Rudy Martinez stars in the Netflix dramedy “Dear White People”, adapted from the 2014 big screen title of the same name. Rudy shares his thoughts on the new series, advice for making it in the entertainment industry, and how he unwinds from a very busy schedule.
Let’s jump into it!
Rudy, tell me about the character Wesley Alvarez that you play in Vol, 2 of the Netflix dramedy “Dear White People”?
RUDY: Sure! Wesley is a student at Winchester, the University on the show. He’s very smart, he loves video games and anime, and he’s a self-proclaimed geek. When he meets Lionel, they instantly click because they’re both loners. They meet at a Pride party for gay students on campus, but they’ve both been outcast from their own community so they end up finding each other and they have a wonderful chemistry.
How did you come upon this role, and what’s the message behind the show?
RUDY: My manager submitted me for this part, so I went to the audition and I honestly didn’t know if I would get it. They brought me back for a chemistry read with DeRon Horton, who plays Lionel, and we worked really well together. I had so much fun with this audition process because I tried to bring elements of myself to the role. I think that’s part of the message of the show as well. Lionel is discovering who he is in regard to his sexuality as well as his writing career and ultimately, he is at his best when he’s being purely authentic.
What’s it like being on set with this young talented group?
RUDY: I’m seriously in awe of the cast! I’ve been binging a lot of movies lately and what stands out with great actors like Al Pacino, or Meryl Streep, or Denzel Washington, is that they give everything they have and don’t hold back. That’s what I see with the young actors in Dear White People. I loved watching them on set, and when I got to finally see the whole season, there are some really heartbreaking scenes where the actors just kill it.
Born and raised in L.A. was acting something you knew you wanted to do from a young age?
RUDY: I was bit by the acting bug very young, but before that I wanted to be a lawyer which seems crazy to me! I guess the reason I wanted to do law was because I knew I wanted to help people. I wanted to be an advocate for good causes and provide a voice for people who go unheard. In acting, you do the same thing and I strive to further the visibility of Latinx and LGBTQ+ characters on screen.
When you got your start on The Disney Channel what did that experience do for your career?
RUDY: I was so new to acting when I got my first gig on The Disney Channel! I was actually a host for a program called Disney 365. I had never even seen a celebrity and all of a sudden I was interviewing them! It was like a crash course on production, but I can say that I really cut my teeth on that project. I learned how a shoot works, how to take direction, and I developed a sense of ease so thankfully my nerves don’t take over anymore!
With recurring roles on “Dear White People”, CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and NBC’s “Heartbeat”, what do you attribute your success to?
RUDY: I have a really good professional relationship with my acting manager. As an actor, it’s easy to spend a lot of time daydreaming about the things you want to be doing. My manager has been one of the people in my life who has believed in me wholeheartedly and taken action with me to start doing instead of dreaming. The same is true for my family.
What are some important things you’ve learned about the industry you wish you would’ve known in the beginning?
RUDY: That’s a good question! There are so many things I’ve learned. I would say it’s important to make friends with everyone and remember names! It’s a big business in a small world and no one goes through it alone. The people you meet on set are the most important people and developing a good rapport with them will help you so much.
“I think if creators really are committed, they’ll find that there are actors of all shapes, colors and abilities that can tell the story truthfully.”
As a pioneer for diversity in theatre and on-screen what do you hope to see changed in the future?
RUDY: I see some changes going on now that I’m really loving. A lot of audition notices come with a note that says the casting office is committed to diversity and inclusion. That might just be a legal disclaimer; but I think if creators really are committed, they’ll find that there are actors of all shapes, colors and abilities that can tell the story truthfully.
On your downtime what do you enjoy doing for fun?
RUDY: I am the biggest homebody! Nothing makes me happier than being at home with a good book, or catching up on my favorite streaming shows. I love to cook and I especially love baking! I also have a bit of an urban explorer streak in me. If I have a free day I love to take drives and discover hidden local gems like museums, gardens, hikes, and local cuisine!
You are supporting some great causes. Can you tell me about The Odyssey Project?
“I was literally moved to tears when I saw a performance by these incarcerated teens, and it’s so inspiring to know there are adults there to help them become free of that system.”
RUDY: The Odyssey Project is a great program that uses theater to inspire youth to make positive life affirming choices. The name of the program comes from Odysseus, the hero in Homer’s The Odyssey. It is based on the idea that everyone is the hero of their own journey and the challenges that arise for us, become part of our own epic narrative and we have the power to overcome them.
I was literally moved to tears when I saw a performance by these incarcerated teens, and it’s so inspiring to know there are adults there to help them become free of that system.
You’ve also setup this great Scholarship Fund at UCLA, benefiting LGBT student writers of Theatre & Film. What made you do this?
RUDY: I think everyone should strive to make improvements where they see a void. For a long time, it was getting frustrating to see the types of roles available for LGBTQ+ people and the themes were portraying them in a negative way. The LGBTQ Voices Award is available to students who submit work that advance perceptions of this community, and strive to increase visibility of LGBTQ characters. I think it’s a good way to support writers who are already doing the work and making the changes I want to see in the world.
Graduation season just passed, what words of wisdom can you give those who aspire to be where you are?
RUDY: I would say keep taking classes. I’ve made the most amount of personal progress after taking a variety of acting, improv, dance, commercial classes etc. You just never know what new ability you will unlock. When you’re a student, you’re automatically open to new information and experiences and that is so valuable to an actor because our goal is to be vulnerable and open. And hey, it is entirely possible to have fun in a ballet class even if you’re terrible at it. It’s all about the right perspective!