Interview with Christian Rodrigo, International Acting Coach & Thespian
Christian Rodrigo has been working as an actor for more than 15 years and he has trained with the best Acting coaches all around. He has appeared in 10 feature films, 40 short films, and in some plays and TV episodes. Christian has coached many actors from all over the world, helping them to get the most from their performances and/or auditions with great success, but specially, he helps them enjoying the ART of LIVING AND BEING TRULY UNDER IMAGINARY CIRCUMSTANCES.
Education has been always very important for Christian, that's why after his studies at El Col.legi de Barcelona, he trained with some of the greatest international coaches such as Michelle Danner (Salma Hayek, Gerald Butler, Christian Slater, or Penélope Cruz coach, among others), Bob McAndrew (Raul Julia, Richard Dreyfuss, Chris Cooper, Christopher Walken, Tom Selleck, or Liza Minelli coach, among others), Juan Carlos Corazza (Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Sergio Peris-Mancheta teacher, and many other Spanish great actors), Javier Daulte, Helen Rowson, Alexandra Neil's, Manuel Carlos Lillo, Ragnar Freidank, and many other great professors.
Christian is an Interim Member of The Actors Gang, an American Theater company which Tim Robbins is the artistic director. He is also a member of the SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles Conservatory. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA, Professional Actors and Directors Association of Catalonia (AADPC) and the Cinema Academy of Catalonia.
Emily: My first question for you is this; how did you get started in acting? Were you a child actor? Did you start in college? What is your story?
Christian: So it is an interesting story because I started when I was a kid, I was doing a lot of plays at school, and then I was a member of an amateur theater company. That was until I was 19, and then I started my studies at the university. I had a business degree and an MBA, so I stopped acting, but it was always there in me. Years later when I was working the business side, I decided to come back and start again. And that is how I got crazy haha and got into this difficult but lovely industry. And sine then I have been combining my business side with the acting side, only these last years the acting side and my acting coach side..
Emily: Can you tell me how your first experience in acting was?
Christian: My first theater play I was onstage for 500 people and it was a huge thing to be part of..And from then, I just wait until I studied again. And after that, I was 27 or 28 that I started shooting my first short films as an actor.
I really think that short films are one of the best things you can do because you learn the craft, you know how to deliver in a stage and you become a real professional because you really have so many hours in front of a camera and with a great team or a great crew and great actors and you learn a lot.
So then when you have a chance in a real big project, they see you that you know how to deal with everything and that you can be a real professional. And that’s something that I would really, really recommend. Do a lot of short films as much as you can, so that when you get the chance to be in front of the big ones, you’re ready to roll.
Emily: Do you know the difference between doing theatre acting and doing film acting? Can a theatre actor transition to the film? Or is it the film actor that has to change style to go into theatre? Or these are two different types of worlds?
Christian: That’s a good question and that’s something that when I teach acting, a lot of people ask me, “So are you teaching more for theatre, for cinema?” I think it’s the same thing to just be truly under imaginary circumstances.
The thing is that when you’re in front of a camera, you have the chance to maybe speak with a lower voice and just be really small in a way. And when you’re in a big theatre, in a really big theatre, you really need to project more and to make things a little bit bigger, but always true.
So what I would say to that is make it a little bit bigger so that people can see it and they can receive it from afar, but you’re going to still do the same thing as you do on films. So it’s really similar.
Now, I’m a member of The Actors’ Gang, which is a theatre company that Tim Robbins is Artistic Director.
And in our case, it’s even different because we do what we call the style, which is something that has to do with the commedia dell’arte. And that specific style is a different style and it has to do more with what the Italians did some centuries back.
And it was like everything was more vague and everything is always protected and safe to the public, for the audience. So that was a very specific technique. But in the normal theatre, I think it has really something very similar to the film.
And nowadays also you can see at least in Europe a lot of the small theatre productions and they can even be for 15 people. They’re even doing 15- to 20 minute stage in a small place. And people are really there. It’s like if you were acting on a stage, but on a film stage. So it’s really similar.
I think that what people are looking now is the more natural you can be, the better. The less you do, the better, the more effective. But you have to be committed, really committed to what you do because they want realism and you can’t make it very big. You have to really do it small, but really committed because if not, then there’s nothing to get attached to.
