Paul Rodriguez smiles when talking about his family. "They never really thought that being a comedian or actor was an obtainable goal." Nor did they anticipate that he would eventually host one of the most popular entertainment talk shows on Spanish language television, appear in feature films, become a film director and executive producer for television. Obtainable goals and anticipation are what have enabled Rodriguez to create new projects for himself and his production company. "When the Speilbergs of Hollywood arent exactly beating a path to your door, then you must find a way to open you own door, and create your own paths," says Rodriguez. And creating his own path is what this son of migrant farm workers has done.
Paul made his directorial debut with the film "A Million to Juan," and also co-wrote and starred in the contemporary adaptation of the Mark Twain story "The Million Pound Bank Note," Paul called in favors from fellow actors Edward James Olmos, Ruben Blades, Poly Draper and Cheech Marin, to work with him, completing the film for a mere $165,000. Released in only 200 theaters throughout the southwest, the film grossed over $4 million. Upon release to home video, it has grossed over $8 million, bringing the total near $13 million, including foreign distribution. "A Million To Juan" is currently airing on Showtime. "By comparison, for what I was able to make my little film for, and what it was grossed financially, A Million to Juan has become my Latino "Jurassic Park" said Rodriguez.
Pauls previous television creations include a variety of highly rated shows, "Paul Rodriguez Behind Bars" and "Crossing Gang Lines," both for Fox and "I Need the Couch" for HBO. Paul followed up a "Million to Juan" by expanding his role as Executive Producer of HBOs "Loco Slam," a series of four 30-minutes comedy specials featuring the best Latino stand-up comedians in the United States.
Soon after "Loco Slam" aired, HBO asked Paul to executive produce and host his own one-hour special from San Quentin State Penitentiary, "Paul Rodriquez Live In San Quentin." Although this was his third program from the prison, it was the only one that has aired live. "The last time we has live coverage from prison was Attica," jokes Rodriguez. "And we all know how that turned out."
In addition, Paul executive produced and hosted an ABC prime-time special which aired in June 95, entitled "Latin Nights." The one-hour variety show benefited the National Hispanic Fund and featured some of todays hottest celebrities, including Gloria Estefan, Jimmy Smits, Lou Diamond Phillips, Carlo Santana, Rita Moreno, John Mendoza, Matty Monfert, Culture Clash, Barrio Boys, Cheech Marin, the Real McCoy, La Mafia, and a special tribute to the late Selena.
Pauls latest endeavor again has him executive producing as well as hosting his own comedy showcase, appropriately titled "The Paul Rodriguez Comedy Showcase." The series of six new half-hour television programs was produced through Rodriguez own production company. Taped on location in Indio, California, at the Cabazon Indian Reservation, the series showcases 21 up-and-coming stand up Latino comedians. Featured skit guest include Culture Clash, Tony Plana (Officer and A Gentleman), Fraizer Smith, Cesar Rosas (Los Lobos) Pepe Serna (Scar Face), among others. The series is set to air on cable in the spring of 1996.
Pauls own company, Paul Rodriquez Productions (PRP), is a production company dedicated to developing and producing Latino film and television projects. Three of a handful of projects currently in development with PRP are films written by Rodriguez, "Panchostein," a modern day twist on a sci-fi classic: "A Lady in the Hood," a cross Angels in the Outfield and the Apparition of Lourdes, and "The Big Show" a cross between Pulp Fiction and Get Shorty, ala Latin style.
Rodriguez boasts that his philosophical approach to doing business as a Latino in Hollywood is very basic, "It is my belief that Latinos in show business have to be self sufficient and creative while aggressively attempting to penetrate post-mogul Hollywood. Self-starting is becoming the path to serious studio support, and I hope that through my little company, we can continue to create successful projects that will stand on their own, and ultimately open that next project."
For four years, Paul hosted El Show De Paul Rodriguez, an entertainment talk show for the Spanish-language Univision Network. The groundbreaking bilingual program was a runaway hit whose featured guest included some of the greatest stars from the film, television and music industries. The show reached an international audience throughout the United States and in 17 countries in Central and South America. For the last three years Paul has also hosted "Premio Lo Nuestro," Spanish televisions equivalent to the Grammys. "As a result of my international TV show, Ive been asked to perform throughout the world," said Rodriguez. "Because of the language barrier, few comedians have been able to obtain cross-over appeal on both sides of the border this successfully."
Paul was born in Culican, Mexico, and relocating to East Los Angeles as a young boy, growing up in Compton and attending Dominguez High. In 1977, after a stint in the Air Force, he entered Long Beach City College on the GI bill. He obtained as Associates Arts degree, and then went across town to California State University, Long Beach, intent on becoming an attorney. During an elective theatre course, he worked behind the scenes on a production of the modern southern classic prompted his acting teacher, Murray Becker, to take him to the Comedy Store in Los Angeles for "Amateur Night." The clubs owner offered Paul a job working the door and the opportunity for nightly stints on stage &ndash usually at one or two in the morning. From there, Paul began to hone his act at comedy clubs throughout California and soon held opening acts slots at major concerts, colleges, clubs and comedy showcases throughout the country.
His first big break came while doing
comedy warm-ups for Norman Lears show
"Gloria." Lear ultimately wrote and developed a
weekly series for Paul, aka "Pablo," which
focused on the life of a Mexican-American family.
Although the series was short-lived, it provided
invaluable experience and prepared Paul for the rigors of
showbiz life. He went on to star in two other series,
"Trial and Error" and "Grand Slam"
for CBS. Pauls recent television credits include
Kelsey Grammers "A Look at Fatherhood"
and "Touched by an Angel."
What has kept him on the success fast track? "My single most important quality is perseverance. Someone once asked me what part of No I didnt understand, and I said, Just the N and the O. All the people I admire were self-made. I believe that everyone makes their own fortune."
Rodriguez remains strongly rooted in the Latino community, working with civic and educational groups, and hosting a number of charity events to benefit the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund (NHSF). Rodriguez has raised nearly a million dollars for the NHSF through his hosted benefit concerts and his Paul Rodriguez NHSF Golf Classic, to be held in August for the eighth consecutive year. He also contributes to such charitable effects as Farm Aid, Education First, The National Leukemia Telthon, Hurricane Relief, Camp David Gonzales, Vital Options Center, Cities and Schools, Housing Now, Project Literacy and NALEO. Rodriguez is also an active participant in Comic Relief, with memorable appearances on HBO program every year since its inception.
Although Rodriguez has many goal and aspirations as a comedian, actor, director, and producer, the most important is his contribution as a Latino in Hollywood. "My goal is to make a significant contribution to advancing the Latino image in American film and TV. And, I hope that before I through, that American Television will no longer be just black and white but, that it will truly be in color."