Emmy Winner Jai Rodriguez

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Emmy winner Jai Rodriguez is no stranger to representing our community from his early days on, a then brand-new network, Bravo TV in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Jai went on to appear on Broadway (and in the film) in The Producers, in Reba McEntire’s Malibu Country for ABC, Lady Gaga’s Telephone music video, and Kingdom with Nick Jonas, as well as critically acclaimed guest spots on Nip/Tuck, Bones, and Harry’s Law, and a list of hosting gigs for numerous TV projects, including the Dance Moms reunion special. He has appeared on stages across the country with his solo concerts that feature songs from his theatre career, including his time in Broadway’s RENT, and stories from his extensive career.  

 We talked with Jai about his most recent role in HBO Max’ docuseries Equal – as activist Jose Sarria (aka the Widow Norton), as well as activist fatigue, cancel culture, singing during Quarantine, and our hope for the future.  We also heard a very interesting behind the scenes story about Jai's performance in RENT and where Joey Fatone put his fingers...oh myyyyy 

This is metrosource Mennis, theofficial podcast to Metrosfource magazine and home of short forminterviews with your favorite personalities from the lgvtq world andbeyond quick fun and informative. It's metral sourse on the go out in cousin,INE Wello, hell hello. This is MetrosourceMinnis Im your host Alexander Rodrigez, so during the squarantines celebritieshave been inviting us into their homes their bedrooms everywhere to share what they're, what they're doing the adigital streams? Our guess today has been giving us free digital concertsand Canda, chats Durin Covid emy winner J radrigues is no stranger torepresenting our community. From his very early days on the then new network,Brabo TV on the quear Ey for this tick guy, he went on to a pier of courte onBroadway and in the film in the producers, Ripa macinhirs Mel of thecountry for ABC Lady Godgas, telephone and kingdom, with Nick Jonas Butt, aswell as critically icclaim guest pots on niptock bones, ind, Harry's law andhosting gigs fom. Numerous TV projects, including the dance mom reunion,special isappeared on stages across the country with the Solo concerts thatfeature songs from a theater career, has time and rent and stories and somegood juicy stories from his extensive career. We talked with Ja from metsource onmine metroscoursecom about his most recent role for HBOL maxis Dowseries, equal, which showcases lesser known, lgbtq heroes from our past and jplayed the role of activist Jose Saria Aka, the widow Norton andto continueour chat today. Please welcome J Rodries, I wam to my bedroom. How many times have you said thathonestly, not so often this year? Not So often? Okay Right, Oh God, it's like a desert. I see the aquarium behind you. That'sactually one of your hobbies that you've been yeah. ACI have sixaquariums this one's the oldest. I got with this one in ABC home and carpet inNew York City is like a big frenture store, but they also have a pop artsection. So you can see it's an rcavision old school tea. Leven, that'sgot it with an aquarium and I just my new hobby was making sure all theaquarums were planted with real plants and in yes o that's been keeping mebusy. Well, I mean that's a that's a good habit. My habit is drinking vodka,andn revencs of the Bachelorette G YVIRTAL AP, my facebooeafternoon, butyeah, I know CR. I know you were builting out the other day. You weresinking that song from the Greater Goeman. You were giving it Oh Elevin, so you and I have talked somany different times and so many different ways and whe. I really lovetalking about you or chatting with you is that you are so candid there's nosmoking mirrors, you don't pull any punches, and so I want to talk aboutyou know we just got through this horrific election and we've seenmembers of our community, our family, even members of our own, lgbt community,support someone who clearly does not support equality or even basic humanrights. I had to delete people fror my social media and even from my ownpersonal life, because they were sharing views and statements that werenot factual or that were extremely hurtful and now that we've won the election,it's like how do we handle those relationships? What do you think ofcancel culture? Is it necessary ever and now that we're kind of on the rightpath again? Do We uncancel people yeah? That's a great question, so for me,I've just always been around opposition. I've. Never Really! I think it. You know, as I've gottenolder I've had the luxury of living in sort of you know bubbles, but mywork takes me in spaces where not everyone is cosigning on on. You knowthe what I believe to be true and my experience is proven to be true for me, so I'V so used to it,and I think you know when I was working on a radio. I think one of the thingsthat I was a big compliment that my program director would say to me allthe time was that I had a a fairness to...

