Interview: Elizabeth Rodriguez on Rehearsals, What She Looks For in Roles and Her New Film, ’11:55′

Actress Elizabeth Rodriguez

With Logan, the new season of Orange is the New Black and her latest film, 11:55, Elizabeth Rodriguez is having an incredibly prolific year.

In 11:55, she plays the protective sister of Nelson (Victor Almanzar), a U.S. Marine who has just returned home from Afghanistan, but his violent past quickly catches up to him once he’s home.

Rodriguez, who got a Tony Nomination for her performance in Broadway’s The Motherf*cker with the Hat, talked to us about theatre and rehearsals, 11:55 and more.

I saw you in The Motherf*cker with the Hat on Broadway. What a great show too. Was that the last play you did?

Elizabeth Rodriguez: In New York, yeah. I did a couple of shows in LA. I did one on Theatre Row, one in Santa Monica. I did a small play there. I did a play at the Geffen which would be a year ago, maybe two years ago? It’s all a blur.

If you don’t do a show for a while, do you start jonesing to do another one?

Elizabeth Rodriguez: In theory, I do. Your point of view changes. Because anytime you do a play, it’s a lot of work and that muscle, it takes a minute before you’re back to being like, “Oh, I’m up six days a week at 8 in the morning rehearsing.” It really consumes your life. So it has to be something that is really gonna fuel you and feed you, because it’s a lot of work.

Every time I start rehearsing or I’m leading up to rehearsing, I’m thinking, “Why did I say yes to this?” Until you get to week two or three, you’re like, “Ok, now I’m in it.” Depending on how long the rehearsal process is, oftentimes, because there’s such a short rehearsal process it can leave you under-prepared and there’s no way to way to get to the other side without an audience.

But then, there’s also nothing like it. So, it’s a combination of things. We want to go into something to be the best it can be.

Well, you’ve been in some really good stuff. So, you’re track record is pretty good.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: Well, for the stuff that we can talk about. There’s also the track record that didn’t go that we don’t talk about. You know what I mean?

Tell me about 11:55? How was it being directed by two people?

Elizabeth Rodriguez: Well, both of them weren’t directing. One was focused on the technical part of it and the other was focused on the actors.

The one thing I think, which holds true in any world of acting – TV, film or theatre – is 80% of directing is casting. So, they tried to get prepared in a different way prior to shooting by doing rehearsals with some of us.

You don’t usually get rehearsals in film.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: It wasn’t the same amount of time but we did rehearse.

Would you prefer more rehearsal time on film and TV?

Elizabeth Rodriguez: I think so to a certain extant if it’s available. I think there’s something about working something and putting it on its feet. With everyone involved, it gets clearer and clearer and tighter. So, if we had rehearsal, it gets more in your body and then you just have to add the technical things.

In your career, I imagine you’re either offered things or offered to audition for a ton of roles. What are the big things that you look for in a role? You play a lot of really strong women.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: I look for something I understand and that impassions me. People say, “Oh, this person is in it,” or “that person is doing it.” And that’s all kind of fantastic for a second, but it’s not gonna make you want to show up, especially 8-times a week when it comes to plays.

And I guess, I try to ask questions about, which I never used to, who the players are, who the director is? Is it an actor’s director? I think ultimately, I want to do work that speaks to me and it has to be realistic. I need to feel like the people I’m surrounded with are artists and want to do it for the sake of working, not for the celebrity of things. I don’t have a lot of patience for that.

I feel like, because I’m with a theatre company, I’ve been so blessed with being surrounded by so many talented people and being directed by really talented people and being inspired by them. And so, that’s what feeds me.

I think who we are as actors, we can’t have an objective perspective. When you’re directed by someone who is incredible, they have the ability to see it and explain it and bring you to it. It’s kind of amazing. Your brain almost snaps open and you hit a different level of consciousness within the character of understanding things. And that’s what I want to strive for because I don’t think anyone can get there on their own.

You studied acting with Maggie Flannigan?

Elizabeth Rodriguez: I did.

Do you still use things that you learned from her?

Elizabeth Rodriguez: I do. It’s like you have this toolbox and sometimes you can read things and understand them in a certain way but sometimes you open the toolbox to bridge the gap to understand something deeper.

There’s someone who studied with Maggie and he’s actually a professor and oftentimes I turn to him and we’ll even do phone sessions. His ability to use Maggie’s language and break things down, makes it easier. So, when I work with him on something, he’s able to talk to me and bring me to that place much easier then I’m able too. It’s this shorthand to deepening and making choices and getting clearer and having points of views. Because there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get it from the director, particularly from a director on TV because there’s no real time for any of that.

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