by Jerry Nunn
For years, people have known Jai Rodriguez as one of the quintet that is featured on the TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Now, as the series reached its last episode, Rodriguez talked about the show, languages and his future.
Windy City Times: Hi, Jai. I gave you a call to talk about the big finale for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Jai Rodriguez: Yeah.
WCT: You sound so sad.
JR: We have been away from the show for a year and, for us, it is bittersweet. It was weird that we didn't have a special show to sum it all up.
WCT: I interviewed Ted [ Allen ] before and he said everyone is busy with side projects all the time.
JR: Yeah, a lot of these projects are from what people did before. It's using Queer Eye for a springboard for that.
WCT: Well, you have many things going on that I want to talk about. You were born in New York, correct?
JR: I was born and raised in Long Island in a very strict born-again Christian family. So you probably would not have guessed that I would get my start playing a drag queen dying of AIDS on Broadway. The first official word that I was gay was when Queer Eye aired.
WCT: So that is how you came out: through the show?
JR: In a very, 'Hello world, I am here!' There could have been speculation before Queer Eye but when the whole world knows, you can't really take it back.
It's interesting that my family has stepped in because my mother doesn't understand it but loves me and knows that there is nothing I can do to change it. Any kind of support from her is a huge step.
WCT: You are Puerto Rican and Italian descent. How many languages do you speak?
JR: One. With my last name, people are constantly speaking Spanish to me, so I am conversational with that. I recorded a song in the studio with Emilio Estefan and thought I was so good and he was like, ' Jai, I couldn't teach Shakira English in one day and I am not going to be able to teach you Spanish in one day, either!'
WCT: You have a big theater background. What was your favorite role that you played?
JR: I did a play in Lincoln Center with Hope Davis. There was no music to support me, just straight acting. On camera, I liked being on All My Children and playing a young dad. That's always fun, having babies on soap operas and you are gay.
WCT: I can imagine. What was your audition like for Queer Eye?
JR: It was very strange. I was told it was a new Bravo show and they wanted me for this hosting thing and would be the nightlife expert. I went in to the audition and to my right was a brightly dressed blonde guy and to my left a gay Buddy Holly. I thought they were auditioning for the same part. I later found out that Carson and Ted were there to throw me off my mark and see if I could keep up. I took that as a personal attack and I was very sassy and witty. That turned out to be what they were looking for. My agent called me and I started the next Monday.
WCT: So, it happened that fast?
JR: For me, yes, because I was the replacement.
WCT: What was the most challenging part of being the cultural guru?
JR: I think, for me, [ the most challenging aspect was ] that I was so young and did not have a cultural background. I was figuring it out as the cast and producers were figuring it out. Culture? What the hell does that really mean? I felt like I didn't have enough to do. And sure enough, the reviews came out and they said [ I was the ] 'weakest link.' I felt it was not my fault since there was no script to go by. After season one, they made it point to give me something to do with purpose.
WCT: What has been your favorite makeover?
JR: My makeover. I started the show as one person and completely left as a different person.
WCT: So Queer Eye has changed your life, too. What will you miss most about the show?
JR: The chemistry that we all had. I don't think we understood that until we moved on to other projects. I am also going to miss the paycheck and the times that we all had together. We were a family—a dysfunctional family—but a family none the less.
WCT: So what are your upcoming projects?
JR: I was just on [ the F/X TV show ] Nip/Tuck. I also have a new show on The Style Network with Daisy Fuentes called Ultimate Style that starts in November.
WCT: You have a new song that just came out.
JR: It's on airgomusic.com and on my myspace.com . Actually, I am dying to have a reason to come back and perform in Chicago.
WCT: Well, we can look forward to that.
JR: Thanks. My Nip/Tuck episode airs in December and the final season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is currently on Bravo.