Freddy Rodriguez understands what Michael Ragosa, his character in “The Night Shift,” meant when he insisted that his daughter follow her dreams in a recent episode. The Chicago native is living his dream.
“I did just that in my real life,” Rodriguez said during an interview at the Four Seasons, adding that he came from a Bucktown neighborhood that was more hardscrabble than it is now. “There was no Marc Jacobs on the corner; you’d get mugged on the corner.”
“It’s humbling and surreal to be here … I’m incredibly grateful and happy that I followed my dreams.”
Those dreams took Rodriguez from Bucktown to Hollywood, where he has starred in a variety of films and TV roles. Possibly best known for his Emmy-nominated role as mortician Federico “Rico” Diaz in HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” Rodriguez currently stars in NBC’s sophomore medical drama, “The Night Shift,” which airs at 9 p.m. Mondays.
In the show’s first season, Rodriguez’s Michael Ragosa was the nighttime administrator at San Antonio Memorial. The night shift doctors didn’t like him much because he was charged with keeping costs down and doctors under control. As Season 2 began this year, Michael battle with a tumor led him to quit his administrative job to become a doctor.
Rodriguez said Michael’s shifting priorities were inspired by real-life situations that happened to friends of show creators Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. The writers told Rodriguez they wanted “to see a guy your age start all over again” and explore the changing dynamics between Michael and his coworkers and his family as he goes from being the boss to the bossed.
“That, to me as an actor, is really interesting to play,” Rodriguez said, “and I was all for it.”
Unlike Michael, Rodriguez has yet to consider a different career. As a 13-year-old at Pulaski Elementary School, he fell in love with acting during a school program run by the nonprofit Whirlwind Performance Company. Rodriguez was hooked after performing in Whirlwind’s “City of Neighborhoods” at the Blackstone Theatre, which is now called the Merle Reskin.
Throughout his time at Lincoln Park High School, Rodriguez studied drama and acted in theater productions. Upon graduating in 1993, he gave himself a year to make it as an actor, auditioning for roles in commercials, films and local theater. If he had landed nothing after that year, he told his dad, he would go to college.
That’s when he had his Lebron James moment.
He was applying to attend Columbia College Chicago when he learned he had gotten a role in the Keanu Reeves film “A Walk in the Clouds” and had a shot at starring with Philip Seymour Hoffman in a production of “The Merchant of Venice” at Goodman Theatre.
“It all just sort of happened at the same time,” he said. “Sometimes I describe it as the Lebron James situation where you go to school or you go pro after high school. And I decided to go pro.”
Rodriguez talked more about “The Night Shift,” his acting career and his moonlighting as a DJ in the videos posted above and below.
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