El puma once told Génesis Rodríguez to chill. “just do me a favor: take the pressure off,” said the legendary Venezuelan singer and actor, presumably in the husky growl that earned him his feline nickname. “Nobody is telling you to get a job. Just have fun with it. Just take it easy. You’re doing what you like to do, aren’t you?” Rodríguez never forgot these words, likely because El Puma is Venezuela’s son. Oh, and he also happens to be Génesis’ father, José Luis Rodríguez.
“He’s right,” says Génesis Rodríguez, who stands at the precipice of her own cinematic success with marquee roles in two major releases in the next month-and-a-half. “Who the hell is telling me to get a job right now? Nobody. We’ll see what happens.” She says this while sucking at the bottom of a Michelada through a straw at a new-American style restaurant in West Hollywood. She seems at ease, but maybe it’s the quickly drunk Tecate-Clamato softening the rawness of early-interview awkwardness. The Michelada is apropos, almost too apropos.
Despite it’s ludicrous, nearly experimental premise, Casa de mi Padre—wherein a Spanish-speaking Will Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, a lowly rancher whose brother (Diego Luna) is a drug dealer at war with the local kingpin (Gael García Bernal), in a ’70s-set-designed telenovela-meets-Desperado send-up—is classic improv comedy. Which is to say, it looks like they had a ball making it.
“I feel like Will was really doing his Will thing,” says Rodríguez. As a result, Rodríguez was able to take her character, Sonia, the love interest of Ferrell’s innocent-cum-honorable goofball, and play her with an unusual freedom for a first time leading lady. “I didn’t know whether to take [my character] seriously or funny,” says Rodríguez of the looseness of the movie’s 22-day, fast-paced filming. In the end, she opted to play her straight. “I made that decision on my own.” This statement makes her beam.
Rodríguez has a chillingly professional outlook for someone whose Hollywood résumé consists of a three-episode run on Entourage. But Rodríguez’ path is a bit different than your typical 24-year-old’s. Born in Miami, Rodríguez grew up in front of the cameras, playing leading roles in several major telenovelas, including one based on the novel Doña Bárbara, a classic of Venezuelan literature, in which Rodríguez plays a girl raised in the wild. For 230 episodes.
“In the first episode, my character didn’t know how to read or write. I was very animalistic. I would look at people like an animal would.” Rodríguez shows off her shifty-eyed mammalian distrust. “Dude, if I ever have to be a savage, I know how to do it. By the end, I was a very fine lady.”
Rodríguez credits her soaps experience for her ability to act and/or overact, something that helped her play her part to comedic effect in Casa de mi Padre, and which she feels is a lost art. “I’m bilingual, so I’ve always known the difference [between overacting and unexaggerated acting]. Radio acting, everything was about the voice, and that morphed into telenovelas. I came here and I met a lot of actors who are underplaying. Personally, I think a lot of actors are toning it down way too much. Because I’m Latin, I’m a passionate person as is, so I have a little bit of leeway. Watching Audrey Hepburn makes me happy. She’s not afraid. She shouted. It’s like a performance. Obviously, there’s a beauty in the understatement; there is a reality. [For me], it’s difficult. To me, being Latina, making it big is easy.”
It’s not to say Rodríguez is chewing any scenery in Casa de mi Padre, but she definitely holds her own when it comes to goofiness—witness her duet with Ferrell, the lyrics an amusingly simple “la la la la,” Ferrell and Rodríguez comedically split-screen. Her timing is perfect, her youthful charm sending vibrations across the screen. It all belies a seasoning well beyond her years. An actress coming into her own, likeable and charming.
But it’s not all guffaws and side-splits. There’s action movies to be made. Or maybe the laughs will just come from a different kind of co-star.
“He’s a comedian,” Rodríguez says of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom she says she’ll be seeing in Albuquerque tomorrow where they’ll be filming Last Stand, a CIA thriller.
As we guzzle more Micheladas, the conversation turns to the secret donut shops of Koreatown and the pitfalls of being a longtime Miami Heat fan. We speak of her time at finishing school, which leads of course, to the correct positioning of the fork’s tines upon the completion of a meal. “Up,” she says, digging her own utensil into a healthy pile of the bruschetta we’ve ordered to snack upon. And then there are the tales of time spent on a robot-building team during the heyday of Robot Wars. “I have really big nerd tendencies,” Rodríguez says, her hands pantomiming the act of putting on glasses.
Her hands have been talking all night. Even when she leaves to go, it’s all so beautifully overacted.