Emily: Wow! So I see that you are a member of The Actors’ Gang, which you’ve been talking about. It’s located in LA and you’ve trained with some amazing international acting coaches and instructors who have worked with Salma Hayek, Gerard Butler, Christian Slater, the late Raul Julia, Chris Cooper, Liza Minnelli, the names go on and on, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz.
You work with all different types of instructors. What are the differences in the style? Have you noticed? Is there an instructor that stood out for you that you would recommend?
Christian: Yes. That’s something also interesting because a lot of people are just very upset with the specific techniques. So they say, “Oh, I want to learn Meisner or Stanislavski.”
Emily: Yes. I myself enjoyed Stanislavsky when I was pursuing acting.
Christian: Yes. And that’s when I do when I teach. I think the more you know, the more options you have and the more tools you can work with.
I don’t think that every technique works the same way for everyone and for every situation. I think that there are some techniques that are amazing. Really, I’m a fan of Meisner, but Meisner also has its own weaknesses. And that’s why maybe you need to have some other technique so that you can use those tools in the specific moments where Meisner is not working very well.
Emily: That’s a good point.
Christian: Yes. So I think that the more you know about different techniques, the more you can use in every specific moment because sometimes it’s not the same thing to speak straight to another actor and to listen to another actor than maybe to do a whole thing in front of a camera pretending that it’s another actor. Or you have an actor, but because you need to cheat the camera, you’re not looking at the actor or you’re not getting connection from the right one.
So sometimes the theory of the technique is good, but sometimes you can’t use it in the real work. That’s why it’s good to have different techniques. I would say that Meisner and Stanislavski are my favorite ones. But there are many other options out there.
Emily: That was amazing. The training definitely helps because you did all types of training so you’re able to pick the process that creates the best experience for yourself and the audience.
Christian: Yeah. And I also think that in every coach – I mean there are coaches that are very good for everyone, but there are a lot of coaches that maybe could be really good for you, but not as good for other people. So it’s really important to see who is working on your favor.
And if someone is blocking you mentally or making you insecure because it’s too tough and you don’t like that way to work, just leave it and move on to another one that makes you feel more comfortable because at the end of the day, a coach will need to do with you is to just feel you that you are free to try and to dive into the swimming pool of acting and emotions so that if you feel comfortable, then you’re going to feel really secure in a way.
If you’re in an environment where maybe that coach is amazing, but you don’t feel comfortable to try to be able to just dive and try different things because you feel a bit afraid or you’re not comfortable or you’re a little bit insecure, then you will have to totally find somebody else who gives you the space and environment to try and to do that. That’s really important.
Sometimes we get attached to a name. “Oh, I want to work with this guy because he’s so important.” I would say, “Okay, fine. Put it in your curriculum, but if you want to really improve as an actor, go with someone that makes you feel special that way and makes you feel brave to be there.” That’s really important for me.
Emily: So true. I really like the advice that you give for your actors when you coach them about freeing their instruments, their body, voice, emotions so that they feel more secure. And that’s really cool. I heard of processes before about becoming a better performer, but not actually becoming a better human or a better person by freeing yourself and understanding yourself first before you even attach to the character. I really like that. That’s really a valid point.
Christian: I think in fact, it’s the only way to achieve any type of role in situations. If you’re not free, if you’re not yourself, if you’re not a good person, you’re not a generous person, it’s hard to be on stage sharing and giving and receiving, being able to commit to whatever you’re doing and be able to be open and share that with the audience or with your partner. So you need to free that before.
And of course, if you have a block with your body and with your voice with any specific emotions, you won’t be able to just enjoy the trade to do a scene or to do a play with someone else or a movie etc. So that’s why it’s so important to work on you first and know what you need. And from there, you can grow as an actor and as a human being for sure. For me, this tells me a lot in a lot of things.
And a lot of friends told me, “I don’t know if I’m going to work ever as an actor, but what it’s doing for me as a human being is just so amazing.” It’s cool. It’s like a type of therapy in a way for you to understand yourself.
Emily: Absolutely. I wanted to ask you’ve been in the industry for 15 years and you worked globally as you are from Barcelona but you are in LA now..What is your experience in New York versus LA? Those are two different types of actors almost in two different scenes.
Christian: Yes. Most of my experience has been between Barcelona and LA and then I had a little bit in New York, not as much. What I feel like – I don’t want to sound bad with that. But in Spain, in a way, those who are actors, they are not thinking about the same because really becoming a famous actor in Spain is so hard. So those who do act, it’s because they love it and they feel very special, then they act. What happens with that is that they put a lot of hours and invest in the training and in the rehearsal because they really love it. So it’s not a problem for them.