...where I shared the story. I would sharemy opinion, but then also understand that they', this digital age, there'sso much miscommunication and in the past x number of years. You know newsis really relative as to where you get it and for a lot of people. Excuse me,I think they've been a little bit misguided and a lot of things that havebeen presented to them, as fact have fueled kind of this bias and and to behonest kind of a deperted hatred. So for me personally, I'm not the biggestproponer of cancel culture. Unless it's something that's directly impacting myexistence. For instance, that's look. It social media. I've just got intothat tendency of muting people and some people just blocking if it's hatred,I'm blocking right. But if it's I can kind of sniff out that it's just pureignorance, I'm going to put you on mute, because I want the opportunity to havea conversation with you and I think the hardest thing is. You know we can't kick people off theplanet, eventually you're going to encounter people that you don't see howto eye with, and I remember growing up one of the things that growing upreligious in the church, no atwe say then will know we are Christians by ourlove and and while I'm not af practicing, you know board againChristian now. I know that some of the the best conversations that I've everhad were because I was open to hearing what someone had to say. However, wehave to draw a line with our own self care, and that means, if you're, in aposition in in your life or in your space, where people are saying thingsthat are really toxic and upsetting to you and impacting your daytoday. Life, I all means remove that party, and you know I would say socialmedia is it's a it's a privilege to connect withpeople in that way? But it's not a right. Not everyone should have accessto your life or your personal thoughts. Nor you know, should you really givemuch attention to what people have to say about your thoughts and Yous? Andyou know like Mamaru says: Unless that bitch is paying your bills, pay thembuto do mind, you know, and so that's kind of how I've led I've strike struckin the balance where I've had. You know conversations with folks, but theindoctrination is so deeply rooted for folks who have gottenmisinformed for several years that they're looking at us like we're crazy,and so, while we have you know, President Alec Biden and President VicePresident elect Comla Harris going to be in the White House. It is the work is going to get harderbecause a lot of truths are going to come to light and we're going to haveto have really difficult conversations. Imagine we've been isolated from someof the people who maybe didn't post their feelings onsocial media, and we don't know where they stand. AEX Adthe, one of thebiggest things I'm thinking of, is, will now have to add a whole slew ofthings I took for granted before as characteristics and traits I'm seekingin a partner, because I would be very, I was very, very shocked and surprisedto hear that you know twenty percent of our community twenty eight percent,which is double with voted for trump. This time around thusand andsixteen ndthing was fourteen percent. I think it's twenty ight percent this timeaccording to exiting pulls that was shocking to me enjoying, but that I,when I saw people's rationale for it, a lot of it was basedin giving a pass to the same bigotry they give a pass to within ourcommunity, and we just haven't been shetting light on those issues withinour margilized community that you know a lot of the same kind of well. If itdoesn't impact me, it's not. My problem, mangality, has bled into our communitylonger than it should have, but I'm hoping this time of isolation, whatwe're doing self reflection that we come out of it eager to have empathetic conversationswith people, understanding that many people have been disinformed for a longtime. Well, I mean it's really a touchy subject and somebody very very close tome. For fifteen years, part of the LGBT...

