TV Fanatic favorite, (formerly known as) James Roday, has an update on his name.
He's reclaiming his surname Rodriguez, and he will formerly go as James Roday Rodriguez.
In a heartfelt and reflective interview Rodriguez had with TVLine, he shared with the masses his previous experiences with his name change and the issues he faced as a white Latino.
For decades, actors and entertainers with more "ethnic" sounding names were compelled or flat out forced to change their names to something more palatable and seemingly "Americanized" to improve their advancement in their careers.
It's something in which we've only fairly recently have seen a shift.
Rodriguez's name change has come in a time where the cultural climate is in a state of flux; as the world is having discussions about diversity and change.
In his interview with TVLine, Rodriguez discusses his first experience auditioning as an actor for a large role in a film. He remembers that the casting director couldn't reconcile his white skin as compatible with his last name, and he was asked to try out for the role of a gang member instead only to be told he didn't fit that either.
He recalls, “I didn’t look Latino enough. They basically didn’t know what to do with me.”
He shares that three years later, he was asked to consider changing his name. It was something he discussed with his proud Mexican-American father, and eventually, he agreed, and thus James Roday was born.
It's a decision that he laments. While for years, there was the belief that he changed his name because of another actor who goes by James Rodriguez, he's acknowledging that it was much deeper than that.
"Twenty years later, I realize I essentially perpetuated an institutionalized element of what’s broken about this industry, which is, of course, a microcosm of the world we are living in. I can’t excuse the decision because of youth or naiveté or ambition. The bottom line is, I sold out my heritage in about 15 seconds to have a shot at being an actor."
The open dialogue and fight for racial justice and diversity have caused the actor to reflect on many things, including his relationship with his Mexican heritage.
He says that "it’s unfortunate that it took the world turning upside down for that to sink in," but it led him down a path of speaking with his father about their family history and experiences.
"I was deeply moved, but also very shaken by a lot of the stuff that I heard — stuff that I was one or two generations removed from and never needed to reconcile or even stop and think about. It basically blew up my own relationship with my race, my sense of who I am when it comes to my relationship with that half of me. And it sent me down a road of reading and wanting to learn more about Mexican-American history and its foundation in this country."
He's been reflecting on his experiences in the industry for the past two decades and the choices he has made, "the biggest of which was the decision to not use my birth name when I started working professionally. The fact that my birth name is Rodriguez is out there [on the Internet]. I’ve never buried it. But I’ve also never led with it."
He's clear that this is something genuine and personal for him and not some passing fad or a matter of "co-opting a movement to point a light at myself."
He encourages other people to reflect too.
"It’s a deeply personal decision that I am doing for me. And I just hope it’s something that can be amplified. I hope we are all having these conversations in our lives. I hope we are all reflecting. I hope we’re all learning s–t that we thought we knew but didn’t know. And I hope we’re all chasing the best versions of ourselves moving forward. Who cares about me? The point is: Now is the time to dig in and seize the opportunity, collectively, to just be better."
Rodriguez also credits A Million Little Things with embracing his heritage onscreen. Creator D.J. Nash was eager, and the first to ask Rodriguez if Gary should be Latino, too.
"I couldn’t believe that someone was acknowledging that I was 50 percent Latino and actually asking me professionally if I wanted to associate that with my work. And I was stoked. I got excited. I thought this would probably be the only time I get to have a Latino name ever. And so I give credit for him for igniting a pilot light in me that opened the blinds a little bit so I felt more present in my own skin."
Rodriguez also spoke about the upcoming Psych sequel. He describes reuniting with the others as being "in a safe place. We had 85 percent of our original crew from the [original] series with us."
The cast and crew were excited to have Timothy Omundson back, and everyone worked together and with him to make sure everything was just right for him.
Aside from a guest-starring role on This Is Us, this marks Omundson's big onscreen appearance since suffering a massive stroke.
Rodriguez says that "he was learning in real-time what he felt comfortable doing, what he didn’t feel comfortable doing. He had no reference point for it." He describes his castmate and friend as "nothing short of remarkable."
The move from USA to Peacock hasn't changed the trajectory of the series. And as far as it being a trilogy? Rodriguez would love to do another one.
"This job changed all of our lives, and none of us would be where we are without it, so we’re never gonna bite the hand that fed us. For us, it’s always going to be, 'OK, wanna do another one? Let’s look at the calendar and figure it out.' And if we end up giving Peacock a boost, I would think the chances are pretty good."
You can watch A Million Little Things online here via TV Fanatic.
Are you looking forward to Psych 2: Lassie Come Home? Tune in for our full review of the premiere!
Hit the comments below!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.