Like so many aspiring actors, a normal day for Gian Franco Rodriguez was to make a modest living while pursuing his long-term dream. On a busy fall day in 2019, his manager said four words it took Rodriguez 10 years to hear: “You got the part!”
“I was delivering food in Manhattan when my manager called me to tell me the good news,” Rodriguez said with a shy chuckle. “I cried a little, luckily, porque tampoco uno es de hierro”, which translates to “We are not made of iron”, a Venezuelan expression similar to “We are only humans”.
Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Venezuela, called his mother to tell her the big news, and he celebrated by “blasting my music, singing in the car and delivering food for a few more hours.” .
A newcomer to the screen, Rodriguez had beaten the odds and landed his first major role alongside acclaimed actor Ewan McGregor in Netflix’s limited series “Halston”.
“It’s not every day that you get the chance to start your acting career like this,” Rodriguez said. “Lots of ups and downs, you hear ‘no’ here, ‘no’ there, and then like in the show you finally get a ‘yes’ and then that changes everything.”
“Halston” is a mini-series about the intense career and tragic life of famous American fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. Rodriguez has found himself a rookie among an accomplished cast and crew, comprising director Daniel Minahan and producer Ryan Murphy – both Emmy Award winners – as well as Broadway star Krysta Rodriguez and Golden Globe winner McGregor, who plays the main character.
‘Never judge a character’
Rodriguez immersed himself in the role of Victor Hugo, a Venezuelan window dresser who was Halston’s longtime romantic partner.
“Daniel [Minahan] put me in touch with a friend of Victor Hugo’s, and that helped me understand who he really was, his personality, who were the people around him and their point of view on him ”, he said. he declares.
While Rodriguez has learned that some blame Hugo for the creator’s downfall, he said that as an actor he has learned to “never judge a character.” Instead, the aim was “to help others understand why Victor Hugo was the way he was.” Each person grows up in different circumstances, with childhood traumas that define their personality.
Rodriguez was grateful that the show’s director gave him a space that welcomed improvisation.
“Even though the character was very wild, Daniel gave me so much freedom, he trusted what I brought to the table, and it allowed me to include more Venezuelan detail,” said Rodriguez. He not only added Venezuelan slang to most of the scenes, but also gave a cameo to the arepas of traditional Venezuelan dishes.
“In one of my three audition scenes, I’m cooking dinner for Halston. The script asked me to cook chicken with coconut and spices, but I was like, Venezuelan,” a he said, “So I never said the words ‘chicken with coconut and spices’. I always changed it to “arepas” on each callback. After I booked it and received the final script, I was so happy to read that the writers changed the chicken into arepas. “
Its first production became even more difficult when the Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone on a seven-month hiatus. When filming resumed, extra care was taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved, but Rodriguez said the cast and crew were especially grateful to be able to work. He had only positive things to say about his experience working with McGregor, describing the star as “a really nice guy, very humble and down to earth.”
Rodriguez also mentioned how the director plans everyone to get together on the weekends and spend the day together.
“Having fun made us feel like family,” he said. “When you see us all together on the show, having fun, looking like family, it’s because we’ve become family, and we still are right now.”
This is the latest in a conscious effort by Netflix to ensure adequate representation in its major productions after a study at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California showed that only 4.5% of the top performers in Netflix original US movies and series released in 2018 and 2019 were Latino. In addition to Rodriguez’s cast, Mexican-American actress and singer Krysta Rodriguez has been chosen to play Liza Minnelli.
After setting the bar so high with a dream start, Rodriguez said he was focusing on finding another complex and challenging role with a great storyline and “hopefully with such an amazing team like this. . “
“Halston” is now streaming on Netflix.