...community did vote for trump and twomonths before the actual election things were just getting so dicy. Westopped all communication. I just I kind of had a melt down inm like. Icannot believe that you're doing this, you know somebody' so close to me andnow that the election hopefully is over. Neither one of us has made that text.Bat I'm talking about somebody that I was seeing or texting a million timesevery single day, and neither one of us has made that first move to like okay.Now now, what dare we do and my friend just came out to their to their family and they were very surprised or I guessthey were expecting like an instant. We accept you- and I was like Yeah Weu-also have to understand that there was a journey in a process for you comingto your own selfawareness and awakening that. This was something you wanted toshare and they are allowed to go through their own journey of acceptance.And so I'm hopeful that, over the course of time that the temperaturewill come down a little bit more and we'll be able to to have some of the conversations. Butto be honest, Alex es no guarantees I mean tjust might be. You know, peoplemight really double down. We don't know what the next four years hold, but Iknow how Mwer my intentions are, and that is to try to lead. You know, aspar the words of Joe Biden, with with empathy and compassion and try my smallpart, which is my community, and those around me will now virtually to bringus all together and that's what I do daily on my facebook page, because I had a lot of people in therewho were supportive of the president, certainly and the spring and summer,and as it ust shared my organic stories and and experiences I had and specificsthat did not apply to them because they are not part of the community. Many ofthem did switch their vote and were like to be honest. I just alwaysthought he was good for you guys because they said he was like who'sthey a d like I don't know. I read something that he's like the most progay president in the history and I was like okay, let's Ome Pak mad instead ofright and but you I saw their kind of like ignorance to it, and I saw theirdesire to say well. I would never intentionally HAV now that I'm fuelwith this knowledge, I'm going to make a different decision. So Jana talk to you. You know you haveworked hirelessly, especially during this election in covid and, of course,throughout your whole career, and just like, like you just said, the work isjust beginning. Do you ever suffer from what I like to call activist fatiguewhere you're, just like every interview has to deal with what I have to sayabout the election or what I've done for the LGBT community? I mean that hasto be an exhausting and as a performert's like. Sometimes you justwant to talk about your skill or your craft or your voice or Jus wuld yeahit'sm. You deal with that fatigue, because a lot of celebrities in theLGBT community are really dealing with that and it s it's not going to endyeah. So I'll say it's two folloed one. I think self care is one of the mostimportant things you have to give from your splus, not from your deficit, andI think that understanding when you don't have anything to give, you knowwhat, if something monumental happened, it's beautiful in your. If you're in aspace in your life ore, you want to put on social media at thoughtful post, butit is not your job or obligation to have to clap back in every troll tohave to post at everything that seemingly feels monumental, that youcan do it in your own time, if you'd like to, but I think the comparison to otheractivists. I think kind of TRIPP me up. If I'd see someone you know and theirpost was longer or give more stats or you know more infoma. You know I justStoppe, comparing myself to others and understand that I'm waking up everymorning trying to do the best I can and to challenge myself to constantly dobetter, but in the same breath holding on to the fact that we're in anepidemic that a global pandemic at that, where it has directly impacted myability to work, my ability to navigate my own anxiety about the future. Sowith that, I'm actually doing the appropriate amount of Steff care andsometimes just unplugging. Sometimes I...

