in The Blacklist Episode 9 Episode 18 and collapsed after learning that Mierce had been kidnapped by Marvin in The Blacklist Episode 20 Season 9. Will Weecha survive the season?
“I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a terrible TV response, but you’ll just have to wait and see.”
Rodriguez’s journey to her role in The Valet was just as straightforward. Within two weeks of auditioning for three different roles, she had the role of Natalie.
“That was the role I wanted to get because Natalie is an activist and an arsonist just like me,” she said. “I’m too awake to be happy.”
The Valet stars Eugenio Derbez as the title character Antonio. He is recruited to pose as the boyfriend of movie star Olivia Allen (portrayed by Samara Weaving), who is secretly dating married developer Vincent Royce (played by Max Greenfield).
Antonio develops an attraction to Natalie, who is leading the campaign against Royce’s development plans for their neighborhood.
Again, Rodriguez’s scenes were with the film’s star, Derbez. But she recalled one night he was looking for her and brought her to the set to meet the rest of the cast.
“They wanted to reach out to me and make me feel welcome,” she said. “I felt like I was filming with a small family.”
Another plus was that The Valet was filmed about five minutes from her home in Atlanta, an area where she traveled frequently.
“On a set, it’s usually me and a bunch of famous people,” she explained. “This time I had the upper hand because they were in my territory.”
The theater is Rodriguez’s first love.
“I love theater because it gave me a little bit more confidence,” she said. “I’m an introvert by nature, so having a job where I can pretend I can pretend is really helpful because I don’t have to be myself and worry about people looking at me , Diana.”
This theatrical background helped Rodriguez as she transitioned into film.
“Theater has helped me build a little arsenal of different characters and different parts of my personality that, while not flaunted on a daily basis, I can use to convince myself that this is where I belong,” she said.
Rodriguez prefers movies to television.
“If you’re not in it from the start, in television you’re going into a family that’s already established,” she explained. “You’ll always feel like you’re invading other people’s space and hoping they invite you in.
“In a movie, your scene can create a very specific thing for a character, create a world of their own,” she continued. “Even if you don’t have a major role in a movie, you can still build your own community in a way that you can’t do on a television show.”
Currently, Rodriguez is between projects.
“Right now I’m just living my life and being a good cat mom,” she concluded.
The Blacklist airs Friday at 8/7c on NBC. The Valet debuts May 20 on Netflix.
Dale McGarrigle is a permanent writer for TV Fanatic. Keep following him Twitter.