You probably recognize Adam Rodriguez. If you happened to miss the entire 10-season run of CSI: Miami, where he played Cuban-born, part-Russian fingerprint expert Eric Delko, maybe you’ve seen him flashing his washboard abs in one of Channing Tatum’s loosely autobiographical Magic Mike movies. Then there’s the plethora of supporting and recurring roles he’s taken in everything from Ugly Betty to Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself. But if somehow you’ve been under a rock all these years, you’re about to get to know Mr. Rodriguez a lot better.

That’s because Rodriguez has picked up recurring roles on two of television’s hottest shows: Empire and Jane the Virgin – and although he admits his abs aren’t quite in Magic Mike shape anymore, 2015 may very well be the year the Rockland County Cubano-Boricua becomes a household name. But don’t think this has come easy: after a brief stint on Wall Street, Rodriguez has been in the showbiz trenches since the late 90s, landing steady acting work in film and television without quite breaking through to the big leagues.

Now, on the verge of what’s shaping up to be a very big year for him, we took the opportunity to chat with Rodriguez about his new characters, Latinos in hip-hop, and Shakespeare for the masses. So take note, because Adam Rodriguez is about to blow up and his first appearance on Empire as a love interest for Cookie Lyons airs on October 21. Here are some highlights from our chat.


On Cookie, Love, and Letting Your Guard Down

“Laz comes along, and through their business relationship Cookie thinks she can just breathe with him. The same thing happens to Laz.”

[On Empire] you always see Cookie having to fight everybody: Lucious, her son, the rest of the world. Whatever it is, Cookie’s such a fighter, and no matter who you are, at some point you just want to be held, you want to be able to let your guard down and just breathe. And I think [my character] Laz comes along, and through the course of their business relationship Cookie thinks she can just breathe with him. And I think that the same thing happens to Laz.

On the Latino History of Hip-Hop

The truth is we were there from the beginning. A lot of people don’t see it that way or remember it that way, but the people that know, know that we were every bit as part of that whole movement as the black community. Really it was a street thing, and those two communities were the kids that were inhabiting the streets at that time. It’s how this whole culture was formed. I know [Empire writer] Carlito [Rodriguez], being the expert that he is in hip-hop culture, that he’s bringing that to light and making sure that’s well represented. And kudos to everyone that’s there for recognizing that and honoring it and making sure Latinos are included.

Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX

On Latinos in the Mainstream

“You have to bring us to the forefront because we’re a part of all these stories that are happening in America.”

We’re getting to that point that we’re undeniable. As much as we may be underrepresented, we’re getting to the point where we can’t be invisible. You have to bring us to the forefront because we’re a part of all these stories that are happening in America.

On What’s So Special About Jane the Virgin

That show is so good at putting the twist on the twist. They give you the one thing you can see coming, but they always follow it up with the thing you can’t. It makes you laugh or it makes you cry, or it just makes you fall in love even more with the characters. but it makes the time you spent watching the show enjoyable, and it makes you look forward to watching it the following week. So I’m loving being over there.

Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

On Shakespeare and Quality Television

“I love that writers are bold enough to go ahead and make these kind of choices that Lee Daniels and Danny Strong are.”

I think people are getting less and less afraid to take chances because there’s so much competition out there, because there’s so much great writing and so many great shows being produced that you have to step it up. You have to come up with something that’s a bit more original. Sometimes taking things places that don’t seem ordinary, that’s the route to get there. I love that writers are bold enough to go ahead and make these kind of choices that Lee Daniels and Danny Strong are. And this is the equivalent of whatever was being done at the Globe Theatre in the 1600s and people are going to respond to that because it’s being done so well.

Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

Interview conducted by Andrea Gompf.