...won't even open a social media or postthe days where I don't post anything and I've give allowed myself some grace.For that, and you know I love, there's all different kinds of activism and Ithink that a lot of keyboard warriors may want to say that unless you'reposting a million pust a day about a certain cause that you're not beingimpactful wit, there's many different ways to be impactful, and I think whatI like to be is heard and understood, and I feel like if I can communicatebetter in my daily live streams than a static post that might get ignored anI'm going to do it. That way, I want to talk about Hbo, who knew inmy very early childhood and I'm dating myself, HBO used to play like the samehandful of movies over and over and over, and that was it like everySaturday you might get a new movie who would have thought that Ho now would berepresenting the LGBT communing in such a big way, such as through euphoria,legendary, were here and now, of course, the Daku series that you were a part ofequal. How did you get involved with equal? It's really funny, because HboMax is, like The you know, streaming version of HBO, even though HBO isalready streaming this us sort of their subsect. So I like to call it it's liketheir younger little step, Cochs of the hip yeah, it's a lot of hb Ip yeah andcertainly equal was a very ultra lo budget project. There's really nobudget for this project, and I remember I was auditioning for it and I had wornmy eye watched the audition for a show that takes e one thousand nine hundredand sixty and or my scenes, and on my phone. My iy watch was blowing up withtext messages and I left the audition and it was the queer eye boys and thisis in February and they had flown in to shoot family feuds. So that was aThursday and I said sorry for the delay and I noticed the creator of Queer. Iwas in the group chat not that strange, because I don't know that he's everreally reached out to us in that way before, maybe just once or twice B, youknow since we rapped. So I was like sorry guys. I missed all this.I was in an audition for an HBO show. He immediately said which one and Isaid- oh it's for HBMAX TAT's called equal and he's like that's my show andalnce. I've never done this, but I literally was like so I would just gotthrough all the rent ta per and you Coul just offer me the role, but I knewI went Liyo. I went in for something that I would't be right for I went infor a storyline from the Madachine society in the New York version playingsomeone iconic, who was white, and I looked him up and I looked nothing likehim, so I wasn't sure if I would, you know, be right for this role, but Iknew they were reading everyone for the same handful and by the way, thisaudition for some od reason. Everyone got the same call time. It was gayHollywood yeahall, every gay lebrity that was there was all out. You know,actors and it was kind of we took pictures. Wefelt like it was gay prom, but that's kin of how I got it like he was like.Oh, my God, ha ha ha. Let me connect you with my producing partner. whoolsete produced Queer e. These are the producer of the show, also pretty Quer,and so I didn't hear anything for like twoweeks and then they said. Listen there's this role in the San FranciscoStory of this activist that we think you're right for and I got it and I waslike, Oh my God, there's so much crossover between hozesadias journeyind, my journey and I was like this makes total sense, and so, if it like aglove- and I think one of the things that scared me most was Josesadiaslegacy with the imperial court, which is a a large fun raising organizationthat you know he established decades ago and hes still in existence overseventy chapters in the US and Italy and Canada- and you know his legacyruns deep and people. You know who are still with us knew him very well, and Iwas like there's gonna, be such comparisons and you know, am I going tobe able to do this, and so I just Delle right into the research and just foundevery single youtube, audio file and visual pilet could his a specifictonnto, his voice and cadence in the way that he speaks and and even with the hair o makeup youknow, drag was the vehicle of art that Jose usedto be a storyteller and an activist in the nightclubs, and it was differentback then, and so I had to just like.

Let go of all my preconceived notionsof what drag should look like and, and I love what the makeup part is did,because we literally mirrored a photo almost exactly and to my great andhumble surprise. The impreial court now led by mother empers, Nicole of Ramiras, areactually awarding me the Jose Saudia Award. This sadersofit, I seeeah.That's amazing, like e gag of Gag, what an honor you was a huge honor becausethey only gave it to one other actors, usually reserve for politicians aractivists and- and I've always said. My career hasbeen this. This. This kind of I've had a sort of achamelean career. I've never stayed in one lane and that's just that anecessity, but rarely have I had moments of you know being celebrated as an individual, notjust a part of the cast and it was humbling, but also it just. Ijust feel like their mission and the work they do is so in alignment withWHO I am. That was yeah it just you know these momentsdon't come up too often, and I'm humble you know well ave to tell you you bein Castas,Jose. I had heard the name, the widow Norrton, but I'm going to be honest, Ireally did not know his story and so being part of the Latin culture. Ireally wanted to know who we were portraying and an what was going on, soto find out that he was the first openly gate, candidate, termen foroffice and any political office in the US. HEU AWSO formed one of the firstbus gay business associations and, like you said he foundet the imperial court.I loved some of the behind behind the stories such as he lied to get into themilitary because he wanted to serve in the military so badly. He was supershort, of course, gay. He kind of seduced one of the recruiting officersinto letting him in and he served our country. That's all right, and I justyeah, and I just love that that kind of passion and viman vigor that we have asa lot of culture. What aspect of his life