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Hats Off to Elizabeth Rodriguez

The 2011 Tony Award nominee discusses her groundbreaking work in Broadway's The Motherf**ker WIth the Hat.

Elizabeth Rodriguez
(© Tristan Fuge)
Elizabeth Rodriguez is currently making her Broadway debut as the not-recovering drug addict Veronica in the world premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf**ker with the Hat, for which she has received the 2011 Outer Critics Award and a 2011 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play. TheaterMania recently spoke with Rodriguez about the show and her career.

THEATERMANIA: This is some way to make your Broadway debut. Has all this acclaim been a bit surreal?
ELIZABETH RODRIGUEZ: I keep asking myself that same question. People come up to me all of the time and say, "You must be excited." It feels really good that my hard work is acknowledged. I feel really great when I think about the other Latina women -- Chita Rivera, Priscilla Lopez, Daphne Rubin-Vega -- who have won or been nominated for Tonys.

TM: How did you find out about your nomination?
ER: I was actually in Puerto Rico at the airport. I went there because of a death in my family. My plane was delayed for an hour, and I checked my email. I had an email saying, "Tony, Tony, Tony." I had missed calls from Stephen Adly Guirgis and my boyfriend.

TM: How would you sum up what this play is about?
ER: To me, it's about people wanting to be seen, people wanting to be greater than they are, wanting to be loved and falling short of that.

TM: How would you describe your character, Veronica?
ER: She is all heart and soft on the inside. Veronica believes in love. She didn't set out to betray Jackie [played by Bobby Cannavale].

TM: What has it been like working with Chris Rock, who plays Ralph D?
ER: It has been fun, hard, and always exciting! It has also been really wonderful getting to know him as a human being.

TM: Is it tough to sell a show with a title that's basically unprintable?
ER: Apparently. Previews were tough, but then it became about whether the critics were going to let us in and open their arms. It had nothing to do with the material -- the material is great. The Book of Mormon is much dirtier than our show!

TM: What do you think audience members are taking away from the show?
ER: Every single person can relate to these characters. They don't have to be addicts themselves, but people know relatives, friends, someone who has had addictions. And this play allows them to see their heart and humanity. This show makes people think. People tell me that I make them cry and I say, "Good!"

TM: This is the fourth play of Stephen's that you have performed in. What appeals to you about his writing?
ER: By the end of his work, you feel for these characters. He can make you laugh and he can make you think the exact opposite of what you were just thinking.

TM: You appeared as Carmen Morales on ABC's All My Children. What are your thoughts on the cancellation of the show after over 40 years on the air? ER: I went to the closing party and it was really sad. There aren't many soap operas left. It's the end of an era. I was never a big soap fan, but these are hardworking, talented people who are being left without work.

TM: What do you have planned after your show ends?
ER: Nothing yet. I am going to an island the day after this show closes and will put Veronica to rest in some Caribbean water.


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