In LA, what I’ve seen is that there are a lot of people who are more concerned about becoming someone famous than actually enjoying the process of creating something.
I remember when I started having my first classes here and I was like with my partner. We’re saying, “Okay, we have to meet to rehearse and that and that.” And she was telling me, “But why that much? You are the first person that wants to rehearse so much.” I say, “Well, because I think that it’s all about work, work and work and the more you work something, the more you train, the better you become.”
Especially if you are someone that is a foreigner that has a problem with an accent and your second language, so you’re not as good, you really need to even pull more hours than if it was in your own language. So I was like, “Of course, you need to invest time.”
And when I teach here sometimes and I ask people, “You need to rehearse and you have to bring these things and you have to know your lines,” they are not as committed in the way as in Europe. In Europe, you just say, “You need to know your lines” or say “You have to rehearse it,” people do it. Here, there’s always an excuse. “No, I have my job.” So there are always more excuses and people put less hours and they just want the results, but they didn’t see that they need to make an effort behind that.
So still we know that we have to put an effort and we are used to that. That’s the main thing. And you can see there’s a big difference in that sense.
But on the other hand, I think an American actress for example, are better communicators for example than Spanish actors because you have more years speaking in front of people. And in classes, you are more open to discuss subjects and things. In Spain, the education in general is that it makes people a little bit more conscious about talking in front of other people. So they are not as as used as you are to communicate. So they need more work on that sense.
Here, you already have it and because of the education and the way you express yourself. Here, you talk out loud in the streets. In Spain, it’s not that normal. So this is maybe the main thing.
Emily: Yes, that does make a difference, a little bit of a difference there. I think it’s amazing you have this MBA and the business background. And a lot of actors, they don’t understand that they are entrepreneurs. They are business. They need to work on the business side. What are the business things that you have learned that have helped you become so amazing? I mean you do everything. You’ve done hosting. You’ve done voiceovers…
Christian: That’s true. Yeah, I do everything.
Emily: Yeah. That’s great because it helps you meet so many people. It’s all about meeting people and building relationships as well. Tell me about that.
Christian: Yes. For example, I studied at ESADE, which is one of the top five business universities in Europe and I had a an exchange program with Emory here in the US with my MBA. I used to work in marketing side and I was also general manager..
So the good thing about having those studies is that it makes you be a good manager in whatever you do. So an actor, it’s so easy to get lost when you’re an actor. It’s so easy. Unless you are someone that knows how to plan, how to organize, how to find different ways to have different types of businesses related with your career, then you can easily drop and fail and abandon your career because I think that it’s one of the hardest careers ever in the world. It’s really hard.
So you really need to treat your career as a business as you were saying. And what I would suggest to people is to plan with goals, with strategies, with a year plan. “So this is for this year. These are my goals and I need to do, like “This year, I have to do at least three short films. So I’m going to move to do these three short movies and then I have to study this and that. And I have to find a new agent for voiceover” for example.
So the more options you have the better because you never know when the opportunity can come. So sometimes I have done modeling and from that modeling job, I get a job in the acting side or in the voiceover side or as a producer or as an acting coach. So you never know.
Emily: I love it!
Christian: Yeah. So it’s good. It’s good that you’re always open. Be open to see opportunity, seeing every single work. I say that work brings you work. So the more things you do, the more opportunity you get to be on fire in front of everyone.
Emily: That’s amazing. My final question is at the end of the day, what do you want your fans to remember about you and your body of work?
Christian: Yeah. What I would love to always do is to make those people feel and feel and feel… whatever I can make them feel.
If it’s sadness, if it’s happiness, if it’s fear, if it’s anger, anything that they can be out of their problems and just enjoy the moment with me.
I want to share this one with you. One of my best friends, they are a married couple and they have a daughter that’s really ill. She’s really an ill person and they’re always in hospitals. They spend most of the days on the hospitals.
One day, this friend of mine, she sent me this WhatsApp message. She told me, “Christian, I really, really, really value and respect and admire what you actors do because thanks to guys like you, I could spend so many hours in this situation just feeling and living other stories by watching movies while I’m waiting here in the hospital.”
So knowing that you can make someone just get out of their head, the problems and just make them feel an experience with you and make them travel with you, that’s the best gift you can give someone.