really affected? You the most, the the fearless bold nature of his activism, even inselecting his name Hose Sadia. Also, you know inthe in the era of all these dragg queens and then suddenly there wereempresses in San Francisco and he didn't want to be just another empress.So, in his own words, as the story goes and this bunch of videos on Youtube,where he's retalling the story and by the way I am using heat pronouns,because all his friends and and he himself use he pronounce so he said that he didn't want to beanother. Just another empress and h t took the bold and brazen step to link himself to this old eccentric fromthe eighteen. Hundreds who had like you know, been a famous kind of ecentricpersonality who had passed away. You know obviously way before Jose was bornand started going by this person's. As this person's widow, Edward Norton, wasa essentic pinted, his own money. He was a cook and so to got it. You knowbe a step above the other empresses she created she. She said she was the widowNorton, so much son Tha. She went to where he's buried, which is in a publicpark, but it's kind of like private. You can't just be you know, going up inhehere and like throwing a party, and she went there to lay flowers in hisgrave and they like stopped her an she's like in like a limo and likeblack, with a veil and flowers like who are you and without missing a beacheslike won the widow Norton and it's not Po wasn't impossible, you know and theywere so tickled and moved because there were like no one's ever visited thisguy before that they welcomed her back and then next year they'd had bagelsand then next year there was like a bigger spread and should bring morepeople, and then she started making it this a part of their activism and fun Raswas and such-and I just think like, even if you listen to the audio when she's speakingat the bar and Jose, will call out the gays at the time who were stealth andin the closet and granted. You know at this Eura, you could be fired from yourjob. It was illegal to dress and drag.

You need to have two garments of men'sclothing on it all times, because it was considered not unpersonation, butyou were basically trying to fool people that you were a female, so hekind of found a way around that by giving the dract queens a sign if thepolice have arrained. That said, I'm a boy this way they had no grounds toarrest them, and I just thought that was great intere in terms of theactivism like called out members of the community, who were you know, perhapsvoting in the and not in the best interest of the community, are notcoming out not standing up for what they believed in, but still want to goout, and I don' want to say what she saidbecause it's you know the sexa sex talk. Bute te be doing the things at night,you know and then, during the day, putting on the suit and pretending theywere just one. You know another straight guy and and she would call itout, but one of the most beautiful things too nd. I wish I would have donethis at some point in my career, but she closed every single night of herset recabory shows which were very frequent with God. Save US Nelli Queen.She had reawritten the the the lyrics to a popular international anthem thatwe have here and and and when you hear people who are still with us who got toexperience time with her during that era, there moved to tears when theythink about it, because at any moment the police could come in and they wouldjust hold each other's hand and put their arms around each other and sing.God Save US Nelli Queens led by Jose- and I it's just like we take so muchfor granted, and one of the things as I get older that I'm struck by is how we discardolder people in the community and there's such a focus on youth, and Iguess that's with every community, but I feel like now more than ever, we needto lean into our elders to really pave the way for us to have so many of theliberties that we have and we take for granted. Today, you know the gamemovement started long before wepause drag race hit the airways and thisgeneration may not be fully aware of that. I'm so glad you said that you know Ivolunteer with project Angel Food, and I know that you do as well as SaintVincent meals on wheels in Los Angeles, and the rates of the older generation being left ontheir own devicees is increasing because it used to be cultural in theLatin culture. We would have to always take care of the parents, that's whyyou would always see the grandparents in tow in the Asian culture. That wasalso just what you did, and you know with the lgbt culture. It'speople that might not have kids and the young generation is just not doingtheir work, they're, not taking care of the older generation n. So there is ahuge need, and so I'm very glad that you mentioned that because we do needto reach out. We need to do our part and we need to take care of the elders of and birthwaity. You don'tneed to have any money to be a nice Jeson to an old person, older person ata bar. You don't have to have a lot of money or time in your schedule todeliver meals to be kind to that older queer person that you crosspath with,but there's this underlying, like Oh, that old guy hit on me or like yea,want Theou. This tis whole weird thing that that you humor around and and I'mthankful and grateful that there is a really intelligent young generationwho's coming up with access to more information than maybe you or I hadabout our history and certainly revering those who didn't have as easyof a Goa of it. As we've had okay Jay are: Are you ready play alittle rapid fire? Yeah? Okay, you have been called in to give the queer eyeonce over the president, like Joe Byton. What part of him are you going to makeover? First? Oh God, I'm going to give thim comfortable shoes because I just feel like the poor man like youknow, they're always coming after him for being sleepy Joe, and he has to runout now yeah when he gave his ACCEPTANC o. He did that little job and I was lkeYep. You know we need to get him. Some easy spirits looks like a Popitye islike okay, the worst strangest Christmasgift. You've ever received, Oh God, the worst and strangest. Would, Oh God,that's a really good question. I'm...

...probably going to think of somethingbetter afto we en this call, but I think the strangest one was like adental kit like it was like like a weird toothbrush, but not like abattery operated one and like floss and like lister. I thought it was such abizarre gift. Iwas like thanisthre' wrong. Okay, what itcom from the past wouldyou cast yourself in Mal or female role? Oh easy golden girls. I woulddefinitely be Sophia Okay and what would the name of your biography be ifyou were to write it right now, Oh y, I have some work working titles that Ialways kind of lean into, which was tales from an aging twink or straight out of queer eye with theShiot of Compton logo yeah and your favorite backstage memory fromdoing rent- Oh God, Oh there's, so many good ones, probably like there's, I'm going toname a couple in they're all around the celebrities who would come into theshow Melb when she would leave the stage after doing another day, so youhave out tonight, then you have another day where Roger Pushes back and we likeno there on noothe Noday, but today right and she come back and the daysthat she didn't feel she did very well. She was like Asounik I sound like and then there I am Bagn for will I,with my pickle drum and my Hait's scary, spice Wanig, to Sa she's fine, you knowand then another one, that's really funny, and I'm fine dragging himbecause I think it's Hilarious, but joy fhetone during another day, we' be upon the loft me an the Mar Collins and some of the life support group peopleand Joey fatone per the blocking would be up against the railing and he wouldstand behind me and joy would take two fingers. I literally try to shove them so far upmy bot. Why we were sinkinglbyeah mean those Ar Imea, but I have my wig fell off I mean we did. We weredoing I'll cover you and there's a dance break in the middle of it. Just asimple one where you like, you know, pull each other back and you goundertand and his arm jus hit like this, and that we went on the floor and Ihave a weak cap on. So it's pretty tight. So I didn't know until he waslike and then look and then one of the home one of the characters who plays ahomeless person grabs the wig in there, and I was like Oh, you can keep ithanty and I took off the wake cap and Shi tat's. You know it's just that's ainrecover H, that's that's! A good recover, tell tell everyone where youwant them to find you and Fil yes, so I'm just at Jai Rodrigez on socialmedia, ts C, with the blue check mark and every day around fourthirty PMpecific time I gol live on my facebook, in' foont blue check mark and it's thisgreat global community that we've just found each other and it's people fromall over the world and on Mondays O new musical Monday. So you the audience,get to pick what I get, what I sing, which is really really fun because itis so hin have a drink with me sometime and and yeah it's just it's been a it'sbeen a really interesting quarantine experience. Thank you so much. This has been ourchat with a raderges. You can read our indepth interview at metrosourecom andthat's our episode. I'm your host and lead rider for Metrosorts, alams andRadrigaz. You can follow me on Instagram at Alexander, is on air anduntil next time stay true and do you o bythat, has been anothermetrosourcemany like Shar, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and checkout the latest issue of Metrocorse magazine on new stands or online atnettrasportscom. Follow us on Fachbook Instagram at that estort and on CineretTet's UST Corse man UNTEL next time, H.

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